Best and Worst Practices for Design: Workflow, Forms, and More

During my Nintex xchange session last month in San Diego, I shared best practice tips for designing and deploying Nintex Workflows and Nintex Forms.

Today’s most successful enterprises understand that to remain competitive, they need to identify and eliminate inefficient processes. Whether it’s a retail store looking to jettison its outdated returns system or a sales agency strategizing a better lead processing method, enterprises across industries are realizing that the old ways won’t cut it.

Now they must evolve accordingly.

During xchange, Nintex introduced the new era of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), which will help enterprise organizations achieve digital transformation. Investing in the right IPA portfolio will ensure a company outpaces its competition and keeps its employees doing what they do best. So as enterprise organizations continue to tackle inefficient or manual processes with intuitive digital process automation solutions, it’s important to clarify that not all workflow solutions are created equal.

As a Nintex sales engineer, I’ve seen my fair share of workflows, forms, mobile apps and other solutions designed to improve business functionality. Some work great, while others miss the mark. But what sets apart the elegant solutions from the inefficient ones?

During my sxchange presentation, I highlighted some of the best practices for building workflows, including examples of what doesn’t work. When it comes to building your processes, here are two big don’ts:

  1. Don’t resist failure:

    In the spirit of agile methodology, companies must prepare to “fail fast” when building workflows. Instead of viewing initial workflow design as a finished product, enterprises should welcome flaws and incomplete elements as a necessary condition of progress.

  2. Don’t automate the steps before you know the process:

    This approach at the outset ends up prolonging your automation efforts and creating needless complexity as well as frequent process level changes. Keep your desired outcome in mind and consider how your organization handles the process right now to achieve the outcome — who is involved, what are the milestones and where do things tend to slow down — then from there build out the more tactical steps that make those actions possible.

With these ill-advised process strategies out of the way, here are a few high-level areas of focus to maximize your IPA portfolio investments:

  1. Focus on everyday processes:

    For IT leaders, the impulse is to focus IPA efforts on the biggest process-based pain points. But focusing only on what’s causing the most headaches at the moment is a myopic approach. In terms of optimization, it’s the everyday processes – expense report approvals, new employee onboarding, equipment purchasing – that make the biggest difference to overall workflow efficiency, and it’s these processes companies should tackle first. 

  2. Use workflows and forms together:

    Remember, forms themselves are not the process — they are a component in that process to achieve a much larger goal. No one collects data for the sake of doing so. That data is used to inform larger strategy or to build a better product. Keep that end goal in mind as you include forms in your workflow to get the key information your team needs, at the right time, and from the right people to help achieve that larger purpose.

  3. Separate your presentation, process, and data logic:

    For forms designers, it often can be very easy to pile all of your business logic into one form. Your presentation, process and data storage all are wound up together in one very large unwieldy package. Separating these components out will make for a much more understandable format and will provide a more functional delineation of duties.  Additionally, this will be a more secure and adaptable process that can be tracked and adjusted as the business requirements evolve.

  4. Automate after failure:

    When your traditional process fails, it usually grabs the attention of key stakeholders. With renewed interest in the nuts and bolts of how your team gets work done, it’s the opportune time for teams to reassess the process and identify ways it can be improved. While you have buy-in from key players, utilize their expertise, get their input throughout, and deliver a better process as a result of failure.

  5. Build workflows in stages:

    The key to effectively-designed workflows is accessibility — they must be built in a clean and traceable way that can be understood by anyone, not just an individual designer. The answer is to build workflows in stages. That way, design can become a collaborative process in which other people can easily follow the steps as well as update those workflows to reflect ever-evolving expectations, best practices, and needs of your team.

  6. Use no code tools to break backlogs:

    Companies have a finite number of developers, and often have backlogs that far exceed the capacity of available IT personnel. To truly evolve processes enterprise-wide, companies need to break these backlogs. That means empowering line of business workers with automation and optimization capabilities. The solution here is to implement IT approved solutions like no code platforms that are manageable for LOB workers.

When it comes to the IPA revolution, Nintex is at the forefront of innovation.


For more information on how to tackle today’s enterprise challenges with workflow and content automation capabilities that are fast and easy, allowing simple orchestration and optimization of key processes, review related blogs from Nintex xchange.



Dan Burke

Dan Burke is a Nintex Sales Engineer based in our Bellevue, Washington, office. He has been with the company since 2014, starting as a Support Engineer and moving into his current role in 2017. He is passionate about helping customers to optimize their business processes across the entire Nintex Workflow Platform. When not at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children and losing at fantasy football.

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