Real-World Solutions, Part 4

Business Processes in SharePoint

(Putting it all together):

Let’s Talk Business…. processes, that is.     Specifically, I want to wrap up this mini-series by talking about the 1-2-3 punch combo that is Workflow, BPM, and SharePoint.   In this post, we will see how all of these things finally come together.   So, we discussed Workflow and BPM and what they mean….

Here’s a quick review of those definitions:

  • Workflow is a sequence of steps that track the progress of work being done.  Usually, this “work” being done is the processing of a form or series of forms.   Workflow is typically an electronic way to do what was formerly done using paperwork.

  • Business Process Management (BPM) is the practice of documenting, building and managing a formal business process.  Typically, the process creates and passes work items through multiple stages.  Item attributes are racked as they progress through each stage.   Document and/or data can be archived for auditing and/or future use.  Metrics can be captured from this business process, thereby providing ways to analyze the process itself and identify ways to continually improve the process.

Additionally, we covered that SharePoint has native workflow functionality, which provides a great feature set for workflow and business process automation.

SharePoint’s Native Workflow features include:

  • Email Notifications
  • Document Routing
  • Multi-Stage Approvals
  • Parallel and Serial Approval/Rejection Functionality
  • Version Control
  • File Storage
  • Document and metadata tracking
  • Security
  • And more…

So, how does it all fit together?

How do you combine workflow, BPM, and SharePoint to create excellent business solutions?  Well, the answer is, “There are many ways.”   Therefore, I’ll just cover a couple of real-world examples for you.

Workflows are great.

Workflows have a place in organizations of any size.   Some great examples of simple, but effective workflows are as follows:

Example 1:  Office Supply Inventory.

Current Business Problem:
Today, you store your Office Supply Inventory in a spreadsheet.  Every day, you print out a copy of the spreadsheet and walk through your Office Supply Room, and do a quick count of each item to determine when it’s necessary to re-order supplies.

  • Time Spent Checking Inventory: 1 hour (60 Minutes)
  • Frequency: Daily
  • Total Time Spent Per Week: 5 hours (300 Minutes).

Proposed Solution:
Consider storing your Office Supply inventory in a SharePoint list.   You can quickly view your counts by scanning down a single column.  Further, each time an item is removed from the shelf, you decrement the item from the inventory list, keeping the item counts current.

Using a simple SharePoint workflow, you can trigger an email notification when a list item changes (such as when an item is removed from the inventory).  Once the workflow triggers, it checks the current item value to see if the item count is below 5 (for example).  If the item count is below 5, the workflow sends an email to the Office Supply Manager notifying them that it’s time to re-order Blue Felt-Tip Pens.  If the Item counts are not below 5, then the workflow ends and nothing happens.

  • Time Spent Checking Inventory: 0 minutes
  • Frequency: Daily
  • Total Time Spent Per Week: 0 hours.
  • Time Saved Per week: 5 hours (300 Minutes)

NOTE:  If your Office Supply Manager makes $10/hr you’ve just saved your company $2,500 per year by doing LESS work (never counting Inventory again!).

This was a REALLY simple example, but you can see that the value return was significant!

In the next posts, I’ll go over more robust workflows and processes in increasing complexity and will demonstrate the same type of value (only bigger) in each one.

Stay Tuned!!!

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