Microsoft SharePoint is a popular collaboration and content management system that allows organizations to manage and share information efficiently. One of the most powerful features of SharePoint is its workflow automation capabilities, which can help businesses streamline their processes and reduce manual labor. In this blog post, we’ll explore SharePoint workflows and how they can benefit your organization.
At Softlanding, we leverage Microsoft 365’s SharePoint Workflows, Power Apps, and Power Automate to boost productivity and efficiency and enhance customer experiences. Moreover, with more than 20 years of experience in SharePoint consultancy and development, we can assist you in leveraging SharePoint’s powerful business process automation capabilities.
What are SharePoint Workflows?
SharePoint workflows are a series of automated steps that help organizations manage business processes, from simple tasks like sending notifications to complex processes like managing approvals. Workflows can be initiated by a user, automatically triggered by an event, or scheduled to run at specific times. SharePoint workflows can be customized to meet the specific needs of your organization, making it easy to automate processes and save time.
When should you implement business automation tools?
SharePoint workflows are a powerful tool that can help organizations streamline their processes, automate tasks, and improve collaboration. Here are five indicators that your business could benefit from SharePoint workflows:
- Monotonous Tasks: If your organization performs repetitive tasks regularly, SharePoint workflows can help automate these processes and save time. For example, workflows can automatically route documents for approval or notify team members when a task is complete.
- Team Collaboration: If your team requires collaboration to complete tasks, SharePoint workflows can help facilitate communication and ensure everyone is on the same page. Workflows can help assign tasks to team members, track progress, and provide real-time updates.
- Deadline-Driven: If your organization is deadline-driven, SharePoint workflows can help ensure that tasks are completed on time. Workflows enable to send reminders and notifications to team members, escalate tasks if they are not completed on time, and provide real-time updates on progress.
- Impact on Organizational Processes and Systems: If your tasks have an impact on other organizational processes and systems, SharePoint workflows can assist in coordinating and integrating these processes seamlessly. Workflows can help route documents for review, manage approvals, and ensure task completion in the correct order.
- Compliance and Audit Trails: For compliance and audit trail management, SharePoint workflows provide documentation and tracking for approvals, task completion, and adherence to established guidelines.
Recognizing these indicators can help your organization leverage the powerful automation capabilities of SharePoint workflows, resulting in streamlined processes, improved collaboration, and time savings.
Key Benefits of Microsoft SharePoint for Business Automation
- Improved Communication
Clear communication is crucial for effective management. SharePoint’s workflow automation provides a transparent mode of communication among employees and stores conversation history for future reference.
- Time and Cost Savings
SharePoint’s efficient automation services save businesses time and money by streamlining processes.
- Minimized Human Errors
Workflow automation reduces errors caused by human input, resulting in better accuracy and faster task completion.
- Real-time Data Insights
SharePoint’s dashboard view provides real-time insights into ongoing processes. It allows businesses to make informed decisions and assess the impact of automation on employee productivity.
- Compliance Enforcement
SharePoint ensures compliance with policies, regulations, and laws by implementing automated workflows to complete relevant tasks on time.
Types of SharePoint Workflows
SharePoint workflows can be classified into three categories:
- Built-in Workflows: SharePoint comes with several built-in workflows that can be used out of the box. These include Approval, Collect Feedback, Collect Signatures, and Disposition Approval workflows.
- Custom Workflows: Custom workflows can be created using SharePoint Designer, which allows you to create workflows using a graphical interface. Custom workflows can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your organization. However, SharePoint 2010 workflows have been retired since August 2020 and, it is likely that SharePoint 2013 will follow a similar retirement path later on. Therefore, Microsoft recommends using Power Automate or other supported solutions.
- Visual Studio Workflows: Visual Studio workflows offer the most flexibility and can be used to create complex workflows that integrate with other systems.
How to Streamline Business Processes with SharePoint Workflows?
Inefficiencies can cost organizations up to 30% of their revenue each year, according to IDC’s survey. To mitigate these costs, Microsoft developed SharePoint Workflows to simplify and automate complex and repetitive business procedures. These workflows can track procedures, collect approvals, signatures, and feedback for projects or documents. As digital automation becomes the standard for global businesses by 2023, SharePoint can automate workflows and business processes.
Microsoft SharePoint offers a range of features to simplify and automate complex business procedures, including alerts and notifications. With these, you can stay updated on file and folder changes, as well as document and site updates.
- SharePoint Alerts & Notifications
SharePoint’s notification and alerts feature keeps you updated on changes made to files and folders. This feature notifies users of Microsoft SharePoint documents or site updates, allowing for quick and easy library, list, folder, file, or list item alerts. Additionally, you can set up an alert for a library folder to receive notifications only when files in that folder change.
- SharePoint Processes
SharePoint workflows automate approvals, comments, digital signatures, phased activities, and content publishing. Pre-built templates help automate tasks like document approval and gathering signatures to save time. The document approval workflow checks, tracks, reminds, and forwards documents, reducing the need for manual monitoring.
- Workflow Creation through Power Automate
With Power Automate, you can create workflows for Microsoft Lists, SharePoint, and OneDrive libraries and lists. You can also automate processes like data extraction, form processing, and information flow, as well as project procedures and steps.
With Power Automate, SharePoint can:
- Extract, verify, and populate data automatically, making data processing faster
- Process forms, PDFs, images, emails, and other data sources automatically, simplifying document creation and sharing
- Automate workflows such as checking stock, ordering, invoicing, updating customers, and more
- Automate the flow of important company data and documents using SharePoint’s connectors and plug-ins. There are currently over 900 connectors and SharePoint is one of them.
- Automate human labor and third-party procedures, reducing the time spent on validating user, sales, or other crucial data
- Automate project procedures and steps, completing multiple tasks in a few minutes instead of hours by automating operations like sending emails, generating Planner tasks, and sending team messages.
- SharePoint Designer
SharePoint Designer workflows automate simple to complex business operations, including human collaborative and business application processes. It also enables document approval workflows where users can send documents to their managers for approval, while business application workflows update data sources in sequence.
- Visual Studio
Visual Studio’s state machine workflow allows developers to model event-driven workflows with advanced features that support complex business processes. It offers effective workflow templates that can be easily deployed across multiple SharePoint sites, unlike SharePoint Designer’s limited-stage workflows.
- Nintex Workflow Designer
Nintex Workflow Designer offers customized features for automating workflows in SharePoint. Organizations can use Nintex to build bespoke workflows that integrate tightly with SharePoint, improving its functionality and value. Users familiar with SharePoint can migrate processes from InfoPath to Nintex and integrate them into SharePoint. However, Nintex Workflow is a third-party product and needs additional licensing.
SharePoint workflows are a powerful tool that can help organizations automate business processes, improve collaboration, and increase efficiency. Whether you’re using built-in workflows or creating custom workflows, SharePoint workflows can help streamline processes and save time.
To maximize the benefits of SharePoint automation and increase business value, it’s crucial to develop robust automation and workflow management capabilities across all business processes. Book a free consultation with our SharePoint consultants if you want to learn more on SharePoint Business Processes and Workflow Automation.