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One of the biggest advantages of SharePoint over other online collaboration tools is that you can use workflows to simplify and enforce business rules. Workflows can also be used to automate many recurrent tasks that your team performs on a regular basis, ensuring consistency and saving a lot of time and headaches.


Make sure you’re getting the most out of your SharePoint by checking out our top 5 permissions best practices.


The problem is that too few SharePoint users know how to create workflows. We think it’s time to change that because they can make getting work done as a team a whole lot easier.

Like many features in SharePoint, workflows can be as customized and complex as you want them to be, but they don’t have to be. In fact, creating a standard workflow is quite easy, thanks to the simplified tools and wizards in SharePoint Designer. Most can created them without the skills of a developer, or writing a single line of code.

SharePoint comes with several workflow templates. In this article, we briefly explain how a workflow works, and how you can easily set up an Approval workflow in SharePoint 2010 and 2013 in just a few minutes.

What is a SharePoint workflow?

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A SharePoint workflow is basically an automated flowchart that specifies what happens at each step of a process. As the above illustration shows, the SharePoint Approval workflow automatically runs the process for you. It checks, tracks, reminds and forwards the document to the right people at the right time. If someone forgets to complete a task or doesn’t finish on time, the workflow will notify. No single person has to supervise the process – the workflow automatically does it for you.

How to set up a Approval workflow in SharePoint

Before you begin:

• Make sure you have Site Administrator or Site Own¬er privileges on a test server. You should also have some experience working with SharePoint libraries and SharePoint Designer.

• Content Approval is enabled on publishing portals by default. This can be confusing because when Content Approval is enabled on your library, a document doesn’t become visible to others until it’s published. To find out if Publishing workflow is enabled, open the document library and click the Properties icon for any document. If Workflows is an option, you’re all set.

1. To set an approval workflow, access the Document Library and click on Library Settings.

2. Select Workflow Settings in the Permissions and Management settings.
This will display the Add a Workflow page (shown below). In the Select a workflow template list for the Workflow option, click on Approval – SharePoint 2010.

3. In the textbox: Type a unique name for this workflow, enter a name that specifically describes that particular step in your business process that this workflow fulfills. Keep in mind that your internal approval process may have several steps, so give the workflow a name that’s more specific than “Approval Workflow.” For example, you can indicate whether it is an author review workflow, regulatory editorial review workflow, etc.

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4. Under Task List, select Workflow Tasks (unless if you want to track this workflow in a list by itself, but this is rarely the case).

5. In the History List, select the default option: Workflow History.

6. Under Start Options, check the appropriate box. If you want the workflow to start manually, check: Allow this workflow to be manually started by an authenticated user with Edit Item permissions.

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Note: You can have only one workflow that’s triggered by publishing in a library.

7. Click on the Next button at the bottom of the page to get to the Approval page.

8. Specify the appropriate options and click on the Save button at the bottom of the page.

The Workflow feature is just one of the reasons why teams use SharePoint to work together more efficiently—for example, check out our recent blog on Why You Should Be Using SharePoint Lists Instead Of Excel Spread Sheets (And How). But not all organizations have the in-house resources to properly manage a SharePoint environment. By hosting your SharePoint solution in the cloud with a third-party provider like SherWeb, you can benefit from this powerful collaborative platform without draining your IT resources.

Questions about SharePoint? Ask away; our SharePoint team will answer them here.

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Written by Sophie Furnival Content Specialist @ SherWeb

Sophie is SherWeb's Marketing Communications Strategist.