Automating Business Processes with SharePoint Workflow

by | Mar 28, 2016 | Collaboration | 0 comments

Automating business processes can increase productivity. It can reduce the time involved in hunting down who is responsible for a next step, or who has the latest version of a document. It reduces mistakes that can cost a business money and reputation. And reducing time and mistakes while improving productivity is good for your bottom line.

How can you leverage your existing SharePoint licensing to automate your business processes?

Below, we’ll review one way to do this – using SharePoint tasks.

SharePoint Tasks have been around forever, but have you thought about leveraging task lists as a business workflow tool? Do you need a way to make sure those weekly, monthly and annual TEAM COLLABORATION processes get done in a consistent and timely manner? SharePoint tasks can come to the rescue!

Automating business processes – how do SharePoint tasks help?

Why would I want to use SharePoint task lists as a business tool? I already know I can assign tasks to users, set due dates and look at tasks in a “Gantt chart-lite” view. Tasks are great for my project management process and keeping track of to-dos. But tasks can be used for processes we repeat over and over.

Most organizations have work processes that repeat on a regular basis. Examples of these might be:

  • Accounting runs the month-end close
  • Production does the quarterly inventory
  • IT runs the semi-annual Disaster Recovery test

What do these examples have in common?

They are repeating processes – Each example has a series of steps the department performs each time in order to complete the work. It’s very desirable to make sure all the steps are completed in a timely and consistent manner, by the right person.

There are a set of outcomes associated with the process – Those outcomes might be a set of reports or documents, a list of inventory or data from a process.   The outcomes should be created in a consistent manner each time.

There needs to be evidence the process occurred correctly – Accounting needs to be able to demonstrate that the right people provided the required information and all the outcomes were approved. IT needs to demonstrate the Disaster Recovery test was conducted and performed as expected.

SharePoint tasks can provide the tools needed to meet these needs.

What task features can I use to make sure my business process is done correctly each time?

SharePoint tasks provide 4 key pieces of functionality to help with automating business processes:

1.  Task Management

This is the part of SharePoint Task lists most people are familiar with. Task lists allow us to define work items, assign users, set start and end dates and display the status of tasks in multiple ways using SharePoint Views. As your team completes the task, timestamps record when and who completed that specific task. You can come back later and verify all steps were accomplished, when and by whom.

2.  Workflow

SharePoint Designer workflows can be attached to Task lists to automate a variety of work functions, such as notifications when certain tasks are completed, startup of review and approval workflows and copying data from the task list to other lists or libraries. Workflow helps make sure tasks get done on time and the right personnel are notified.

3.  Templates with Content

SharePoint Task lists can be created with content (the list of pre-defined tasks) and imbedded workflow to provide an easy way to generate the materials needed to run your work process exactly the same as before. Your custom task list now makes it easy to create the same set of tasks each time you need to run your process. A custom task list provisioning service can be created to automatically create new versions of your custom task list on a regular schedule.

4.  Governance and Retention Processing

SharePoint provides a rich feature set around how to manage your Tasks lists over time. You can define how long task lists should be retained, who should have access and when audits should occur.

Your Collaboration Partner can help you:

  • Identify the data you need to run your business process.
  • Document your existing work process and design how SharePoint task lists and workflows can help automate the steps.
  • Build automated tools to create new task lists.
  • Define and implement security, governance and retention rules based on your compliance requirements.
  • Provide training and assist in user adoption
  • Provide on-going technical support for your Microsoft applications.

Want to evaluate your work processes and determine what solutions can work for you?  Give us a call or drop us a line.