SharePoint Workflows in Three Minutes

Author by Concurrency Blog

After every seminar I give, people come up and say: "you're the SharePoint Workflow guy - explain it to me in 3 minutes".  Here's what you need to know: SharePoint 2010 workflows can:
  • Automate common business steps
  • Help manage long-running processes
  • Route documents and forms
  • Collect feedback, approval, or notifications
  • Provide visual indicators of a process
  • Wash your car ...
SharePoint 2010 Standard and Enterprise include a selection of 'out of the box' workflows.  These tools help you automate the most common business tasks - sharing and collecting feedback on documents.  I see the following workflows used most often:
  • Approval Workflow - Routes the content for approval. You can setup this workflow as serial or parallel plus preset the approvers.
  • Collect Feedback Workflow - Routes the content for feedback. When the workflow completes all the feedback is sent to the originator of the workflow.
  • Collect Signature Workflow - Rather than just sending content for approval, this workflow requires digital signatures on the content.
'Out of the Box' Workflows 'Out of the box' workflows can be added to any SharePoint document library.  Simply select a template and pick a name.  Your workflow can start whenever a document is added, whenever a document is changed, or both. [caption id="attachment_907" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Built-in workflow templates make setup a snap"][/caption] Once your workflow is set up, it will auto-magically run when triggered.  Users may also start a workflow manually - for example, James can start an Approval workflow on his report. [caption id="attachment_906" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Manually start a workflow in SharePoint"][/caption] When the workflow starts, it will ask the user to set some rules.  Who should approve the document?  Is there a due date?  And my favorite!  Send a reminder e-mail if SharePoint doesn't hear from an approver. [caption id="attachment_905" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Workflow setup screen"][/caption] Workflows with Visio or SharePoint Designer When your needs become more complex, SharePoint power users and developers can create custom workflows using drag-and-drop tools.  Workflows are composed of simple building block "activities" and conditional logic.  Workflows run based on events and conditions affecting a document or SharePoint list item. If you are comfortable with Visio, you can use familiar tools to snap together a SharePoint workflow. Various workflow actions are available, such as Assign Task, Send E-mail, Create List Item, Collect Data from User, Wait for Timer, and more. [caption id="attachment_904" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="SharePoint Workflow in Visio 2010"][/caption] Once the workflow is laid out, a tool named SharePoint Designer allows you to further define the workflow and deploy it to your SharePoint site. A simple publishing process helps you link the workflow with a SharePoint List or Document Library [caption id="attachment_903" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Editing a workflow in SharePoint Designer"][/caption] Your workflow is ready!  It will automatically run whenever a document or list item is added, or users can start the workflow when they need it.  Your workflow can even be started from within a Microsoft Office document. [caption id="attachment_901" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Start a workflow from within an Office document"][/caption] Were you timing me?  In just a few minutes I've explained how simple - yet powerful - workflows can help you automate your business processes.  Workflows can be designed to improve almost any aspect of your business.  My team at Concurrency has built workflows to manage projects, track engineering change orders, manage customer service, route mortgage documents, automate human resource tasks - even starting a bidding war between vendors during an RFP process. Let's talk and find out how SharePoint 2010 workflows can change your life!
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