At its core, the function of a SharePoint workflow automation design is to make life around the office for employees easier and more efficient by automating once-manual processes. For example, your organization may have a manual approval process that involves physically moving a document from department to department, and stakeholder to stakeholder for their feedback and revisions, which then needs to be compiled into a single, final version. (Whew.)
By using workflows in SharePoint, you can digitize tedious and inefficient processes like the one above. But before you rush off to reap the benefits of SharePoint workflows by automating all of your organization’s processes, there are three best practices you need to commit to your memory first.
1. Start by Defining the Business Process
One of the biggest mistakes new SharePoint users make is trying to design their business processes to fit the technology, rather than using the technology to facilitate their business processes. You can easily sidestep this common rookie pitfall with some careful planning, before kickstarting any of your automation.
First, you’ll want to carefully document the business processsthat already take place within your organization. This documentation should include the start and end points of the process, as well as an outline of all activities that need to take place to get you from A to B. Be thorough, but don’t make it too long; you only need to include the key processes that would benefit from automation.
Once you have clearly defined your business process, you can start to automate. Use the documentation as a guide on how you move forward using the technology.
2. Don’t “Set It and Forget It”
SharePoint workflows aren’t like those “As Seen On TV!” rotisserie ovens, so a “set it and forget it” strategy isn’t going to cut it. Why? Business processes change over the years. And forcing people to adhere to an automated workflow that is several years out of date will lead to problems. The takeaway here is to review your SharePoint workflows at regular intervals to ensure they are still relevant.
3. Be Smart with Your Automation
The “keep it simple” strategy that works for most things in life also applies to workflows in SharePoint. Don’t overcomplicate things by trying to automate every tiny task in a business process. If you try, you will more than likely end up with a system that is cumbersome and unwieldy. Plus, no matter how much technology can help, there are still times when you need to allow a human touch, such as allowing an employee to input certain data manually.
These best practices are a great starting point for those who want to implement workflows in SharePoint. But remember, this kind of implementation is not a solo endeavor. You need to sit down with the people involved in the process you want to automate and document the process in detail from start to finish. More importantly, everyone needs to be on same page regarding the tasks that need to be included in the workflow, as well as the tasks that would be best left out.
By carefully planning your workflows in SharePoint in this way, you can create well-designed workflows that make smart use of the SharePoint technology. Just don’t forget to review them from time to time to ensure they’re still creating the value they should be for your organization.