Many clients express their desire to use SharePoint in their organization, but the question I get most often is “SharePoint is capable of so many things, how do I decide what to do first?”  When I think of how organizations can best leverage the many and varied capabilities of SharePoint I think about The Four Corners.

The Four Corners

In the first part of this four-part blog series, I discussed how SharePoint Information Sharing tools makes it easy to provide multi-media presentation of information. In the second blog, I reviewed how you could use SharePoint to create Document Management features. The third blog highlighted how SharePoint facilitates multiple collaboration processes. In this final series blog we look at how SharePoint can automate your business processes.

Corner 4 – Business Workflow

In my opinion, the ability to automate business processes using SharePoint is one of the most overlooked aspects of SharePoint design. The combination of out-of-the-box and SharePoint Designer based workflows and SharePoint list forms provides a powerful set of tools to assist people with their day-to-day work processes.

This is the fourth way SharePoint can help your organization.

How SharePoint Facilitates Business Workflow

One of the things that SharePoint does best is to facilitate what I call “People-centric” workflows, improving the task and information processing done between individuals and groups.

Think about how most business workflows between people occur:

  1. Someone (could be a customer, a fellow employee, a vendor) requests someone else to do something (help with an order, review a document, generate a Purchase Order).
  2. Someone responds to the request by taking action(s).

When you think of business workflow in terms of “Request and Respond,” you can begin to see that most business processes work fundamentally in the same way. We just need to capture the specifics.

We can understand each workflow by identifying the following:

  1. What is the request and the information associated with the request?
  2. What are the tasks and information necessary to respond to the request?
  3. What are the outcomes and outputs of the request?
  4. Who are the people associated with the request?

To be efficient and productive, most organizations want to standardize how business workflows occur. This ensures things are done correctly, and in a timely manner. This is where SharePoint comes in.

SharePoint provides a variety of tools to facilitate business workflow:

  • What is the request and the information associated with the request?
    • SharePoint lists capture the information associated with the request via list forms.
    • Required fields make sure we capture the necessary information to respond to the request.
    • Choice, lookup, and managed metadata columns apply consistent data in the request.
    • SharePoint security controls who can make the request.
    • Display  of instructions and descriptions via the list form helps users correctly fill out the form.
  • What are the tasks and information necessary to respond to the request?
    • SharePoint workflows standardize the steps in the response to the request.
    • SharePoint Tasks tracks and records the completion of each step.
    • Task reminders help users complete their tasks in a timely manner.
  • What are the outcomes and outputs of the request?
    • SharePoint lists and document templates assist users in creating the outcomes of the request
    • Task List templates create repeatable work process.
    • SharePoint workflow manages reviews, updates and approvals.
  • Who are the people associated with the request?
    • SharePoint and Active Directory security controls who can make requests.
    • We assign tasks to specific groups or users.
    • We can have different individuals assigned to specific tasks in the process.

How do I decide what to do first?

I hope this four-part series helps you understand the high-level capabilities SharePoint encompasses to solve business problems. Review the challenges your organization has in each of the Four Corners, prioritize which corner can provide the most value to your organization, and then envision how you can use the capabilities of SharePoint to solve those business problems.

Need some help to get started?

Peters & Associates has been assisting organizations in solving business problems since 1981.  We can help you to:

  • Design and configure your SharePoint (on premises or in O365) implementation.
  • Envision and design how you’ll get the best use of your SharePoint deployment.
  • Train your administrators and users.
  • Provide on-going technical support for your SharePoint deployment.

Need help to evaluate your work processes and determine what solutions can work for you? Contact us at or 630.832.0075 for a complimentary consultation.

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The Peters & Associates HRPortal is a Microsoft SharePoint Online site designed to make it easy for your organization’s team members to access HR information, forms and processes.

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