17 October 2017

SharePoint Approvals with Built-In Workflow

SharePoint iconLast week I described how approvals can be handled in SharePoint libraries without using a workflow. To achieve that, I enabled features that are already there, and today I will continue down the same path. In a new article in the Tips section, I show how to activate and use the built-in Approvals workflow.

 When you just enable the Approvals column and don't use a workflow, the people who should approve must go into the library to see and approve or reject the new or changed item. A workflow can make the process easier, and the quickest way to add an approvals workflow to a document library is to use the built-in one.

OOTB workflow creates review task
SharePoint only has a few workflows that can be used out of the box, but there is an Approvals workflow to use in document libraries where the Approvals column is enabled. This workflow creates a task for the approver, and from that task the approver can open the file in question and approve or reject it. The approving person can also select to suggest changes and to send the file to another reviewer.

The built-in workflow can create review tasks for several people and at multiple stages. There are several more settings, like due date and what will happen if the file is rejected by someone or is changed when the workflow is still running.

All this sounds just fine, but there are some drawbacks. It is not possible to specify workflow conditions, for example that the workflow will only run for a specific file type, and users who can start the workflow manually can also change the workflow settings. Another problem is that you cannot see who has approved the file without opening the workflow page. Tips
My Tips article about SharePoint approvals with a built-in workflow contains the demo above and also a demo that shows how to remove the workflow from the document library.

In my next blog post about SharePoint approvals, I will compare the built-in Approvals column with a custom column. Both have their specific advantages and disadvantages, so it is important reading!

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

12 October 2017

SharePoint Approvals without Workflows

SharePoint iconSharePoint document libraries are good for storing and sharing company files, but often new or changed documents should be approved before they are displayed to all users. The approval process can be configured and managed in many different ways, and I have begun introducing some of them in my SharePoint Workflow series.

Gone are the days when you printed your document and walked over to the boss or manager to have it approved before you printed and distributed more copies. Nowadays SharePoint has given us more efficient methods for approvals and distribution, but I have not found a built-in method that is perfect for everyone.

I plan to publish several articles on how a workflow or flow can streamline approval processes, but I have started with a description on how approvals of documents in SharePoint libraries can be managed without a workflow. It is important to know, to fully understand the subsequent articles.

The Tips article contains two demos, and you can also see them here below. In the first demo, I create a new SharePoint document library for files that should be approved and change the default setting so that approvals are required before publishing to all users.

In the second demo, I show what happens if you also enable major and minor versions in the library settings.

In my next Tips article, I will describe how you can manage approvals using one of the few existing built-in SharePoint workflows.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

26 September 2017

Open Form with SharePoint Workflow

SharePoint iconIn a new workflow article in the Tips section, I describe how the SharePoint Designer Initiate Form command can be used to give end users a simple issue reporting form that feeds into a more advanced tasks list.

Give each group what they need
Helpdesk and support staff often use SharePoint lists to manage the reported issues. In some organizations the end users are asked to create new items in that list as a way of reporting problems, but that is not an optimal process. For proper issue tracking, the helpdesk staff needs to have more information in each item than what is given by the person who has the problem.

A better solution is to give the end users a simple form and let a workflow copy the data entered there into the more detailed item used by the helpdesk people. When the workflow is started manually, which can be done via link or button, the form is displayed and the entered values copied to a new item in the SharePoint list automatically. Then the support staff can take care of it and fill out the rest of the fields.

SharePoint tasks list
SharePoint Designer iconIn the demo below, I create a SharePoint 2013 site workflow in SharePoint Designer and use the "Initiation Form Parameters" command to build a form for the end users. It only has a title field and a description field, so it is very easy for the users to fill out.

Then I can build the workflow so that it feeds the text entered by the end user to the corresponding fields in a SharePoint tasks list that is only used by the helpdesk staff.

' Folder HelpDesk logo If you need a more advanced helpdesk solution, with statistics and a lot of good features, offers two products: Folder HelpDesk for Outlook and HelpDesk OSP for Outlook and SharePoint. Welcome to our website to learn more!HelpDesk for Outlook and SharePoint logotype

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

19 September 2017

Drag Outlook Tasks to Kanban Board

Kanban Task Manager for Outlook logotypeThe Kanban Task Manager Outlook editions will soon have a new feature that many evaluators have asked for: a possibility to drag existing tasks to the kanban board. Next version will also give a possibility to modify Kanban Task Manager by using custom phases and captions.

Drag and drop tasks between phases
Kanban Task Manager uses standard Outlook tasks that have been given some extra dropdowns for tagging. As the work proceeds, the tasks are moved from one phase to another, and this visualization makes it easy to get an overview over progress, overdue tasks and bottlenecks.

In the next version of Kanban Task Manager, the phases can have any name you wish. Five phases with the Outlook status names are default, but soon you will be able to use your own phases instead. In the introduction demo below, you can see the default Kanban Task Manager with our example data.

Group tasks in lanes
The tasks cannot only be grouped in phases but also categorized by lanes. That is convenient when the team has many tasks on the kanban board. The lanes can be collapsed, to avoid excessive scrolling, and the next version of Kanban Task Manager will remember each user's collapse/expand status even when Outlook is restarted.

New user's feature
The feature to drag existing tasks to Kanban Task Manager has been requested by evaluators who already have many Outlook tasks and don't want to copy and paste the content of them one by one to new Kanban Task Manager tasks.

In the next version, these evaluators can just select all their standard Outlook tasks and drag them to the Kanban Task Manager folder. That will make them show up on the kanban board.

Kanban Task Manager comes in two Outlook editions, one for workgroups with shared tasks and settings and one for single users, and we will of course update both on them. I will soon come back with more information..

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

14 September 2017

Team Calendar Options for Excel, Outlook and SharePoint

Most organizations need one or several shared team calendars to keep track of what people are doing and when they are available. We have products for such tracking, but today I will first show a simple Excel calendar that might work for companies who don't want to invest in a more advanced solution.

Excel calendar
Excel iconAn Excel file can be placed in a shared file folder and used as a calendar. Excel has many calendar templates to select from, but you can also create a custom calendar. That is what I show in the demo below, and a new Excel calendar article in the Tips section gives some more information.

SharePoint calendar SharePoint icon
SharePoint team sites have a default team calendar, so if the team shares information via SharePoint, the SharePoint calendar is a good option. It has several useful features, like version history and alerts, but its look is not very appealing.

Excel + SharePoint
If you just want a nice looking calendar that summarizes team member activities, you can insert an Excel calendar in a SharePoint page instead of using the SharePoint calendar. In the demo below, I show how to do that, and of course there is also a Tips article on how to insert an Excel calendar in SharePoint.

Calendar Browser for Outlook or SharePoint
Calendar Browser for SharePoint logoOne of my first products was a calendar solution for Outlook, and it is still sold and used. Today, after 17 years, it is of course much enhanced, and there is also a SharePoint edition. Calendar Browser was created to make it easy to book corporate resources, but the product can also be used to show people's Outlook or SharePoint calendars.

TimeCard for Outlook or SharePoint
TimeCard for Outlook has one more calendar product for Outlook or SharePoint: TimeCard. It is intended for time reporting directly from each user's calendar, but also future appointments/events can be reported.

TimeCard is not a team calendar, but it is a good solution for managers or other staff that need to see future planning for many people. The SharePoint edition even has a TimeCard summary web part that can be inserted into any page in the site collection.

By Peter Kalmström
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions