What are workflows?

All about automation, SharePoint workflows are applications that help in managing and automating business processes from task management to collecting feedback. With several workflow options to choose from, users can customize their chosen tools to create rules, assign designated users and schedule reminders and tasks. Workflows are designed to maximize productivity in the workplace by transforming manual daily tasks to automated processes that remind users on important schedules and assigned duties.

How can I use them?

Much like SharePoint servers, workflows are designed to enable users to customize and most importantly automate existing business processes. From the built-in Three-State workflow to Microsoft Flow, here is a quick and easy list of the options available to you. 

Built-in workflows

Most of the “out of box” or in other words built-in workflows function on the same basis of automation that enables the smooth circulation of documents that need either approval, feedback or signatures. Workflows such as the Approval, the Collect signatures and the Collect Feedback workflows do just that, reducing the workload from manual sending and forwarding to an automated process with customizable notifications to remind and monitor participants. While almost identical to the Approval workflow, the Publishing Approval workflow offers a more dedicated tool to any sites with strictly controlled publishing, allocating every item or document to designated users for approval. The Three-state workflow however tracks and manages items and documents from project tasks to customer support issues depending on user needs, processing the documents through a three-step system. Assigning tasks and notifying team members on deadlines and overall progress, the tool helps in tracking any given list that contains columns with three or more values.

SharePoint Designer/ Microsoft Flow

While currently being phased out by Microsoft, SharePoint Designer is still available with commercial support ceasing by 2021. SharePoint designer caters to a more well-versed user by allowing the building of unique and elaborate workflows. Designed to aid in the ultimate customization of workflows with multiple steps and complex features, SharePoint designer can be used to mold features and parallel approvals into one workflow. Replacing SharePoint designer with much of the same but new and improved features, Microsoft Flow is a cloud-based software that allows users to create, customize and apply workflows, integrating them with SharePoint and several apps. Referring to workflows as “flows” the software can also be used to copy files, which are automatically sent to SharePoint. 

Third-party tools

Also accepting the integration of third-party tools, SharePoint enables users to connect the platform with their choice of customised tools. Tools such as Nintex, K2 and AgilePoint are all great examples of options that offer customisable and complex workflow options that can help advanced users to create well-rounded and automated business processes. It is important to note however that prices may vary depending on the extent of the tool. 

 

Whether choosing to use SharePoint’s built-in tools or Microsoft Flow’s workflow creation platform, here are a few key steps when building your own custom “flows”.

  1. Consider your company culture and needs to determine which processes need automation. In other words what is it that needs documenting and how is it best established.
  2. Decide your scope and steps for the workflow – do I need to circulate documents or establish a larger scale flow with multiple steps? Consider what is most needed for your chosen process, what has worked in practice and therefore what needs to be automated.
  3. Transform your chosen outline of steps and the process to a visual workflow. Depending on the tools you are using to create your flow, make sure to customise appropriately.

And you are good to go! For a more detailed guide on how to create workflows, make sure to visit your chosen tool’s websites for more information. To read more about built-in SharePoint workflows and Microsoft Flow, visit: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/overview-of-workflows-included-with-sharepoint-d74fcceb-3a64-40fb-9904-cc33ca49da56 and https://flow.microsoft.com/

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