Design a graphical approval workflow

 

Updated: November 1, 2016

Applies To: Dynamics Marketing

System_CAPS_importantImportant

Microsoft Dynamics Marketing is scheduled to be retired on May 15, 2018. After that date the service will no longer be available. Please plan accordingly. For details, see the customer FAQ. You can also read the blog post Microsoft Dynamics Marketing service will be discontinued, and learn what’s coming next.

Use the approval canvas to design advanced workflow logic for your approval process. You can mix sequential and concurrent review stages, trigger emails and tasks and define alternate paths that react to dynamic task and approval status. The canvas provides an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for designing your workflow, and the various stages of the workflow also update during the run to indicate the status of each stage.

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All contacts that you wish to set up as approvers or reviewers must be licensed users of Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and must also be configured with a primary email address. Contacts that do not fill these requirements will not be available for selection as reviewers.

Microsoft Dynamics Marketing provides two methods of defining an approval workflow:

  • Simple approval workflow: The simple workflow allows for just one type of approval structure, which can be either concurrent or sequential. (This was the only type of workflow supported in earlier versions of Dynamics Marketing.) If you do not require a complex workflow with logic, conditions and/or a mixture of structures, then this type of workflow may be easier for you to set up. To use the simple workflow, set up the approvers using the Users area of the Summary top-level tab and then choose Send at the bottom of the page to begin the workflow. In this case, your canvas workflow (if any) will be ignored (see also Manage review and approval routing).

  • Canvas approval workflow: The approval canvas provides a graphical, drag-and-drop interface for defining a complex approval workflow with logic, conditions and/or a mixture of structures. Use the Workflow top-level tab of your approval setup to use the canvas. To use a complex workflow, arrange approvers and other elements using the canvas and then choose Activate above the canvas to begin the workflow. In this case, your simple workflow settings (if any) will be ignored. The remaining sections of this topic describe how to use the canvas.

System_CAPS_cautionCaution

If you deactivate a canvas-based workflow after you have activated it, the approval canvas will become disabled and its tab will no longer be available for that approval setup. After doing this, you must either use the simple workflow or create a new approval setup and recreate your canvas.

  1. Open or create an approval workflow by doing one of the following:

    • While working with the item you wish to send for approval (e.g., a file, campaign, job, offer, etc.) go to the Approval tab on the maintenance page of your selected item. Here you can see any approvals already associated with the item (if any). Select an approval or click on New to create a new one.

    • Go to Projects > Approvals > Approvals. Here you can see all approvals currently defined in your system. You can open an existing workflow here or choose New to create a new one. Note, however, that when you create an approval workflow here you can only attach files and/or web pages to the approval, not other entities such as campaigns, jobs, offers, etc. (use the relevant maintenance page for these).

    Each of the above options presents a standard approvals list-view, which works like most other list views in Microsoft Dynamics Marketing (see Learn how to work and get around in Microsoft Dynamics Marketing for details). When you create or open an approval setup, you will go to the maintain-approval page for that setup.

  2. On the maintain-approval page, choose the Automation top-level tab to go to the canvas.

  3. You now see the approval canvas. The canvas is the large area on the left, which provides a graphical depiction of your approval workflow. The column on the right provides a library of tiles that you can drag onto the canvas; it also provides tabs for setting the Properties of a selected tile and for inspecting the Status of the workflow.

  4. Drag a tile to the canvas. Usually you will start by adding a Reviewer or Group Review tile.

  5. Double-click your new tile to switch from the Library pane to the Properties pane for your selected tile; use the settings here to configure your new tile.

  6. Continue designing your workflow by adding more tiles to the canvas and configuring them as needed. See the sections below for more information about the various types of tiles. Your work is saved automatically as you work with the canvas.

  7. To test your setup, choose the Validate button. Microsoft Dynamics Marketing will check your tile arrangement and settings; any tiles that are not configured correctly, or are misplaced, will show an error icon. If no icons appear, then your design is valid.

  8. To run the workflow, choose the Activate button.

Here are a few more tips for working with the canvas:

  • Right click to delete, copy, or paste a tile.

  • Choose the multi-selection mode button at the top-right corner of the canvas to enable or disable drag selection of several tiles at once (e.g., to delete several tiles).

  • Choose the zoom button at the top-right corner of the canvas to zoom in and out. When you are zoomed out, the tile info displays are hidden.

  • When you use a Group Review tile, you must stack it with several different Reviewer tiles to establish the group. The tile graphic looks like a stack to indicate this. Choose the stack to view all members of that stack (e.g., to edit or delete a member).

When Microsoft Dynamics Marketing runs an approval workflow, it starts any timers that are part of the flow and then takes the approval item(s) through each step in the flow, stopping at each stage until all approvers at that stage have replied or until a timed trigger forces the flow to advance. For example:

Approval canvas example in Dynamics Marketing

  • Tile 1: Reviewer (Reviewer A): Sends an email to Reviewer A and waits for a response.

  • Tile 2 and 3: Trigger with linked timer: The trigger is waiting for a response from Reviewer A and the timer is set to wait for two days after the approval workflow starts. If Reviewer A either rejects the item or does not reply within two days, then the bottom path is followed. If Reviewer A approves the item, then the top path is followed.

  • Tile 4: Task (top path): This tile is on the top path after the trigger, which means it will only be executed if Reviewer A approves the file. This tile creates a new task that assigns a user the task of following up on the approval (that is, to prepare the approved file for production).

  • Tile 5: Reviewer (Reviewer B, bottom path): This tile is on the bottom path after the trigger, which means it will only be executed if Reviewer A rejects or fails to respond. If executed, it sends an email to Reviewer B and awaits a response.

Each of the approval-request emails generated by the workflow includes a link that the recipient can use to log in and view an approval form for the item. From there, the reviewer can preview the item, add comments and, depending on the item type, add markup. Finally, the reviewer can judge the item approved, approved with comments or rejected.

See the table below for a description of each type of approver tile. As mentioned, only licensed users with a valid email address can be assigned as approvers or reviewers.

Approval tile

Description

Reviewer

Drag this tile to the canvas to place a review stage in the workflow. Usually the workflow will pause here until the user associated with the tile responds by approving or rejecting the item (unless a timer later in the flow takes over). Drag a Reviewer tile from the Library to the canvas to place the tile, then double-click the tile to assign a user as the reviewer for that stage. Once a reviewer is assigned, the tile will show the reviewer’s name and the current status for the tile (e.g., “not started”, “approved”, “rejected”, etc.).

Group Review

Drag this tile to the canvas to place a group review stage in the workflow. Usually the workflow will pause here until all users associated with the tile respond by approving or rejecting the item (unless a timer later in the flow takes over). To use this type of tile:

  1. Drag a Group Review tile from the Library pane to the canvas

  2. Double-click on the new tile to switch from the Library pane to the Properties pane; use the field here to assign a name to the group you are setting up.

  3. Drag a Reviewer tile on top of the Group Review tile for each reviewer you wish to add

  4. Single-click the Group Review tile to fold out the list of Reviewer tiles belonging to the group.

  5. Double-click on one of the member Reviewer tiles to assign a contact to the review and repeat for each reviewer.

See the table below for a description about each type of action tile.

Action-type tile

Description

Email

Drag this tile to the canvas to send an email when the workflow reaches this stage. The mail is a simple, internal email (not a marketing email) and is stored as a template in the under Projects > Email > Templates. Double-click the tile to set up the email using the Properties tab to the right of the canvas. Select an existing template or choose New to create a new one in a fly-out window. Choose the Edit button to edit your selected template if needed. Email addressing works as follows:

  1. To address: If your selected template does not include a To address, then the email will be addressed to the current approver, as defined in the workflow; if it does have a To address, then that address will be used instead.

  2. CC address: If your selected template does not include a CC address, then the email will CC’ed to the user who is requesting approval; if it does have a CC address, then that address will be used instead.

Task

Drag this tile to the canvas to create and assign a new task when the workflow reaches this stage. Double-click the tile to set up and assign the task.

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It would probably be helpful if the assigned user has an alert set to notify them when a new task is created for them (if you are admin, then you can set this up, otherwise ask the user to do it for themselves). See Work with alerts for more information about alerts.

Scheduler

Drag this tile to the canvas to introduce a delay in the workflow. You might use this, for example, by placing it right after a Task tile to tell the workflow to wait a day or two after assigning a task (this would give the user assigned the task some time to react), and then place a trigger after the Scheduler to react based on the updated status of the task. You can set the scheduler to wait until a specific date and time, to wait a specific number days (since the start of the workflow) or to run repeatedly.

There is just one type of Response tile: the Trigger.

Drag a Trigger tile to the canvas to introduce conditional logic to your workflow. When you apply the trigger, you will create a branching structure in which the top path will be followed when the trigger resolves to “true” (e.g., if a previous reviewer approved an item) and the bottom path will be followed if the trigger resolves to “false” (e.g., the item was rejected) or if time runs out. The bottom path will automatically include a Scheduler tile, which is permanently linked to the trigger. Use the scheduler to establish a time limit (since the start of the workflow), after which the workflow will stop waiting for earlier stages and will instead continue down the “false” path. The trigger reacts to the status of the tile placed immediately before it in the workflow.

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Note that the trigger works differently on the approval canvas than it does on the campaign canvas. On the campaign canvas, an attached scheduler begins counting only after a contact arrives at the trigger; however, on the approval canvas the all trigger-attached schedulers start counting as soon as you activate the workflow and will take over when times runs out, sending the approval down the lower path, thus enabling you to design a workflow that includes a path to take when approval is late.

Double-click the trigger to establish its logic. The options shown will depend on which type of tile is placed immediately before the trigger. You can configure with Simple logic (based on a single condition) or Advanced logic to combine several conditions with Boolean operators. Double-click the scheduler linked to the trigger to establish a time limit for the stage, after which the workflow will continue down the negative path.

Here are some examples of trigger placements and their effects:

  • Place the trigger after a Reviewer or Group Review tile to react to the approved/not-approved/no-response status of the previous stage.

  • Place the trigger after a Task tile to react to the status of the task. You can place a stand-alone scheduler between the task and the trigger to allow some time for the user assigned to the task to respond and possibly change its status.

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