One of the biggest selling points of SharePoint is the ability to extend and automate day to day business processes. This is usually one of my key points of emphasis when demonstrating SharePoint’s capabilities to key stakeholders of the business. What I am specifically referring to here is the ability to take an everyday business process, analysing the steps, people and processes involved and automating that through electronic workflows. Workflows within SharePoint automate otherwise manual and usually repetitive business processes, providing you with the ability to add some smarts to routing processes within workflows such as emailing certain people within the organisation when certain tasks have been completed.
One of my main goals in a recent SharePoint project that I have been working on over the last several months is to create common electronic forms utilising Microsoft InfoPath and building workflows behind each form which transports the form from start to completion in an electronic fashion. Let’s take the humble Leave Form as an example. You will find one of these in many organisations and are usually either a Microsoft Word or Excel template that is either printed and handwritten or typed up and printed, notice the common action “printed”. Once the form is printed, it is usually passed on to a manager for approval which is further passed to Human Resources for processing. This is usually a manual process that involves transporting a piece of paper from desk to desk before it gets the stamp of approval.
So how could we automate and extend this process you may ask? Quite easily with InfoPath Form Services and SharePoint workflows. Let’s take our humble Leave Form again as an example, but this time the user will submit an InfoPath form online electronically which then triggers an automatic workflow transporting the submitted form to your manager and to HR through task assigned emails in Microsoft Outlook.
In further posts, I will introduce InfoPath Form Services and SharePoint workflows in a lot more detail with pretty pictures, providing you with an insight on how automation is possible through these technologies. The above is a great selling point for large organisations to introduce SharePoint into their environment, providing consistency and structure to business processes.
Until next time …