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Business today seems like it has changed beyond all recognition, even in the last ten years. But all the same principles still apply – and as always, the way work gets done depends on processes and tasks. Closing a sale and invoicing a customer; getting a document signed off; confirming some holiday time, are all processes. The difference today is that we have the means to enhance these processes in a way that makes the mundane tasks automatic and the more complicated processes easier through better collaboration with our colleagues. All of this and more can be achieved with the help of automated workflows.


Let the work flow

A workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information.

Office 365 and SharePoint Online provide out of the box workflow infrastructure that enables you to set up, execute and monitor business process workflows. To truly benefit from the abilities of your employees and your business technology, you need to make sure your business processes are working optimally. Office 365 SharePoint Workflows are a good starting point.


Turning potential into profit

Even with the most innovative technology at hand, our business processes can still slow us down, information silos can develop, creating employee frustration and slowing (or completely stalling) the growth of your business. So, the more you can get your teams to collaborate, not just in their own departments but across the entire business, the better your ideas will be, and the better the quality and efficiency of the work—which is all good news for your business.

The thing is, SharePoint is not just a place to store documents. It also enables workflow automation of your business processes so that you can bring your company’s tools, talent and information together.


Workflow! What is it good for?

Utilising automated SharePoint workflows is a great way to:

  • Identify and remove unnecessary business processes
  • Dismantle information silos
  • Ensure the right people get the right information at the right time
  • Remove the chance of human error
  • Eradicate paperwork
  • Automate tedious or rote tasks
  • Freeing your employees for more valuable use of their time


How to create a workflow in Office 365/SharePoint Online

In Office 365 there are five out-of-the-box workflow types. These were originally developed for SharePoint 2010. Each one works like a template for automating a business process. You can choose who to assign it to and a deadline for the task and designate a trigger to start it. You can also set task instructions and notifications for each workflow task you create.


Your Office 365 default workflow options:

  1. Approval workflow: send a document for approval or rejection
  2. Collection workflow: receive feedback on a document or item
  3. Signatures workflow: receive digital signatures on a document, workbook, or form
  4. Disposition approval workflow: maintain document expiration and retention dates or periods
  5. Three-state workflow: track a project or task by using three separate phases

Let’s look at an example of how a workflow might be used to automate a press release at a healthcare organisation after a leak of personal information from a cyber-attack, and the process it needs to follow as it moves between departments and teams.

There is a cyberattack at your organisation. As soon as you discover the breach, there are several departments that need to be engaged with. The right workflow can automatically engage these different branches, enhancing communication and collaboration to produce the required level of damage control quickly and effectively. For instance, the IT security team discovers the breach and this triggers the Significant Incident workflow. Aspects of the workflow then directs itself automatically to other parts of the organization:

  • Public Relations are required to draft a press release acknowledging the breach
  • IT and security need to work together to understand what happened
  • IT and security must relay the technical information
  • The document needs to be updated, edited, proof-read and sent to senior management
  • Executives need to approve the content and include a quote
  • PR need to release the statement

The company needs to issue a press release. When a significant incident happens, a Significant Incident document is automatically created. This document is sent to the PR department and assigned to a member of the team. They decide on the type of the document—in this case a press release which is stored as a pre-written template in advance, that can be quickly customised. Once the document is chosen a notification is sent to IT Security.

IT Security. The PR team summarises the company message, but they don’t know all the technical details. So, the document is sent to the Security department to fill in the specifics: the time of the incident, the projected extent of the leak, who might be affected etc., as well as ways in which the incident can be avoided in the future, plus a quote from the head of IT Security.

Review. The document is then sent back to PR for a review and sent to upper management to be signed off and released. In this example, time is of the essence. The right tone for the press release is essential, as is presenting accurate details of the incident. Bringing together multiple areas of the business in a short space of time for collaboration and the back and forth of the review-approval-rework cycles would be difficult and time consuming if not for the power of SharePoint workflows.

Office 365 and SharePoint Online workflows are certainly usable, if a little clunky. However, if you wish to build something more sophisticated you will need some help. At ISAAC, we are experts in SharePoint application development and the integration of Office 365, and can help you put together the right technology system to optimise your business processes.


For more information on utilising SharePoint for your document access, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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