Posted by:Ranjani Rao September 8th, 2011

What is a workflow and how does it help organizations? In the simplest of explanations, workflow is the flow of work. When applied to organizations, workflows become more complex based on the process they are representing. The steps involved in a process from beginning to end, the events therein, actions of participants, parallel and sequential events, conditions and checks are all parts of workflow. Its goal is to ensure a process has been followed, no step has been missed, and quality of the final deliverable is maintained.

With SharePoint, we build collaborative solutions that allow the exchange of information across teams and the organization. Here too, you find workflows. A workflow finalizes a business process with a proper audit trail that can be verified at any point in the flow. With a workflow to guide them, employees are more productive. Work volume fluctuations are more easily managed with work sharing. Possible escalations can be caught in time or easily tracked and worked on when they cannot be stopped. Interfaces to external databases can be built for greater automation, checks, data integration, and efficient execution. Some decisions can be taken over by the workflow where human intervention is not a necessity. Performance can be measured accurately and the overall efficiency of the organization can be improved.

How does SharePoint Support Workflows?

Within Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer, you can create workflows that add application logic to your SharePoint site or applications without learning code development. A business process can be broken into steps, events, actions (parallel and serial), conditions that trigger actions, and workflow forms to collect data from participants. With Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2010, you have more than 60 workflow options (going up from 37 in the earlier version), unfolding a range of possibilities to hone a process.

Workflow Essentials allows you to add 24 new workflow activities and 2 new conditions along with what is already available in Designer 2010. The new activities include adding a SharePoint group, adding a user to a group, converting string to date, creating a site, deleting item permission assignment, FTP uploading of item, function with query, getting site user property/department/display name/user manager/title, granting permission on item, looping through list items, text capture/replace/validate, starting another workflow, and more. New conditions include ‘Is Role Assigned to User?’ and ‘Is User a Member of SharePoint Group?’

Workflows are stored in a site-level document library called Workflows. You can also check the status of a workflow through the browser.

If you haven’t created workflows for your business yet, its time you give it a try. The benefits of workflows are many and the ROI is immediate and impactful. At a time when economy is everything, workflows couldn’t be more needed.

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