SharePoint templates include a three-state workflow. Gini Courter walks you through the basics so you can decide if it makes sense for your organization.
The Three state workflow, or three phase workflow has been with us for the past few versions of sharepoint, and it appears in every flavour of Microsoft SharePoint 2013, from SharePoint Foundation, to SharePoint Server Enterprise, to SharePoint Online. A three state workflow is frequently used because it's included by default. It has its own interface in SharePoint, so you don't need to install any other software to use it. And it's relatively easy to use.
Now, first, you have to identify your three states. For example, it might be that you have a library. And an item has been submitted. And then it's been reviewed, and finally it's been approved. Three states. One, two, three. Or perhaps we have an item that's a drat deliverable, that has then been peer reviewed and is now finalized. The three state workflow we're going to work with will have these states, that are used in the Issues list in SharePoint.
An issue is active. Then it’s been resolved. And the person who reported it has checked it and closed it. So, we're going to be creating a workflow and setting options using an issue’s list. If you need more than three states, this is not your work flow. And if you need less than three states, this is not your workflow. This is for exactly three states. But the three state workflow will give us a good idea of how to use all of the built in workflows that you may have, in whatever version of Microsoft Sharepoint you're using.
So, let's begin by opening the list that we want to put this workflow into. Here's the issues list. It has one item from a while ago. And the reason that we talk about it as having three states is that when an issue is added to the list, it starts out as active. It then has been resolved and finally closed. So those are the three states that are here on this workflow. I want to open the form so that you actually see how this works. When an item is added it's assigned to someone and it's marked as active, that's just the default.
And the user can give it a priority, there's a description. There's also a category list here by the way that has three things on it. So you could use these categories in a three stage workflow, but they're not really stages, they're more descriptors, and you could have five or 12 of them or whatever. So when this item has been added, then we have an entire form, we have a place for a description. And then, when someone's working on it to fix it there's a place for comments. And all of the comments that are entered get tracked and recorded here.
Now that we understand a little bit about how this list works, let's go ahead and add a work flow. So, I'm going not click the list tab on the ribbon. I'm going to go to work flow settings, and I want to choose edit work flow. Not create a work flow in SharePoint Designer, that's starting from scratch. We're going to go there next. But, to add another work flow using the work flows already built into SharePoint. We have two workflows available to us right now. You may have more. There are more than two workflows that are available depending on what's installed on your version of Sharepoint server.
If you're working with Sharepoint foundation, at any point, you may only have the three stage workflow, you won't even have disposition approval. But there's our three state workflow right here. And I need to give it a unique name. Now this is running out of SharePoint 2010 templates. That's fine, that workflow engine is available to us here in SharePoint. We actually have two SharePoints engines in 2013. We have the SharePoint 2013 engine and the SharePoint 2010 engine. So I'm going to enter a unique name for this workflow. And I'm going to call this issue tracking.
Then there are two possibilities of where I might want to put the tasks that are generated by this workflow and any history that gets kept by the workflow. There is already a built in tasks list and a built in work flow history list so I'm just going to keep those defaults for now. I'd need a compelling reason not to hang onto the defaults here. The next section, start options, have the settings to indicate how this work flow will start. By default, every single work flow we create has one choice and one choice only turned on, and that is allow this work flow to be manually started by a user who has appropriate permissions.
Actually, I'm going to say whenever there's a new item we want to start this workflow, because I want this to be automatic. I create an issue, and I want the workflow to begin. Now I can turn off manually started and just say, the only way this starts is when there's a new item created for a workflow, so that will work. If I choose this first option and really the about the only person who's going to be able to go in and start a work flow is a list manager, so it doesn't make it available and useful for every single user who could actually add something to the issues list.
And remember that if I use a lot of this workflow to be manually started, and I don't include creating a new item will start the workflow. That, what I've done is I've created something automated. But then required a human being to provide some intervention in order to start it. I'm, I'm not sure that I'm ahead. It's certainly not automatic anymore. If I have to have a list manager come start the workflow. So, create a new item will start it, I'm going to click Next, and here are our workflow states. The first thing that I have to do is I, I have to choose a field.
And remember that we had Issue status and I also showed you that category was sitting there and there's a priority field for high, medium and low. But issue status is actually what's baked in. And notice that these are the states I showed you. Active, resolved, and closed. So those are the three states that we're going to move through. They're not in alphabetical order. This issues list is actually pretty workflow aware. It was designed for this, so active is one, resolved is two, and closed is three. Because that's already selected issue status, these values are also already filled in for me.
If I had chosen, for example, the priority list, then I'd have to choose what the states were here. But as long as I just keep the default of issue status, we're in great shape. And now I need to specify what the steps are in my workflow. The first item is there's a custom message that says workflow initiated and then I can include a field out of my list title is actually the field that's the name of the issue so that's a great one to use. So, I can include title as my list field. I can include assign-to or something else, but this is mostly built out for me.
So, work flow initiated for this item, and it's going to grab the title here. So, in the example that we saw, the only item that's there, it's to add a logo, so it's a work flow initiated Add logo. And then what we see here under task details, includes also then the description, there's a custom message. And the custom message says the workflow has been initiated on the following list item. And it includes a description and it will include a link that the user can click on to get back to that item. It will also say that this has a due date. I could choose a different list field.
And it will include who this item has been assigned to. So, these are all of the default settings. Send an email message to the person that it was assigned to, use the task title for the subject, include a link in the body. Notice, we're just looking at this. I don't even have to do anything with it. All of these choices seem very formulaic, and if you're just starting with workflows you might think, oh there's a lot here to choose from, this is really confusing. But if we're doing an issues list for example, all the choices that we want are the correct choices and they're already entered here.
So we're really, really using this to be able to learn how this workflow works. So after the first state, we change to the middle state. Now how that middle state is going to happen, how were going to get from active to completed, is the person this task was assigned to is going to say, I believe I've completed this. So our second section, and picture a large horizontal line, that it would be nice if it was on the screen, so this, okay, so what happens when the workflow changes to its middle state. So an issue, in the issues list, changes the resolved state.
It creates a new task for the assigned user. And the task is, go back and review this item to make sure that it is okay. So somebody put an issue in. We need a logo on the site. I say I've done this so now the email goes to the person who submitted this saying hey the person this was assigned to says thast they have done it and it will say a review task has been created go see if the work has been done properly. There's a due date includes who it was created by and here's all of the information about our message. That looks great.
Now you might wonder, well why aren't there emails or other things for state three? Well, when we get to the third state, or the n state in our work flow, all that happens is the person who reviews it says, yep it's fine and it's closed. It's all done. So there are no details for that state other than simply saying that we are no longer in the review state. We've got it. There's our work flow. I'm going to click okay. So we've come back to our list, I would think, wow did I even do anything? Yes, we did because we've actually added one more column, this is the column that's going to track the progress of our workflow and it was automatically added to our list.
By SharePoint. We don't get a choice to say we don't want this. When we add a workflow the workflow itself gets a column to be able to reflect whats going on in the workflow back to the users, and folks like you and I. In the next movie then we'll see how it looks when we actually use our workflow by adding a new item to our issues list.
- Automating workflows
- Documenting workflows with Sticky Notes, Excel, and Visio
- Driving workflow interactions with forms
- Using workflow actions
- Making choices and controlling flow with conditions
- Creating a simple form
- Using email notifications
- Pausing and stopping workflows with core actions
- Building a dictionary
- Creating a site workflow
- Deploying workflows
- Creating workflows visually
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: In the video "Creating a workflow with conditions," the email workflow generates the email and successfully changes the value in AreaCalc but the workflow does not complete, and raises no errors. How can I fix this?
Q: Where do I get InfoPath Designer 2013 (mentioned in the "What you need to know" video)?
- If you have Office 2013 Pro, you may already have InfoPath Designer 2013, but it may not have been installed. Try reinstalling Office and choose to install InfoPath Designer.
- Sign up for a free 30-day trial of one of the Office 365 plans that include InfoPath Designer—for example, Office 365 Enterprise (E3) Edition, which also includes SharePoint, or Office 365 ProPlus, which does not include SharePoint. After the 30-day trial you will need to pay a monthly fee for Office 365.