Carmen Nel's World

When I started creating workflows in SharePoint Designer I realised that I have met my reason for being part of the world of “ShareTopia”. Yes, I know it is weird that out of the spectacular world of incredible custom lists, yummy content types and beautiful document libraries I managed to choose the “villain” of ShareTopia, the workflow. For some or the other reason people hear the word workflow and they run for the hills, but why?

After working with SharePoint for about 9 years and training future residents of ShareTopia for 4 years I have come up with a few reasons why people fear workflows and why workflows should be the least feared delicacy of this world.

  • Fear 1 – “Workflows are difficult”
    The answer I usually give people is that yes, workflows are difficult but so is getting to the moon but that didn’t stop us from doing it right? Workflows can change your SharePoint environment, it can make things easier in the long run, it can automate processes freeing up time for other duties. If you can define the process and live the process you can create the workflow for it.
  • Fear 2 – “I don’t know how to start”
    If you don’t know where to start, try drawing out your business process in Visio or PowerPoint. Once you are happy with the whole process it will be easier for you to build the workflow according to your drawing, this will also help you with future changes and troubleshooting on your workflow.
  • Fear 3 – “My workflows keeps on giving me errors and I do not know how to troubleshoot them”
    One of the most difficult aspects of this workflow villain is to try and figure out where you have made a mistake. Workflow error logs are not very informative and to get the right error out of your logs take experience and access. So the easiest way to know where the error has occurred is to log a message in your workflow after each and every major action or condition. This will allow you to see where the error is and then you can troubleshoot the specific line where the error occurred.
  • Fear 4 – “We have Googled the workflow but can’t get it to work”
    When developers build out workflows and post it on their blogs they seldom explain in detail what they have done and how they have done it. You will notice that some actions have a “then” or an “and” in front of it but as soon as you type in “then” the workflow editor tells you that there are no actions available. This is because SharePoint Designer does this for you, to make sure that you never get stuck here again, rather use your ribbon to add actions and conditions to avoid the pitfalls.
  • Fear 5 – “Maybe if I ignore workflows they will not exist”
    The ostrich syndrome does exist and it is very dangerous to have this view about anything in life because life will pass you by without you even knowing it. As soon as you ignore certain features of SharePoint because you do not know how to use it, you will fall behind and catching up is hard to do. Stay current, read up or ask!

The workflow is a true delicacy of ShareTopia that few people know about or know how to use, but once you get the hang of it, it will become easier every time.

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