How to Create A Microsoft SharePoint Workflow

How to Create A Microsoft SharePoint Workflow

Every organization has a unique set of workflows for addressing routine operations, such as onboarding new employees or moving customers through the sales funnel. To maintain a high degree of productivity, these operations must be standardized, which also means they should be repeatable. Any process that is repeatable can and should be automated so staff can focus on higher-value tasks.

Using Microsoft SharePoint to define these workflows helps you adhere to consistent business processes that improve organizational efficiency and allow you to get the most out of your IT investments. In other words, thanks to SharePoint project management, employees can focus on performing the work, rather than wasting their time managing workflows. In this guide, we will explore how to create and assign such workflows in SharePoint.

What are SharePoint workflows?

SharePoint workflows are a series of tasks intended to produce desired outcomes. For example, an approval workflow might involve two preliminary steps, such as sending an email to notify approvers and having approvers review a document. Then, the workflow will split into separate branches for approvals and rejections, each with one or more steps of their own. While this is only a very simple example, any predefined workflow can make it easier to coordinate mission-critical business processes with minimal risk of important steps being overlooked. Workflows themselves are represented by simple diagrams designed in a visual planner like SharePoint Designer.

How to use SharePoint’s built-in workflows

SharePoint provides several built-in workflows that can be easily adapted to common business use cases:

  • Approval workflows are intended to route documents and other items through groups of people for approval. For example, a new marketing brochure will usually go through multiple approvers and iterations before being released.
  • Feedback workflows expand on the simple approval workflows by providing teams the means to provide feedback via forms. For example, you can create an internal survey for employees to leave feedback on a particular item or project.
  • Signature workflows streamline the collection of digital signatures, making them useful for signing off contracts and reducing paperwork. This workflow requires document formats that support digital signatures.
  • Publishing approval workflows expand on simple approval workflows for use in cases where the publication of new and updated web pages and other content needs to be tightly controlled.
  • Three-state workflows are highly versatile and make it possible to manage processes that involve a high volume of issues or items. For example, three-state workflows can streamline matters like customer support queries, sales leads, and project tasks.

All of the above workflows can be adapted to more specific use cases. You can specify custom tasks, add new documents or list items, and select participants for each stage of the workflow.

How to create custom SharePoint workflows

While the built-in workflows should accommodate most everyday business processes, there may sometimes be cases where it is necessary to create new workflows from scratch. These workflows can be as simple or as complex as the process requires. Custom workflows can be triggered to start upon a specific event too, such as when a new item is added to or changed in a list. Custom workflows can be created in place of or in addition to the built-in workflows.

One of the easiest ways for power users to create custom SharePoint workflows is to use the SharePoint Designer. However, while still supported for enterprise users, the last version of SharePoint Designer was released in 2013. While not strictly a direct replacement, Microsoft Power Automate is now the tool of choice for creating automated business workflows of almost any complexity. This tool is deeply integrated with SharePoint.

Professional software developers can also create workflows using Microsoft Visual Studio, but doing so can require extensive coding. However, this option provides the highest degrees of flexibility and customization. Once such custom workflows have been created, administrators can deploy them across multiple SharePoint sites.

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