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Five Best Practices for
Approaching Workflow Solutions
MIKE FITZMAURICE, NINTEX

SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATI...
sponsors
About me
• Mike Fitzmaurice
• Vice President of Product Technology, Nintex
• 11 years at Microsoft
• SharePoint’s original...
Introduction
• There are more than five
• These are extra top-of-mind
• Based on real-world projects
• Advice applies to a...
Don’t Always Use
SharePoint Workflow
Good Uses of SharePoint Workflow
• Managing how people work
• Document approval & feedback
• Collaborative reviews & discu...
Good Uses of SharePoint Workflow
• Automating some of SharePoint’s behavior
• Approve site creation requests
• Parse incom...
Possible Uses of SharePoint Workflow
• Manipulating other applications, data sources
• Employee onboarding
• Resource sche...
Bad Uses of SharePoint Workflow
• Transaction-oriented processes
• Blocking or modifying activity
• Application-to-applica...
Plan to Fail
Consensus May Not Exist
• Get 3 employees and 1 manager together
• Talk about a process
• Little agreement
• Documentation...
The Process Will Change
Exceptions are Initially Ignored
• Rarely is this considered in advance
• Rarely does everyone agree
• Ignored exceptions ...
Initial Failure as a Winning Strategy
• People do not want to hear these hard truths.
• You may have to create an initial ...
Start Simple

Step
Automate
this
first

Automate
these
later

Process

Step
Step
Focus on Everyday Process
“Policy is the abdication of
thought.”
-Nathan Myrvold
Everyday Processes
• Steal time

• Get in the way
• Annoy users
Everyday Processes
• Have few stakeholders (even if many participants)

• Are easier to automate
• Free up time to focus o...
“Process is the preservation and reuse of
thought.”
-Mike Fitzmaurice
Everyday Processes
• Automating them trains users how to think
Put Forms in Their Proper Place
The Form is the User Interface
• Not the workflow
• Not the data
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...
Form-Only App Problems
• Hidden logic
• Disconnected logic
• Security
• Complexity without code
Think About the Whole App
User Interface

Process Logic

Data Access
Make the Workflow Do the Work
• Documented
• Auditable
• Easier to change
• Easier to manage
One Form Per Step
• Submit
• Start
• Task
Task Forms
• Workflow can route new data

• New data can be written to original form
• All info can be sent to other place...
It’s Not All About Spreadsheets, Either
• Same problem, different file type
• Example: HUGE Excel file with macros
• Workf...
Self-Reporting Workflows
Least-Loved Techniques
• Browsing individual history entries
• Building custom reports
You’re Already Using SharePoint
• The list itself can be the report
• Users can sort, group, filter on metadata
• Write pr...
Summary
• Don’t always use SharePoint Workflow
• Plan to fail

• Focus on everyday processes
• It’s not about forms

• Sel...
questions?
MIKEFITZMAURICE.WORDPRESS.CO
M
@MIKEFITZ
thank you.
SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATICS 2013
ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 27-28 2013
Make Metadata do the Work
Avoid Hard-Coding
• Task assignees
• Site URLs
• Document names
Reference What You Need
• List queries
• Database queries

• Web service calls
• Workflow context
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions
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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, 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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Transcript of "Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions"

  1. 1. Five Best Practices for Approaching Workflow Solutions MIKE FITZMAURICE, NINTEX SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATICS 2013 ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 27-28 2013
  2. 2. sponsors
  3. 3. About me • Mike Fitzmaurice • Vice President of Product Technology, Nintex • 11 years at Microsoft • SharePoint’s original technical evangelist
  4. 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. 5. Don’t Always Use SharePoint Workflow
  6. 6. Good Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Managing how people work • Document approval & feedback • Collaborative reviews & discussions • Gathering signatures
  7. 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. 8. Possible Uses of SharePoint Workflow • Manipulating other applications, data sources • Employee onboarding • Resource scheduling • SharePoint lists become work queues
  9. 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. 10. Plan to Fail
  11. 11. Consensus May Not Exist • Get 3 employees and 1 manager together • Talk about a process • Little agreement • Documentation disagreement, too
  12. 12. The Process Will Change
  13. 13. Exceptions are Initially Ignored • Rarely is this considered in advance • Rarely does everyone agree • Ignored exceptions lead to bypass
  14. 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. 15. Start Simple Step Automate this first Automate these later Process Step Step
  16. 16. Focus on Everyday Process
  17. 17. “Policy is the abdication of thought.” -Nathan Myrvold
  18. 18. Everyday Processes • Steal time • Get in the way • Annoy users
  19. 19. Everyday Processes • Have few stakeholders (even if many participants) • Are easier to automate • Free up time to focus on more critical stuff
  20. 20. “Process is the preservation and reuse of thought.” -Mike Fitzmaurice
  21. 21. Everyday Processes • Automating them trains users how to think
  22. 22. Put Forms in Their Proper Place
  23. 23. The Form is the User Interface • Not the workflow • Not the data
  24. 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. 25. Form-Only App Problems • Hidden logic • Disconnected logic • Security • Complexity without code
  26. 26. Think About the Whole App User Interface Process Logic Data Access
  27. 27. Make the Workflow Do the Work • Documented • Auditable • Easier to change • Easier to manage
  28. 28. One Form Per Step • Submit • Start • Task
  29. 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. 30. It’s Not All About Spreadsheets, Either • Same problem, different file type • Example: HUGE Excel file with macros • Workflow: route, track, remind
  31. 31. Self-Reporting Workflows
  32. 32. Least-Loved Techniques • Browsing individual history entries • Building custom reports
  33. 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. 34. Summary • Don’t always use SharePoint Workflow • Plan to fail • Focus on everyday processes • It’s not about forms • Self-reporting workflows
  35. 35. questions? MIKEFITZMAURICE.WORDPRESS.CO M @MIKEFITZ
  36. 36. thank you. SHAREPOINT AND PROJECT CONFERENCE ADRIATICS 2013 ZAGREB, NOVEMBER 27-28 2013
  37. 37. Make Metadata do the Work
  38. 38. Avoid Hard-Coding • Task assignees • Site URLs • Document names
  39. 39. Reference What You Need • List queries • Database queries • Web service calls • Workflow context
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