SharePoint comes preloaded with a handful of basic processes, but many organizations need to build and automate workflows that are unique to their team. If you're looking for ways to improve efficiency and streamline your work, you won't find everything you need in standard help documents. This article will explore six different business processes that generally require extra time and attention from your employees, but could run a lot smoother with SharePoint automation.
While a quick internet search will provide a million articles on how to build automated processes in SharePoint, almost no articles will give you examples of those processes to start your thinking. Even the SharePoint documentation only gives possible workflow actions you can use rather than specific examples from which you can build your unique workflows.
Why can’t you find business process automation examples anywhere? SharePoint and SP experts will tell you that every company is different, and your business processes should reflect your unique needs. Sure, the intricacies of the workflow will depend on your business needs, the business roles involved in the process, and the individuals who fill each role, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give you hints on what processes you can automate with SharePoint.
SharePoint comes preloaded with several basic processes:
- Collect Feedback
- Collect Signatures
- Three State (tracks project or issue through three phases)
- Publication Approval
If your team would like to implement more complicated measures not covered by these five processes, you’ll want to look for a software solution that provides more custom options within the out of the box SharePoint product.
These six business processes generally require attention and time from your employees. Look to SharePoint and customer SharePoint software to automate much of these tasks:
1. Sales and Contract Approvals
You’ve nurtured the lead down the funnel, and your team wants to negotiate contracts and terms. A sales quote or contract approval process ensures that all members of the sales, legal, financial, and C-level team see the contract and get and chance to review. Notifications and automatic forwarding speeds the process considerably as teams no longer wait for paper contracts to change hands.
2. Payroll Processing
Payroll departments for large organizations can spend days processing payroll by hand, and the velocity and intricacy of the payroll process lends itself to human error. Using SharePoint workflows to automatically begin the payroll process at the end of each pay period frees payroll professionals from piles of paperwork and repetitive tasks to focus on edge cases and special approvals.
3. Content Management
Sites with tightly structured content teams use SharePoint automated approvals to move content through the full content lifecycle from idea through publication. An automated business process guides new content through writers, editors, brand sheriffs, and C-levels before publication, ensuring on-brand messaging and technical accuracy. This approval process is similar to what you might find in project management software — except in this case, you won’t need to buy and implement another separate tool.
4. Lead Capture and Follow-up
The lead forms on your site gather pertinent prospect information, but relying on humans to follow-up and begin the nurture process on those leads can mean oversights and lost opportunities. Automated workflows can send follow-up emails or transfer form data to your email marketing, marketing automation, CRM, and stakeholders. These workflows update your customer records and find prospect opportunities.
5. Grant, Regulatory, or Audit Trails
Grants, regulation compliance, and financial audits require extensive and sometimes repetitive paperwork. Updating your paperwork trails and compiling all the necessary financial and security data is time-consuming and prone to human error. Automate part of this process by automatically tagging pertinent documents and copying these to designated trail libraries as the data is created, rather than hunting it down at the end of the period. These processes save time, reduce lost artifacts, and reduce the chance of human error by storing all required data in a single place.
6. Help Desk
SharePoint allows you to build a custom site for internal use, and many companies use SharePoint to build an internal help desk that automatically directs requests to the appropriate person. Instead of contracting with an outside software for help desk, you can embed a simple help desk on your branded site, customizing automatic responses (for password resets or similar low-level issues) and elevating highly technical issues to those with the knowledge to solve them.
Automating your business processes in SharePoint requires planning and forethought. Many SharePoint experts suggest mapping out the entire process, including any special cases, discrepancies, or edge cases. Once your plan exists, you can build standard and custom workflows to fulfill the needs of your business. Once your workflow exists, check in with your data sets to ensure that important leads or documents don’t slip through the cracks.
Tamara Scott is a technology analyst at TechnologyAdvice, a research company that connects buyers and sellers of business technology. She writes about enterprise collaboration, marketing automation, CRM software, and many other technology verticals.