Workflows in SharePoint 2013 enable enterprises to reduce the amount of unnecessary interactions between people as they perform business processes. For example, to reach a decision, groups typically follow a series of steps. The steps can be a formal, standard operating procedure, or an informal implicitly understood way to operate. Collectively, the steps represent a business process. The number of human interactions that occur in business processes can inhibit speed and the quality of decisions. Software that simplifies and manages this "human workflow" enables the automation of interactions among groups who participate in the process. This automation results in more speed, overall effectiveness of the interactions, and often a reduction in errors.
You can model business processes by using flow charts, such as those created using Microsoft Visio 2010 and can represent business processes by using workflow terminology. You can automate business processes, such as document approval, by associating a workflow with data in SharePoint Server 2010. For example, you can create a workflow to route a document for review, track an issue through its various stages of resolution, or guide a contract through an approval process.
Benefits of using Workflows
The primary benefits of using workflows are to facilitate business processes and improve collaboration.
Business processes that enterprises use depend on the flow of information or documents. These business processes require the active participation of information workers to complete tasks that contribute to their workgroup's decisions or deliverables. In SharePoint Server 2010, these types of business processes are implemented and managed by using workflows.
Examples of business processes that could be facilitated by workflows include:
Guiding a proposed contract among members of an organization who must approve or reject it.
Managing the submission of an expense report and associated receipts, reviewing the report, approving it, and reimbursing the submitter.
Guiding the progress of a technical support incident as it is opened by a customer, investigated by a support engineer, routed to technical experts, resolved, and added to a knowledge base.
Managing the process of interviewing a job candidate. This includes scheduling and tracking interview appointments, collecting interview feedback as it accumulates, making that feedback available to subsequent interviewers, and facilitating the hire/no-hire decision.
Managing the approval of the publication of content on the Internet presence site of an enterprise.
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 includes the following predefined workflow templates that address common business scenarios:
Routes a document or item to a group of people for feedback. Reviewers can provide feedback, which is then compiled and sent to the person who initiated the workflow. By default, the Collect Feedback workflow is associated with the Document content type, and therefore it is automatically available in document libraries.
Routes a document or item to a group of people for approval. By default, the Approval workflow is associated with the Document content type, and therefore it is automatically available in document libraries. A version of the Approval workflow is also associated by default with the Pages library on a publishing site, and can be used to manage the approval process for the publication of Web pages.
The Approval workflow is a staged approval model (that is, the first set of approvers can undergo the review and approval process, then the next set of approvers, and so on). Each stage or approval set can also have its own behavior. For example, members of the first group of approvers can do their review in serial approval order (one after the other), members of the second group can do their review in parallel (reviewers can provide feedback in any order), and so on.
Manages document expiration and retention by letting participants to decide whether to keep or delete expired documents. The Disposition Approval workflow supports record management processes and is intended for use primarily in a Records Center site.
Routes a document that was created in a Microsoft application to a group of people to collect their digital signatures. This workflow must be started in applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the Microsoft Office 2010 suites such as Microsoft Word. Participants must complete their signature tasks by adding their digital signatures to the documents in the relevant client program. By default, the Collect Signatures workflow is associated with the Document content type, and therefore is automatically available in document libraries. However, the Collect Signatures workflow appears for a document in the document library only if that document contains one or more Microsoft Office Signature Lines.
Designed to track the status of a list item through three states (phases). It can be used to manage business processes that require organizations to track a high volume of issues or items, such as customer support issues, sales leads, or project tasks.
The Three-state workflow is so named because it tracks the status of an issue or item through three different states, and through two transitions between the states. For example, when a workflow is initiated on an issue in an Issues list, SharePoint Server 2010 creates a task for the assigned user. When the user completes the task, the workflow changes from its initial state (Active) to its middle state (Resolved) and creates a task for the assigned user. When the user completes the task, the workflow changes from its middle state (Resolved) to its final state (Closed), and creates another task for the user to whom the workflow is assigned at that time. Note that this workflow is only supported on lists, not libraries.
Manages manual document translation by creating copies of the document to be translated and by assigning translation tasks to translators. This workflow is available only for Translation Management libraries.
Routes an issue to team members for resolution. It presents a Web page to the user who makes possible the entry of new issues; for example, customer complaints. As an issue progresses though different workflow states, the Web page of the user changes to reflect appropriate events; for example, a Web page that was closed when an issue is resolved.