How to Use SharePoint Workflows in Your Project

SharePoint Workflows have been around for many years. However, it is a functionality, that in my experience, is not often used in business and projects. However, anytime you need some sort of approval or business process occurs more often, you should think about using the workflow capability for that. There are several ways to create workflows in SharePoint. In this article I explain you, what workflows are, the available options SharePoint offers and how to benefit from them. Curious? Then read on and learn more.

SharePoint Workflows Are Underutilized

SharePoint workflows have been around for many years. However, they are still one of the most underutilized, or unknown, capabilities in SharePoint. Workflows used to be more complex to implement, and you needed SharePoint Designer software to do it. Some time ago SharePoint Designer was retired, and workflow functionality was integrated directly into SharePoint (using Power Automate). I have worked with SharePoint in several companies but have not seen workflows used operationally in any company.

Mini Programs That Make Your Work More Efficient

Think of SharePoint workflows as small mini programs that run within your SharePoint environment to automate project or business processes. Workflows range from project tasks like collecting signatures to tracking status and are designed to save you time and effort. Tasks in a project that you perform on a regular basis, often involving multiple employees, are handled more consistently, efficiently, and securely with workflows. System-supported workflows are useful when processes are stable over time.
There are five typical workflow types in SharePoint: Approval Workflows, Status Workflows, Notification Workflows, Automation Workflows, and Custom Workflows.

Approval Workflows

This is the most common type of workflow management within SharePoint. It allows you to start an approval chain the moment a document is uploaded into SharePoint. Here is an example of how to create one.

Status Workflows

Status Workflows allow you to automate the status of documents as they’re uploaded to SharePoint, and, based on the conditions set in the list workflow, automatically changes the document libraries’ status based on what happens to that document.

Notification Workflows

Once a condition has been met within your SharePoint environment, Notification Workflows will send a notification (for example, an email) to the assigned members of your organization, prompting them to take some sort of action. One of the simplest notification workflows, in my opinion, are SharePoint Alerts, which are actually not related to the term workflow.

Automation Workflows

Automation Workflows allow you to be able to create a workflow to automate and automatically execute certain actions based on what’s happening within your SharePoint environment. It typically piggy-backs off the other workflows that have been described above.

Custom Workflows

Once you figure out what these types of workflow can do for your organization, you’re likely to want to do more than one of them—maybe even a combination of all four! Custom Workflows allow you to create your own SharePoint workflow and settings your own mini program within SharePoint.

More details to the above workflows you get here.

Tasks in a project that you perform on a regular basis, often involving multiple employees, are handled more consistently, efficiently, and securely with workflows.

How to Use Workflows in Projects

In the last section, I showed you the five most important types of workflows that are possible with SharePoint.
In the following section, I will show you a few examples of how you can effectively use workflows in projects.

  1. Document Approval Process: When documents need to go through an approval process before being published or shared, SharePoint workflows can automate the routing and approval steps, ensuring the right stakeholders review and approve the content.
  2. Issue Tracking and Management: In project management or support scenarios, SharePoint workflows can be used to manage and track issues reported by team members or customers, ensuring they are assigned, addressed, and resolved efficiently.
  3. Content Publishing: For intranet portals or public-facing websites, SharePoint workflows can facilitate content publishing processes. Authors can submit content for review, and the workflow will handle the publishing approval and deployment.
  4. Employee or Contractor Onboarding and Offboarding: When a new employee or Contractor joins the company, SharePoint workflows can guide the onboarding process by automating tasks like account setup, equipment allocation, and training assignments. Similarly, workflows can handle offboarding tasks when an employee leaves the project.
  5. Change Request Management: SharePoint workflows can manage change requests by automating the review and approval process for proposed changes to applications or systems.
  6. Contract and Agreement Approval: SharePoint workflows can automate the approval process for contracts and agreements, ensuring that all relevant parties review and sign the necessary documents.
  7. Quality Assurance and Testing: Workflows can manage quality assurance and testing tasks, ensuring that products meet specified standards before release.

These are just a few examples of how SharePoint workflows can be applied to streamline processes and enhance collaboration within organizations and projects. More details on how to set up these workflows in SharePoint can be found via the links in this article. Try it out!

How to Start Designing a Workflow

A mistake users not seldom make is that they start “coding” a workflow or creating actions and conditions in Microsoft Flow without first having a big picture of the process. The best way to initially document the workflow is to spell it out. Just type in the text as you discuss the workflow with your peers.

  1. A user submits a request for a PO
  2. The Finance Manager gets an email notification with PO details
  3.  …..

Get further practical steps to design workflows in this good blog post from SharePoint Maven: Four things to do before creating a workflow in SharePoint

Defining workflows in SharePoint is something you do if you already know SharePoint well. This is probably a functionality you will only use in SharePoint if your project or program is longer lasting, and you perform similar processes often. If you want to delve further into workflows, here are more details:

Two ways to request document approval in SharePoint Online

5 Types of SharePoint Workflows: Make Your Life Easier with Automation

It would take too much space to describe here now exactly how you define workflows in SharePoint. I think it’s good to know what’s possible and then delve further if needed.

Here You Can Find More Knowledge

Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with SharePoint? Save time and money and get firsthand experience with my book SharePoint Online for Project Management. It takes you an important step further.

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SharePoint Online for Project Management
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