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What are workflows?

Updated: February 26, 2009

Applies To: Office SharePoint Server 2007

 

Topic Last Modified: 2009-02-19

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Much of the work in any enterprise is done by using business processes that depend on the flow of information or documents. These business processes require the active participation of information workers to complete tasks that contribute to their workgroup's decisions or deliverables. In Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, these types of business processes are implemented and managed by using workflows.

Examples of business processes that could be facilitated by workflows include:

  • Contract approval   Guiding a proposed contract among members of an organization who must approve or reject it.

  • Expense reporting   Managing the submission of an expense report and associated receipts, reviewing the report, approving it, and reimbursing the submitter.

  • Technical support   Guiding the progress of a technical support incident as it is opened by a customer, investigated by a support engineer, routed to technical experts, resolved, and added to a knowledge base.

  • Interviewing   Managing the process of interviewing a job candidate. This includes scheduling and tracking interview appointments, collecting interview feedback as it accumulates, making that feedback available to subsequent interviewers, and facilitating the hire/no-hire decision.

  • Content publishing   Managing the approval of the publication of content on an enterprise's Internet presence site.

One of the problems faced by many IT departments when implementing business processes requiring information workers' participation is that those processes do not integrate with the way people actually work. For a business process to be effective, it must be integrated with the familiar, everyday tools and applications used in the workplace so that it becomes part of the daily routine of information workers. In the electronic workplace, this includes integration with e-mail, calendars, task lists, collaboration Web sites, and client applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Word 2007. This is the approach implemented in workflows based on Office SharePoint Server 2007.

Office SharePoint Server 2007 includes the following standard workflows that address primary business needs:

  • Collect Feedback   Sends a document for review. The author chooses the reviewers, sends instructions, and checks on the workflow's progress. Reviewers receive e-mail notification and are assigned a task with a link to the document to review. Participants can optionally delegate their tasks or decline altogether.

  • Approval   Sends a document for approval. Approval is often a prerequisite to another document management task, such as publishing a document to a Web site or submitting a business proposal to a client. As with the Collect Feedback workflow, authors choose approvers, send instructions, and track workflow status. By default, Approval is a serial workflow — the order in which approvers view the document is specified by the author. (By contrast, Collect Feedback is a parallel workflow — reviewers can provide feedback in any order.)

  • Disposition Approval   Allows participants to approve the disposition of expired documents.

  • Collect Signatures   Routes a document to a set of participants who must sign that document.

  • Translation   Manages the translation of a document into one or more languages. This workflow creates placeholder documents and tracks translation tasks for each language version of the source document. If the source document changes, the workflow assigns tasks to update the translated versions.

  • Issue Tracking   Routes an issue to team members for resolution.

  • East Asian Document Approval   Routes a document for approval by using digital signature stamps and a group-oriented consensus process. This workflow is available only in East Asian product versions and language packs.

In Office SharePoint Server 2007, site designers can associate workflows with libraries, lists, or content types to make them available to run on documents or list items. A workflow's progress is recorded in a workflow history list, and workflow tasks are assigned to participants by using a tasks list.

So that they become part of the daily routine of information workers, workflows are tightly integrated into Office SharePoint Server 2007 and 2007 Microsoft Office system, enabling information workers to easily participate in them. The following tasks can be performed from the Web-based Office SharePoint Server 2007 interface or from 2007 Office system client programs:

  • Viewing the workflows available to run on a document or list item.

  • Initiating a workflow.

  • Viewing and starting a workflow task.

  • Completing a workflow task and filling out the task completion form.

Workflows in Office SharePoint Server 2007 are built on the Windows Workflow Foundation component of Microsoft Windows, and software developers can create custom workflows by using the Windows Workflow Foundation Designer in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. After a workflow built on the Windows Workflow Foundation component of Microsoft Windows is installed and enabled by an administrator, users can associate it with one or more libraries, lists, or content types.

Users can also create custom workflows by using Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Each workflow created by using Office SharePoint Designer 2007 can be associated with a single library or list. Using Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, you can create custom workflow actions that can be made available in Office SharePoint Designer 2007. Office SharePoint Designer 2007 includes a visual workflow design environment and a set of workflow actions that users can add to workflows without having to write source code, including:

  • Setting list metadata

  • Creating, copying, deleting, or changing list items (including documents)

  • Checking items in or out

  • Pausing, starting, or stopping the workflow

  • Sending e-mail messages

  • Setting the moderation status of an item

  • Setting an item's metadata

  • Assigning tasks

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Downloadable content for Office SharePoint Server 2007 .

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