SharePoint forms and workflows

Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Blog Posts, Export

 

Achieving success in the digital business age requires efficient information management and the right application of technology and software. One of the corner stones of efficient information management is business task automation and electronic document management. According to Bill Baer, SharePoint Senior Technical Manager, over 80% or fortune 500 companies use SharePoint to automate their business processes. Another crucial component of SharePoint ecosystem is Workflows. They will be the focus of this article.

SharePoint workflows are used to optimize your work experience with routine tasks that you do on regular basis. They save time and effort bringing consistency to mundane office tasks allowing you to focus your attention somewhere else. SharePoint workflows are like predefined mini-applications that can automate a whole spectrum of routine business processes. Most common SharePoint workflows are project or document approvals, project status tracking, and signature or feedback collection.

You can learn more about the installation and configuration of SharePoint workflows in these Microsoft Dev Center articles:

What is new in workflow in SharePoint Server 2013

Creating a workflow by using SharePoint Designer 2013 and the SharePoint Workflow platform

What is a SharePoint workflow?

 

SharePoint workflow can be depicted as an automated flowchart that eliminates most of the manual work and uncertainty from your standard business processes. The best thing about workflows, arguably, is that users always know what the current stage of the process is and what the next step is.

 

SharePoint forms and workflows - workflow flowchart

 

For instance, look at the figure above. This is a typical document approval workflow. This easily can be a fillable PDF form; this will be discussed later in the article.

This workflow automatically routes the document, creates review tasks and assigns them to Anna and Sean. The workflow tracks their progress, and sends notifications when needed. The activity in a workflow can be monitored and adjusted from a central status page, and the history of events in a workflow run is maintained for 60 days after completion.

Imagine having more people involved doing this manually?

 

SharePoint forms and workflows - before and after

 

Managing this process manually will require a lot of effort to keep everyone in the loop, to make sure that the documents are routed and approved, to make sure that reminders and tasks are set and so on. Keeping track of this nightmare certainly affects one’s ability to focus on other important tasks.

 

What is the place of forms in SharePoint workflows?

 

As it was mentioned above it is very common to start a workflow in a SharePoint list or a Document Library upon item creation or item arrival. SharePoint workflows can work with list forms, but what if you need to work with forms that are not entirely web-based? Since PDF Share Forms is built on PDF technology, it is very convenient to run workflows that work with documents.

Standard SharePoint workflow actions can route PDF forms as regular documents, but there is no way to access the data within the form itself. PDF Share Forms realized this problem early on and developed its own workflow actions that allow interacting with data inside of PDF forms fields.

List of PDF Share Forms Actions

 

Here is a list of PDF Share Forms actions for PDF Share Forms Enterprise 2013 product for SharePoint workflow.

 

SharePoint forms and workflows - PDF workflow actions Enterprise

 

Create PDF Document

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Create PDF from Document in thisDocument library (Output to Variable: NewDocumentID1; Exception to Variable: Exception)”.

It can be used to create a new instance PDF Form from PDF ShareFormsContent type in a

Document Library user specifies.

 

Read Boolean value from PDF Form

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Read Boolean value from PDF field in this PDF document into variable “Variable: Output” (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It can

be used to read the Boolean values in a PDF ShareForms Document and return value in a

Boolean format.

 

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Read date/time value from PDF field

in this PDF document into variable “Variable: Output” (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It

can be used to read date/time values in a PDF ShareForms Document and return value in a

date/time format.

 

Read numeric value from PDF form

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Read numeric value from PDF field in

this PDF document into variable “Variable: Output” (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It can

be used to read numeric values in a PDF ShareForms Document and return value in a

numeric format.

 

Read value from PDF form

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Read value from PDF field in this PDF

document into variable “Variable: Output” (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It can be used

to read text value from PDF ShareForms Document and return value in a text format.

 

Read value using XSLT from PDF form

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Read value using XSLT function from

this PDF document into variable “Variable: Output” (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It can

be used to read value using XSLT function from PDF Document.

 

Update field value in PDF form

 

This action is initially displayed in a Workflow step as “Update field with value new value in

this PDF document (Exception to Variable: Exception)”. It can be used to update user

specified field in a PDF ShareForms Document with a value that user specifies.

 

Conclusion

 

We learned that efficiency is not a buzzword, but a necessity for achieving success in the digital age that we live in. Using SharePoint workflows for business process automation like approvals management, project status tracking, feedback collection, to name a few, is a very practical decision. It greatly reduces time and effort of running standard business processes.

Combining PDF Share Forms workflow actions with SharePoint workflow engine can bring your document management automation to a completely new level. Do not limit yourself you with just routing of PDF forms; work with data within PDF forms! You can easily read and write data to or from PDF forms or create new PDF forms as a part of a workflow.

Feel free to contact me at pavel@pdfshareforms.com if you have any questions about integration of PDF Share Forms with SharePoint workflows.