How To Automate Workflows In SharePoint

Posted by Sherry Goode on February 24, 2016

how-to-automate-workflows-in-sharepoint.jpgYou’ve probably heard us talk about SharePoint workflows before. In particular, we’ve gone into great detail about the importance of clearly defining your business process automation strategy before you start to build automated workflows in SharePoint. But once you've defined those business processes, what comes next?

Read on to learn what steps you need to take to transform your processes into successful automated workflows in SharePoint.

1. Build a Visual Diagram

Before you dive into SharePoint, you need to create a visual diagram of your process. Tools like Visio, PowerPoint or a whiteboard are great options for plotting out the process that you want to automate. The aim is to create a roadmap that shows all the tasks that need to be included in the workflow.

For example, a starting point for your process might be a user uploading a document to a SharePoint library. Next, consider any notifications that need to be sent out to let people know about the new workflow. Will SharePoint need to automatically send emails to people to ask them to approve the uploaded document? Then consider what happens after approval or rejection of the document. Should the workflow end at this point, or circle back to the original user for more input?

Creating visual diagram of your process has two major benefits. First, it will show you the structure of your process, which will later be a useful guide for the person who is going to build your automated workflows in SharePoint. Second, it will help you easily identify any overlooked steps or infinite workflow loops prior to implementation.

2. Create Tasks and Verify Your Workflow

Once you’ve identified the overall structure of the business process that you want to automate, consider the individual tasks that need to be carried out in SharePoint. Clearly define what needs to happen in each task and put them in order.

Next, bring everyone involved in creating or using a workflow in SharePoint together to confirm the outline of your workflow is an accurate representation of the business process. As tempting as it may be, don't skip this review step. You need to know what you've created is accurate before you start building your workflow in SharePoint, not after.

3. Build and Test

With your outline in-hand and your team behind you, you're now ready to start working with the people who will build your workflow in SharePoint. Your diagram, along with your outline of individual tasks, will help those building your workflow in SharePoint to create exactly what you're looking for out of your automated process.

When your workflow is built, it's time to test out before deploying it across your organization. Check that notifications go to the right people and that the workflow completes successfully. Review all scenarios that can occur in the workflow – such as rejection of a document – and not just the most common use cases.

4. Publish and Review

You are now ready to publish your workflow to your users, but don't forget to provide documentation alongside the workflow, including the visual diagrams you created during the planning stages. By providing this to your users, they will have a better understanding of how the workflow functions, as well as how it benefits the organization.

And since workflows are meant to be dynamic, growing alongside your processes of your business, schedule periodic reviews of your workflows regularly to assess whether they still work, as well as whether any updates are needed over time.

Final Thought

By following this step-by-step process, you can efficiently automate workflows in SharePoint. This structured approach to building workflows in SharePoint not only reduces the risk of making mistakes, but also helps ensure you end up with a workflow that is a useful and efficient automation of your business process.

Topics: SharePoint, Workflows

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Sherry Goode

Sherry Goode is a Senior Business Analyst at Withum. Sherry has been an IT professional since 2007 with degrees in both Network Systems Administration from DeVry University, and Information Systems Management from University of Maryland University College.

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