One of the most powerful features in SharePoint that doesn’t get used nearly as often as it should is workflow. One of the reasons for this is that many people are just intimidate by it. They might use some “Out-of-the-Box” approval workflows but beyond that the idea of creating a custom workflow is seen as beyond their capabilities. This is why we have partnered with Nintex. They have a workflow product that integrates seamlessly into the SharePoint user interface so it does not require using Visual Studio or SharePoint Designer. Nintex Workflow provides an intuitive visual interface that makes creating and maintaining workflows much easier.
Over the course of the next few weeks I will be writing a series of articles going through a number of common features that every business can benefit from. The workflow I am going to create during this series of articles is just a simplified example of something you might run into. I am going to have the workflow manually started so it can have a start form to collect data. The workflow is going to assign tasks to 3 different types of approvers in parallel. The approval process will be the same for each but the notifications that will go out to each group will be a little different. This will allow me to show you creating a parallel process and create a user defined action. Additionally I will show how to loop back in case the Project Manager wants to resubmit a Declined tasks to the approver.
For this article I will start from the beginning and show how to customize the workflow start itself by creating variables and customizing the start form.
Let’s get started from the beginning. You will want to start in a list or library, in my case I am starting out in a document library. So we will go to Workflow Settings and select “Create a Workflow in Nintex Workflow”.
When prompted I selected a Blank Template for my workflow. At this point you will see a screen that is similar to flow chart in Visio. The Actions are on the left and the flow chart is in the main part of the screen. At this point I am not going to add any actions I will do that later. In the ribbon click Workflow Settings.
In the Workflow Setting screen, enter a Title for your workflow, a Description of the purpose of the workflow and select the workflow options that you require, in this case I have select Start Manually, and set Start when items are created and Start when items are modified to “No” so that I can have a custom start form.
Now we can add some variables to be populated on the start screen. In the ribbon click “Variables”.
I am going to create a few person selector fields, 3 Approvers and a Project Manager. In the Workflow Variable screen click New and then give the field a Name, select “Person or Group” for the Type, Select “Show on start form”, Select “Required”, and I am choosing “Any User” and “Allow Users” but you can set these however you want.
After doing this for all 3 Approvers and a Project Manager and adding an Approval Text field (Single Line of Text) your Workflow Variable screen should look like this.
At this point, you can Close the Workflow Variables screen. We are now going to customize the Start Form so click the drop down arrow on the Edit Start Form button in the ribbon and select Edit with Nintex Forms.
This will bring up the Nintex Forms – Form Designer. From here you can make whatever changes you would like to the Start Form. For now I just changes some label and made a few other minor changes.
Click Save and then Click Close. Click Save in the Workflow Setting screen. Now we will add just a simple logging action so we can publish our workflow and test the new Start Form.
Log in History List is located in the Operations Group so either open that group and on the left and drag the Log in History List action to the open square in the workflow or right-click on the square and select the action from there.
Notice the exclamation point in the Log in history list item once you have placed it in your workflow. This indicates that you need to do some configuration on that action. Click on the drop down arrow on the action and select Configure.
You can enter any text you want in the text box and insert variables and meta-data values from the associated list item. In this case I just want to log who the Project Manager is. I type the text “The Project Manager for this is: ” and then click the Insert Reference button. Notice the tabs at the top that give you several different options for the source of the information to insert. Click the Workflow Variables tab and then select ProjectManager and click OK.
Click Save and you should now see that the exclamation point has gone away. Now we have a very simple workflow that we can publish. Click the Publish button in the ribbon, enter any Change Comments and click Submit. After the workflow has published you can click the Close button in the ribbon to exit Nintex Workflow. If you now go back into the list/library in which you created the workflow and add an item or upload a file we can test the workflow. Click the drop down arrow on the file name and select Workflows.
Click on the workflow you just created.
You should see the Start screen that you created. Select users for the 3 Approvers and the Project Manager and add some Approval Text and click Start. You can then go into the Workflow Information screen by clicking the drop down arrow next to the file name, selecting Workflows and then Clicking on your workflow in the bottom section “Completed Workflows”.
You should now see in the workflow history section and event with a description that tells you who you selected as a Project Manager.
Just to recap, in this blog post I showed you how to create a Nintex Workflow, Set some basic properties, Add Variables, Edit the Start Form, Add and Configure a basic Action, Publish and run you workflow. In my next blog posts I will continue to build upon this workflow in order to demonstrate some more advanced functionality of Nintex Workflow.