Work Flows…my exercise in minimalism

Ever since SharePoint Designer came on to my radar I knew it had to be the next step in my MOSS development. Come on, work flows, branding, who wouldn’t want that challenge?

“Automate me” I’d hear on function reviews reports. Procedures would jump off the screen and grab me by the shirt demanding that they get it.

All was not so. To anyone who has or is encountering work flows and programming logic for the first time is in for a bit of a surprise. So in order to prep those who about to enter I’ll give three points.

First of all you really need to draw and flow everything out. Not doing so will only confuse you and worse yet, anyone capable that you ask for help. The idea of seeing it all out on paper or screen is a part of the full exercise. If you have not seen a diagram of a semi-complicated work flow, be ready to scroll, and not just up and down, left and right to cover all the branching. Find one that has been done for a work flow you are familiar with and try and talk your way through it. You may look like a nut, but you’ll get.

Secondly, make sure you know when and where to stop. Building stops is essentially to end work flows or make sure they don’t run and run and run. Try setting up a double or tripe maker/checker work flow that includes auto updating within the list or library and auto notifications. Leave a stop out and watch your mail boxes fill up.

And third, most important don’t over fill your flow if it does not benefit the business case and function. Email notifications are a great and easy work flow. If the list/library item is created then send an email letting the doer know they have to complete a task. If they get many through out the day, those emails will get old and tiresome. So why not have the doer monitor the list with a KPI that indicates when a certain number of items are in the queue and a notification email only when the item is marked completed.

My mantra has been keep it easy; to a minimum, both logically and in execution. It will help you keep your sanity and keep your end user on task.


About mhinckley

Michael Hinckley MCSA, MCITP, MCTS, has over 10+ years specializing in solution architecture for organizations that span from small businesses and global corporations. He is currently the Sr. Program Manager at Tangram. Michael is a recognized speaker and evangelist for Microsoft SharePoint and Business Intelligence stacks. He organizes tech community events (SharePoint Saturdays) throughout Florida and runs the Tampa SharePoint/Office User Group. He is a contributing author for the book Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook.
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