SharePoint: Identifying a Business Process Candidate to use in SharePoint
What is a Business Process?
Everything you do at work is a business process. Your timesheet, HR paperwork, vacation/leave requests, and every other protocol you follow is included. Without a standard process to follow, people will invent their own disparate method for solving the problem.
Even when there is a standard protocol, people fail to follow it. Turn signals, one-way signs, and red lights are just a few analogous examples of epic protocol failures. Unfortunately, people bring this defiance, stupidity, and/or lack of training with them into the office, too.
At it's core, SharePoint is just a document repository, but it is a single location whereas an authoritative source can be retained. There is the ability to employ check-in/check-out, version history, and permissions. Metadata can be added to libraries to increase the ability to categorize information, such that views, sorts, groups, and sorts can slice and dice information. And, if you absolutely must, folders can be implemented, too. (This is a philosophical discussion that you can independently research, but folders can assist with permissions. If you find yourself in a bad folder situation, then review SharePoint: Migrating from folders to MetaData)
From there, workflows can add approval routing, notification, and a slew of other functionality to ensure that nobody can ever even pretend that they didn't know the document was added, changed, moved, upgraded, demoted, or any other possible verb that a document can be subjected.
Finally, lists can be used to drive, complement, or track your business process to ensure that all information is transparent, or hidden (See: When SharePoint Becomes HoardPoint) appropriately depending on the operation.
Email Attachments are Evil
The most egregious abuse of a SharePoint implementation is a user that emails an attachment. Anytime you see an attachment in an email, you should think of it as a little dose of poison, maybe a virus, and the sender as a dolt that needs to be beat about the head with a Nerf bat in the next organizational meeting.
Why are email attachments so heinous?
First, they take up space. If an email is sent to 10 people, then 10x the amount of space is needed to store the data on the email server. This is unnecessary bits and bytes stuffed in the digital backup graveyard. Your company could give you a raise, but they have to spend more and more money on space to backup useless information. (This should get your Nerf bat raised to the ready position.)
Next, we all know what happens the minute someone emails an attachment. That's right, it INSTANTLY goes stale. It's worthless! In case you don't know, if you open an attachment, and thus edit it, you're editing the version stored within the email. And, if you fail to save it to a different location, that your changes will fail to save. So, every single minute you put into that version is possibly wasted. But, lets assume that you're smarter than the average bear, and you save it to your local machine before making changes. As you make those changes, there is probably someone other recipient of that attachment making a change that directly contradicts you. (Now you start stalking the cube farm with the poised bat.)
My favorite is when some egghead emails an attachment and says, "Email it back to me, and I'll consolidated the findings." I'm the first to fire back my changes, just to see if they follow through, but they never do. They get overwhelmed by the changes, to both content AND format, and they end up giving up on the effort and typically ignoring your input, or give a bastardized version of it. (Set loose your bat, and let the beatings begin.)
SharePoint Email Attachment Solution
The correct solution to any email attachment situation starts with making a single authoritative source. This could be a document in a fileshare, but that will not afford you the ability to perform check-in/check-out nor have version history. So, the obvious choice is to store the document in a SharePoint document library, require check-out, and enable version control.
From there, keep your bat handy for anybody that even thinks about emailing an attachment.
(The only situation, IMO, where an attachment is warranted is when one of the recipients is not a member of the SharePoint domain. It still stands to reason why that person isn't emailed individually, but it is what it is.)
Business Process Flow
Anytime there is a business process that requires a flow of information, whether it is based on role, status, and/or category, then it becomes a candidate for inclusion within SharePoint.
For example, suppose that when a document is added to a library, that certain people need to be notified that the document was added. Then, when it is changed/updated, then it needs to be approved, and when it is approved, then it should be published for others, not involved in the creation process, to consume.
Again, using a SharePoint document library, a document can be assigned a status category, like New, Approved, and Published, and everyone can see what state the documents resides. A status category date, and assigned person can be added to assist with transparency.
Registration and Tracking
In many cases, people need to register for a training course, meeting, or other event. Equipment can be loaned, checked out, or assigned to custodians and needs to be tracked. In both of these situations, a tracking list can be used to store information about the registrants, assets, equipment, recipients, trainers, courses, and every other bit of information.
This is another SharePoint sweet spot, as it has template lists that can handle some of this information, but you can also create a custom list, with your own custom metadata to handle all of the content needed to track your situation.
Finally, using SharePoint Designer, you can created automated workflows that trigger when an item is created or changed.
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As you navigate through your workday, try to identify a couple of business processes that could thrive from a little SharePointization. Present the opportunity in your organization meeting, and you'll be a hero. You'll get a big fat raise, and can retire early. You're welcome.
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