Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions

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Workflow projects present special challenges. They involve many parts of solution architecture (user interfaces, process designs, data) and even more parts of organizations (users, managers, auditors, …

Workflow projects present special challenges. They involve many parts of solution architecture (user interfaces, process designs, data) and even more parts of organizations (users, managers, auditors, IT). This session covers five commonly-observed problems the speaker sees with great frequency, and offers advice as to how to address them; the focus is more about designing overall solutions and managing success than it is about coding and tool usage.

Mike Fitzmaurice

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  • 1. Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions MIKE FITZMAURICE, NINTEX SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATICS 2013 ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 27-28 2013
  • 2. sponsors
  • 3. About me • Mike Fitzmaurice • Vice President of Product Technology, Nintex • 11 years at Microsoft • SharePoint’s original technical evangelist
  • 4. Introduction • There are more than five • These are extra top-of-mind • Based on real-world projects • Advice applies to any workflow product • No demos
  • 5. Don’t Always Use SharePoint Workflow
  • 6. Good Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Managing how people work • Document approval & feedback • Collaborative reviews & discussions • Gathering signatures
  • 7. Good Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Automating some of SharePoint’s behavior • Approve site creation requests • Parse incoming email in a list and act on it • Publishing items to target • Moving project proposals through lifecycles
  • 8. Possible Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Manipulating other applications, data sources • Employee onboarding • Resource scheduling • SharePoint lists become work queues
  • 9. Bad Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Transaction-oriented processes • Blocking or modifying activity • Application-to-application service activity • Aggressive data transformations • Work that doesn’t involve SharePoint at all
  • 10. Plan to Fail
  • 11. Consensus May Not Exist • Get 3 employees and 1 manager together • Talk about a process • Little agreement • Documentation disagreement, too
  • 12. The Process Will Change
  • 13. Exceptions are Initially Ignored • Rarely is this considered in advance • Rarely does everyone agree • Ignored exceptions lead to bypass
  • 14. Initial Failure as a Winning Strategy • People do not want to hear these hard truths. • You may have to create an initial workflow just to show how awful a process is. • Only then can you change it.
  • 15. Start Simple Step Automate this first Automate these later Process Step Step
  • 16. Focus on Everyday Process
  • 17. “Policy is the abdication of thought.” -Nathan Myrvold
  • 18. Everyday Processes • Steal time • Get in the way • Annoy users
  • 19. Everyday Processes • Have few stakeholders (even if many participants) • Are easier to automate • Free up time to focus on more critical stuff
  • 20. “Process is the preservation and reuse of thought.” -Mike Fitzmaurice
  • 21. Everyday Processes • Automating them trains users how to think
  • 22. Put Forms in Their Proper Place
  • 23. The Form is the User Interface • Not the workflow • Not the data
  • 24. If (x and y) then do this do that End if If (user is Bob) then do this and that and the other thing undo that End if If (x and y) then do this do that End if If (x and y) then do this do that End if If (user is Bob) then do this and that and the other thing undo that End if If (x and y) then do this do that End if
  • 25. Form-Only App Problems • Hidden logic • Disconnected logic • Security • Complexity without code
  • 26. Think About the Whole App User Interface Process Logic Data Access
  • 27. Make the Workflow Do the Work • Documented • Auditable • Easier to change • Easier to manage
  • 28. One Form Per Step • Submit • Start • Task
  • 29. Task Forms • Workflow can route new data • New data can be written to original form • All info can be sent to other places
  • 30. It’s Not All About Spreadsheets, Either • Same problem, different file type • Example: HUGE Excel file with macros • Workflow: route, track, remind
  • 31. Self-Reporting Workflows
  • 32. Least-Loved Techniques • Browsing individual history entries • Building custom reports
  • 33. You’re Already Using SharePoint • The list itself can be the report • Users can sort, group, filter on metadata • Write progress information to item properties • Stage Workflows already do this
  • 34. Summary • Don’t always use SharePoint Workflow • Plan to fail • Focus on everyday processes • It’s not about forms • Self-reporting workflows
  • 35. questions? MIKEFITZMAURICE.WORDPRESS.CO M @MIKEFITZ
  • 36. thank you. SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATICS 2013 ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 27-28 2013
  • 37. Make Metadata do the Work
  • 38. Avoid Hard-Coding • Task assignees • Site URLs • Document names
  • 39. Reference What You Need • List queries • Database queries • Web service calls • Workflow context