In my ever expanding blog series on entry level/power user SharePoint WorkFlows, this blog will address how to automate business processes that are too complex for the OOTB SharePoint Workflows. For this, we will require the help of SharePoint Designer. SharePoint Designer is a tool which helps to make low or minimal code SharePoint customizations without involving IT.
There are some prerequsites in order to make workflows in SharePoint Designer, such as you need Designer rights to a SharePoint site and you need to download the (free!) SharePoint Designer. In this blog, I demonstate a common and practical scenario in the everyday business cycle: creating a workflow to automate the process to requesting time off.
First things first: Open SharePoint Designer and add a site URL to open the site in Designer. Create a list, name the list as required, and add a description if needed.
We can see that the list is successfully created. As you continue to make and publish changes in SharePoint Designer, you will see it making changes in your SharePoint site in real-time. Simply refresh the screen to see it happening.
Once the list has been created we can now add columns to the list which will help a user to fill out the fields in order to trigger a workflow. Click on “Edit list Columns” which will lead you to add columns to the list.
Edit Column Settings
Click on “Add new column.”
Fill out all of the column settings required. In this example, I use Request For Days Off. As shown in the picture below, in the description I added “Reason for day off” Choice Column with the options of: “Sick, Personal, Off Site, Maternity,” with the default option set to “Sick.” After creating a column, click OK. You can create as many columns as you want by following the same steps.
As shown below, I have created the five columns which are nessesary for my workflow to properly track and update my requesting time off process from start to finish.
Creating the WorkFlow
Once we are done with the list, the next step is to create the actual workflow. Click on the “Workflows” tab on the left frame > click on “List Workflow.”
Fill out the name and description of the workflow and click OK once completed.
At any point in time while creating a workflow, it’s a best practice to “Save” or “Publish” the workflow. With “Publish,” you can see how your workflow works in the SharePoint site.
Once you create the workflow, you will be presented with a default Stage 1 as shown in the picture below.
In order to use Designer efficiently, you need to become acquainted with the insert toolbar, which includes “Conditions,” “Action,” “Stages,” “Steps,” “Loops,” and “Else Branch.”
Stages are the main parts in the process. You can have as many as steps as needed to complete each stage. In my example, once the item gets created, the workflow will be triggered and land on the first stage: “Requesting for a day off.” In the “Requesting for a day off” stage, I have three steps.
- Send an email
- Assign a task
- Use If and Else statements to assign the email address to a variable
Once the three steps are completed, it will move to another stage: ” Email.”
Now we have successfully created a workflow! If anyone creates an item in SharePoint, the workflow will be triggered and the person in the correct group will receive an email.
Below is what the email will look like to its recipient:
Congratulations, you have successfully created your first workflow using SharePoint Designer! Next up in the series, walking through the end user’s experience working with this workflow.