SharePoint workflows’ aren’t as complex as I would like them. without Visual Studio, the options that you are given are quite limited, and not very flexible when you want to do something a little more complicated. The action that I wished to carry out was to edit a users properties from the workflow, however the workflow can only read user properties, and not write to them.
After searching the internet for an answer, I saw someone talking about Windows PowerShell scripts.
PowerShell in SharePoint 2010 is an administrative tool that carries out its work in a command line. This allows the administrator to carry out commands’ and is great for repetitive process’. One of the features that intrigues me the most is the ability to easily create PowerShell scripts, they can also be initiated by workflows which makes the task of editing User properties very simple, if the PowerShell can grab data from the workflow then the Powershell uses this to find the relative data and edit it accordingly.
Unfortunately I still don’t know much about this as it is only usable on SharePoint 2010, which we do not yet have. More info when I get it.
Whilst investigating another problem we were experiencing on the SharePoint site, we stumbled upon some User Profile and Properties options. We had previous been looking at storing additional fields against a user to hold information such as leave entitlement and leave remaining. The properties of the user can be edited and custom fields can be created. The image below shows the administration centre where these additions can be made.
We were able to add the two additional fields that we require at this stage in testing and development. We were also able to read the values of the two fields and have them returned to the user in an email using a workflow. However we quickly discovered that it appears to not be possible to write data back to the fields. In this instance this would allow us to keep track of the number of days leave a user has remaining.
For the last week now, Michael and I have been struggling with a very persistent workflow issue. An approval workflow that we have created, works fine when it’s started by an administrator, however when it started by a regular user, then the approval process won’t work. The workflow is activated with the permissions’ of the user that started it, not the permissions of the approver or the author. It isn’t currently an issue for the work we’re doing, but it will need to be fixed for use in a real world environment. Googling the problem didn’t seem to help, there were too many vague “fixes”, that required complicated multiple workflows that never seemed to work. There didn’t seam to be a solution to this problem anywhere on the internet. However, I then remembered that someone gave me a large SharePoint 2010 book as a “congratulations for getting the job”, so I decided to see if I could find a solution in there. The solution showed itself almost immediately.
The answer is: High-Privilege Workflows. I found this solution to be extremely easy carry out, and it solved our workflow problems 100%. A high-privilege workflow runs with the permissions’ of the person who created the workflow. While editing the workflow, you simply click in the area just below the first step, go to the “insert” section of the ribbon bar and click “Impersonation Step”. This adds a new step into the workflow that carries out the actions within it using the permissions of the workflow author.
I find it embarrassing that the solution was so simple, however I thought I might write a post about it, incase any others users were coming across the same issues.
Work on the holiday approval workflow has continued over this last week. We have been adding more and more actions into it, just to see what we can accomplish. We described our workflow to Dave in out monthly review meeting, and he metnioned other features that should be implemented.
Previously, the workflow calculated how many day’s the user’s holiday is, taking into account half days, and input this into a calendar. To make this workflow more intelligent, and useful, I set up a list that would contain the name and department of each member of staff, with a number of how many days of holiday they have left. Before editing the workflow, I created a custom data view of the list, showing only the members of the Online Services team. This feature was requested by Dave as he wanted to see how many holiday days each member of his team had, and creating a list for this data appeared to be one of the only ways to implement it. This method isn’t entirely desirable, as each time a member is added to the Sharepoint site, they also need to be added into the “Holidays Remaining” list. Another issue that has been raised is that, the “Days remaining” field will need resetting every year, and as of yet we do not yet know a way of resetting every feild at once with a single workflow.
We then incorporated the workflow with the list, getting it to subtract the holiday from the “Days remaining” field. We have found with this particular workflow could easily spiral out of control, there will always be something else to add to improve it and get it to do more. This will most likely be the same for a lot workflows, you just have to find a good stopping point.
It’s been a few weeks since our last blog post. In those few weeks Michael and I have been looking heavily into workflows, as that is probably one of the most important features of SharePoint 2010 for us, and has the possibility to benefit the University greatly, if used correctly.
Following on from creating a reusable workflow to deal with the annual leave request process, which was successful, we wanted to move forward. This involved associating the workflow to a list. After completing this you may have seen in a previous post, that we were running into a lot of issues since the change. We contacted Microsoft concerning this around a month ago, and although the problem no longer appears to be present, the Microsoft support team did next to nothing about it except repeat the same questions. The workflow situation seamed to resolve itself and we are now able to fully utilise workflows.
Now that the workflow is working we were able to re-create the paper based holiday system. We created a simple form that would ask the user when the holiday starts and ends and, if this was a single day, whether it was a half day. Once submitted the workflow was set to start automatically. This would send the initiator a confirmation email with a summary of their request. Next the initiators manager would be found and the request would then be sent to this person. In the instance where a manager can not be found, the request will be emailed to a nominated person, so that the task can be re-assigned to the appropriate person. The next step occurs once the manager has approved or rejected the request. The next stage will send out an email to the initiator detailing whether the request has been approved or not. If it has not been approved the request will also be deleted from the list. If the request is approved, the details are transferred into the corporate calendar.
We are now looking to test what else workflows could manage for us.
RE & MB