Sharepoint SIG

Thoughts and ideas from your SharePoint support team

Some examples of good uses of workflow in SharePoint

| 0 comments

As you may know, we purchased Nintex Workflow and had it installed about the beginning of August this year.  Since then we have done a number of things with workflows that have simplified work in various areas.

This post describes some of the things we have done that show the flexibility and power of this product (as well as things that I think are just cool).

Quarterly billing

Doing billing is one of the things I am not fond of doing, so when I had the opportunity I thought I would make it as easy as I could.  I already had some lists created for tracking clients, site collections, and billing, so it was just a matter of making life easier for me in creating new billing records, getting feedback from each client, and getting the billing into our invoicing system.

The list used to track billing has a record for each quarter and each client that is billed.  It contains the client, number of users, amount to bill, account number as well as a few other fields.  Before automating this I would manually create the new records each quarter, copying over the relevant data from record to record.  A tedious process at best.  I would also send out email to each client with the information and ask if anything had changed for the quarter, and often the number of users would be adjusted.

To automate this process, I created a new list called “Default Billing Options” that contains the information to be copied. A site workflow is started manually and asks for the beginning date of the quarter, it then loops through each of the records in the defaults list and creates a new record in the billing list.

A second workflow on the billing list starts when a new item is created.  That workflow emails the client and asks them to confirm the information before an invoice is going to be invoiced.  The from address on the email is set to me, so I will get the responses that people send.  If people do not respond I can trigger the workflow to run again and send another email out.

Once people get back to me, I edit the list item as needed and check off a field that says it is ready to bill.  At that point, a third workflow starts up and emails the information to the finance people to ask them to issue an invoice and my work is complete.

Managing permissions

ICT has a list of all the people in the unit in SharePoint, along with their location, phone number, email, etc.  Prior to getting SharePoint, this list was kept as a Word document that the administrative assistants would maintain and email around on a periodic basis.  We had converted the document to a SharePoint list, but the admin people were still responsible for maintaining the information.

ICT wants to allow people to edit their own entries but not to edit all entries.  SharePoint does have a feature out of the box that will allow a person to edit an entry they created, but no easy way to set the creator to be someone else in the case where the entry was not created by the person themselves.

Nintex does have an action to allow you to set permissions on an item.  While it is not recommended to use lots of item level permissions due to performance concerns on a large list, we decided to give it a try on this list since it is relatively small.

A workflow runs on creation that will simply set the permissions on new items to break the permission inheritance and then apply permissions that allows everyone in ICT to see the item, the admin people and the individual themselves to edit the issue.

PCIP Coordination

For those who don’t know, PCIP is a high level committee that is responsible for approving funds for specific priorities at the University.  If you really want the complete (and correct) definition of what they do, I suggest reading their website. For the purposes of this post, you need to know that people all over the university send in requests, FYI items, and followup reports. Keeping track of the information is a bit of a challenge, and a workflow plays a central role in doing so.

You can see a bit of the workflow in the image to the right (click to enlarge), so you get an idea of the complexity of this workflow.  At the time of this writing, version 53 is what is currently being used.

The work to get to the point where we can use a workflow, and have it doing what is needed has been an evolutionary journey, but the flexibility and ease of changes that Nintex and SharePoint provides us helps make it possible.

I will be doing a separate post as a case study on using SharePoint and all it has to offer to help with the tracking, but I wanted to highlight this example as it is one of the more complex ones.

This workflow starts when a new request or FYI item is saved into SharePoint by the PCIP coordinator. It then assigns tasks to do with everything from routing to the correct committee (PCIP or PCIP-AC), notifying the proponent, requesting resubmission or additional information, scheduling for the committee, and recording the decision.

Conclusion

There are many things that Nintex Workflow allows us to do, from making simple changes, looping through lists to perform some action on each item (or selected items), to complex routing and work management.  The workflows can be chained together in different ways to make a complete workable solution.  We have a lot more flexibility in how we design our solutions now than we did prior to getting this great product and I encourage people to learn about it and use it where it makes sense to do so.

One thing is certain, it is far easier to create workflows with Nintex than SharePoint Designer, and the capabilities are much more extensive.

Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply