Everything You Need to Know About SharePoint Workflows: Types, Benefits, Examples, and More.
Have you heard about SharePoint workflows floating around the office but are not sure about the concept? How it can be applied to optimize your work processes? Which SharePoint workflow tools can be utilized to automate your business?
In a nutshell, workflow refers to the way of getting work done. Think of buying groceries – you will follow a workflow to shop groceries. Perhaps, it goes like this:
- Look at the online recipes while planning the weekly meals
- Create a grocery list
- Grab a bag and leave the house
- Search for grocery store coupons
- Drive to the grocery store
- Pick the selected grocery items
- Drive back home
When tasks are well-documented and implemented through a specific path, it can save a lot of your time and money. Workflows can be used to streamline all the key business functions regardless of industry. If you are also looking to improve your business efficiency with workflows, SharePoint is a great platform that can generate customizable workflows to automate most of your business processes.
Read on to find out:
- What is a SharePoint Workflow?
- What Are the Most Common Types of Workflows in SharePoint?
- Benefits of SharePoint Workflow
- Common SharePoint Workflow Examples
- How to Create SharePoint Workflows?
- Using a Modern Intranet to Get Started with SharePoint Workflows
What is SharePoint Workflow?
Consider workflows as pre-programmed applications that automate a wide range of business functions from initiation to completion. It provides conditions, rules, and actions to automate multiple tasks and behavior by activating pre-defined triggers. SharePoint workflows enable an organization to connect business logic to objects or documents in a SharePoint library that manages business operations efficiently. Workflows in SharePoint are a string of “if” and “then” statements. For example, if X person sends a request for document approval, a notification will be sent to Y person. It eliminates various menial tasks that can drastically reduce the productivity of employees.
What Are the Most Common Types of Workflows in SharePoint?
Workflows are everywhere in the workspace. There are various types of workflows in SharePoint online. Some workflows are inbuilt, and others can be built and customized to do anything you can think of. Here are some workflows you will use most often.
1. Status Workflows
This workflow allows you to automate the document status as they are uploaded to SharePoint. Based on the set conditions, the status is changed automatically based on the activities on that document.
How to use status workflows: When the sales team prepares their daily work report and uploads it to SharePoint, the document will be automatically tagged as “draft”. When the document will be reviewed by the project team, the document status will be changed to “Under review”. When the sales manager will review the document, the status will be changed to “read”. And finally, when the sales director gets the document, they will either approve or reject the document. In this case, the document status will be changed to “approved” or “declined”.
2. Approval Workflows
This is one of the most used workflows in SharePoint. It allows businesses to start a chain of approval when the document is uploaded to SharePoint.
How to use approval workflows: Let us say that the sales team needs to send a client proposal but before sending it, the proposal needs to go through an approval process. It needs a chain of approval from the project manager, sales manager, and sales director. Rather than sending the document and tracking the approval process manually, approval workflows in SharePoint can automate the chain of approvals within the SharePoint environment. Most organizations are moving to Microsoft 365 intranet to deploy effective document security and approval workflow processes. It allows businesses to store in document libraries and define approval workflows at the library and document level.
3. Notification Workflows
Once the specific conditions are set in the SharePoint environment, notification workflows will be activated automatically. The notification will be sent to the assigned members of the organization and prompt them to take a specific action.
How to use notification workflows: When the sales manager uploads the monthly reports to SharePoint, the notification is sent automatically to the reporting manager. The document uploading activity will trigger the notification email to be sent to the reporting manager to inform them that the monthly report has been uploaded. A turnkey intranet solution can help businesses leverage this automation while leveraging SharePoint workflow templates.
4. Automation Workflows
This workflow allows businesses to automate business tasks based on certain activities within the SharePoint environment. In a nutshell, automation workflow speeds up all the other workflows to achieve better efficiency.
How to use automation workflows: When the sales associate upload proposal and the folder is tagged as “draft” and sent for approval. After the sales director approves the document for publishing, it needs to move into the “published” folder. This automation workflow for the document can be set up automatically using workflows in SharePoint.
5. Custom Workflows
Once the suitable type of workflow is identified, you are likely to use more than one workflow, which may be a combination of all four workflows. Custom workflows allow businesses to create their SharePoint mini program.
How to use custom workflows: When the sales associate uploads a document to SharePoint and the approval status is set according to the status workflow. And then, the document goes through the approval workflow and sends notifications to assigned members that are set through the notification workflow. Once the process is completed, the automation workflow publishes the document to the appropriate document library for further use by the sales team of the organization.
Benefits of Using SharePoint Workflow
Workflows are not only about scheduling and creating a process, but it is much more than that. SharePoint workflows have a great potential to streamline communication, organize information, and automate business processes. Here are the top benefits of using SharePoint Workflow.
1. Simplify process automation
Using SharePoint for workflow management ensures successful coordination and automation of tasks rather than automating every task independently.
2. Improved visibility of employee performance and productivity
Workflows make future work planning easier and more transparent. It allows managers to access a history of activities, create an activity trail, and audit previous tasks. These metrics are used to monitor business processes and provide directions to improve them.
3. Streamline redundant business operations
SharePoint workflows can enhance efficiency by streamlining document management and expediting business processes. For example, SharePoint workflow automation can be used to get the feedback of multiple team members on a single document instead of sending the document to each team member.
4. Excellent communication and collaboration
Lack of communication with colleagues and management can lead to low employee retention rates. SharePoint workflows can be used to provide a clear line of communication and set a successive chain of events. Workflows in SharePoint online also make it easier to collaborate across businesses and even industries by providing templates, workflows, and task plans on the cloud.
5. Eliminate human errors
When business processes are conducted by employees, there is a high risk of human errors. On the contrary, SharePoint workflows show the real-time state of any item and leave employees with no more excuses for making mistakes.
6. Enforce compliance
Using workflows in SharePoint ensures proper compliance with regulations. It allows businesses to complete relevant tasks on time. The error-free and repeatable nature of SharePoint workflow automation are also perfectly suitable for compliance.
7. Speeds up the approval process
SharePoint workflow templates enable a quick and seamless document approval process. The custom workflows can be created to automatically change the document status showing “under review”, “approved”, or “rejected”. It also enables the document to flow hierarchically to track the progress in real-time.
8. Single source of information
It is difficult for employees across different departments to access the information quickly. SharePoint workflow helps in organizing and retrieving the information seamlessly from varied resources and applications. The search filters can also be used to find the relevant information quickly.
Common SharePoint Workflow Examples
Workflows are everywhere. If you are printing a set of documents repeatedly, that’s a workflow. If you are organizing dynamic data in a spreadsheet, that’s a workflow. Let’s look at some common examples to learn about SharePoint workflows.
1. Employee onboarding workflow
Onboarding is a standardized process to welcome new hires and provide relevant training about the company, work practices, and organizational culture. Learn how a SharePoint intranet can make your employee onboarding successful. SharePoint workflow automation can be used to automate various activities. The list of activities could include:
2. Procurement workflow
The procurement process has multiple workflows, and it begins with the approval of vendors. The second workflow is created when the purchase order is created. Once the purchase order is approved and sent to the vendor, the goods are received. The final workflow is activated for invoice and payment.
3. Sales pipeline workflow
This workflow indicates the progression of sales within the organization. It captures the lead, follow-ups, proposals, negotiation, and other repetitive tasks. The sales process can be organized within the workflow to make the whole sales pipeline more efficient.
4. Reimbursement workflow
Another common workplace activity is reimbursement of expenses. The workflow is initiated with the submission of a reimbursement request and then, the manager approves or declines the request. The approval is sent to the finance department and payment is transferred to employees. SharePoint workflow automation can be used to track requests, receipts, and payment status that streamlines the overall process.
How to Create SharePoint Workflows?
SharePoint is very popular for sharing and collaboration. The workflow capabilities of the platform are great to automate various business processes. Let’s explore how to create workflows in SharePoint.
Option 1: No workflow
This option is used when a simple notification or approval is required. The “Alerts” capability of SharePoint can be used in conjunction with metadata columns. The “Assigned to” option can also be used to send an email to the assigned user.
Option 2: Content approval
The built-in feature of content approval is used for one-way content approval. It can also be used in simple approval scenarios. For example, approval of the document, and vacation requests.
Option 3: Content approval
There are various built-in workflows available in SharePoint that allows to get approvals, collect signatures and feedback, create disposition approval, and three-state workflow. If the built-in SharePoint workflow template does not suit the business scenario, a custom workflow can also be created.
Option 4: SharePoint Designer
SharePoint Designer is a free Microsoft tool that allows for building complicated workflows. This option provides extended flexibility to create parallel and multi-stage serial workflows. Explore what is serial and parallel approval workflows.
Option 5: Microsoft Flow
It is easier and much better to create SharePoint workflows with Microsoft Flow. Unlike SharePoint Designer, it is a cloud-based solution and integrates with SharePoint and many other applications.
Using a modern intranet to get started with SharePoint workflows
SharePoint workflows provide an effortless way to build, organize, and monitor workflows across the organization. It seamlessly integrates with the components of your existing tech stack to improve sharing and collaboration across systems, applications, and teams while eliminating data silos. But it is important to choose the right workflow management system that can integrate with your existing systems, meet your business and security requirements, offers flexibility, and provides a centralized view to monitoring workflows.
BizPortals 365, a modern SharePoint intranet can ignite automation by providing the required accuracy and agility in workflow management. It offers inbuilt SharePoint templates along with customization capabilities to create secure workflows without any coding experience. Learn how to create and use workflows in SharePoint to work more efficiently and save time.