Join Gini von Courter for an in-depth discussion in this video Identifying areas for workflow improvement, part of SharePoint Designer 2010: Building Custom Workflows.
Whenever you have an opportunity to automate a workflow in the business, it's a type of workflow improvement, and what will happen is you'll have lots of other folks who want to add their own improvements to the process. Or you'll have people say go ahead and do it, and we'll get back to you later. In either case, you really want to have some control over how there's a discussion of the process so that you're implementing a workflow that makes sense for the business. Any time that you begin looking at the opportunity to improve a form, to improve a workflow, to paint a room a different color, other folks will want to jump on board.
So how do we manage this entire process in such a way that it makes sense? First, you need to have some kind of an idea of what the process is to begin with. Sometimes you'll have a conversation and it's, you know, what are we trying to automate here? And just getting your arms around that and struggling it to a definition where you can say in one short phrase what the process is that you care about. In our case we're looking at employee onboarding. This isn't employee hiring, this isn't trying to do anything with any other parts of the process other than onboarding.
So when we're clear, employee onboarding, that's it, then we can begin to start to know how we're going to get feedback from folks in the business. The second thing then, is to break this process into documentable steps. And because we know it's employee onboarding, it actually has a start and an end. There will be a tendency for folks who want to add things before the start and add other things after the end, and to the extent to which you accommodate that it's going to be really hard for you to get your workflow done. So be clear about the single process, the start and the end, and that you're only going to describe the steps in between for this particular workflow improvement.
Once you've documented this, publish it broadly. Put it on your intranet, make a copy of it and blow it up and put it on the side of your cubicle, distribute these at meetings, hold a getting to know the new onboarding workflow process meeting. However you can, make sure that folks have an understanding that you're looking at making some changes to this workflow. And then you need to seek feedback from anybody who is in the process. Our employee onboarding process, we'll probably begin discussing it with the folks who are at the director level in this organization.
But they won't necessarily know exactly what the steps are that are being done by the people and facilities who are in information technology or how those steps are done. So you want to make sure that you're talking to the right folks and that you're getting feedback from everybody who is working any place in this process. As you're doing that then, you're going to hear possibilities of improvement. For example, the folks and facilities might point out that if they were after information technology, it would make it a lot easier because they have to call IT several times during this process and ask them questions.
If they could instead simply be sequenced a little later, that would be great. So those are the kinds of things that you're looking for. You're looking for places where people are doing manual processes, picking up the phone and calling for information, or a document that moves back and forth several times between the same two people or the same two groups. When you have those opportunities, go ahead and start building them into the workflow. Just here are our places for improvement, let's have a conversation to make sure that it makes sense. You'll want to watch in this process for folks who have lots of improvements but they're all for other people.
Because you know in every organization you have folks who know that if only the folks in payroll worked as hard as they did, that we wouldn't have a problem. As you're working on workflow improvement and trying to make your workflows more efficient, a basic rule is you want to make your workflow more efficient, not try to fix the people who are in it. So what are the steps that folks believe would be helpful for them and then get the people on both sides of that conversation. So if you are in a conversation about how work passes back and forth between HR and payroll, it's great to have the right people from those two departments sitting in the conversation to say, "Yeah, that would make sense." They're the people who need to sign off on it, even if the idea came from somebody in facilities.
Now we've got our improvements, we have some agreement on them, we've documented those agreements with new workflows published broadly, and finally now that we're changing the workflows, we'll run them for whatever our agreed upon period of time was. Let's try this for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, depending on how mission-critical this workflow is, but also depending on how often it's used. A workflow that's only used once a month probably can't be evaluated well for 6 or 7 months because you'll need to run it a few times. Once you're done evaluating, though, you're done with this workflow, document it.
Know that you'll probably come back to it at some point because it's just the fact that you've made this investment in the workflow means that other people will continue to look for improvements themselves, and you'll be changing your workflow in order to adjust to the needs of the business. This is a really short course in workflow improvement. You can find lots of information about this online, it's an entire discipline. But as soon as you begin working with SharePoint Workflows, you become one of its disciples.
- Understanding workflows
- Documenting workflows with Excel, Visio, and the Office Drawing Tools
- Running the built-in workflows in SharePoint
- Understanding actions and conditions
- Working with if-then and if-then-else conditions
- Managing workflow messages with Outlook rules
- Pausing and stopping workflows with core actions
- Maintaining workflows with email aliases, workflow logs, and error traps
- Creating custom content types
- Creating a site workflow
- Exporting and publishing workflows