Work Flow Automation

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Hi Good morning everyone

Would anyone recommend Microsoft Share Point as an ideal solution for work flow automation? If not, which DMS or ECM would be ideal? It is a large organization with multiple transaction and moving parts.


The answer depends on context. If you’re using SharePoint on-premises then you have two options out-of-the-box for workflow engines both of which have their own issues but they’re very manageable. Online flow is an option and though it takes some getting used to, it doesn’t seem to have the same issues.

The biggest issue with SharePoint’s workflow / automation features is the lack of overall visibility across what is going on throughout the system. There are third parties that help but out-of-the-box you’re going to have a workflow solution not a business process automation solution.

However, that being said, every system has issues and your actual results are primarily driven by the way that the flows are designed. You can architect flows that leave things in different states/queues which creates inherent visibility.

Are there particular processes that you’re trying to automate or integrations that you’re looking for?

Thor Projects LLC

We utilize Hyland OnBase for our ECM and the workflow capabilities are very robust. I’d highly recommend checking it out.

Tanner Medical Center

Hello, Although we haven’t automated any of our workflows yet, I’ve had demonstrations of both MS Flow (within O365) and Nintex (far more advanced than Flow).


As Robert and Adam pointed out there are multiple options in the SharePoint ecosystem for “workflow” design, development, and management. These would be:

. SharePoint Designer – a legacy tool still supported in SharePoint 2016 (no word about support in SharePoint vNext) that can create and manage modestly complex document/list item centric workflows.
. MS Flow – new offering within Office 365 that provides hundreds of connectors to other popular cloud services so that it can act as both a moderately capable workflow engine and a sort of simple ‘orchestration’ layer. Due to these connectors, MS Flow has greater abilities to work with more elements than SharePoint . . Designer. NOTE: this is ONLY available in cloud, so if your SP is wholly on-prem, you would need to move to a hybrid infrastructure to leverage this. ALSO, all workflows created in MS Flow execute in the context of the creating user, NOT in an organizational context. So, if ‘Bob’ creates a workflow, it always executes under Bob’s access rights, his email identity, etc. SP Designer workflows always execute in an organization context so do not suffer these same limitations.
. 3rd party products that bolt onto/interoperate with SharePoint – this would include a raft of different offerings at a variety of price points, capabilities, and user experience ‘friendliness’ such as Nintex, K2, FlowForma, etc.. Almost all are more friendly than SharePoint Designer though! ;)) The best of these, like Nintex and K2 are much more aptly described as BPA (Business Process Automation) platforms.
. Fully fleshed-out BPM and/or integration/orchestration platforms – this would be things like Tibco, webMethods, Oracle Fusion, etc. that are very, very expensive, but have exceedingly deep and broad capabilities that can be connected to SharePoint via web services and the like.
. Finally, there is a new category called RPA (Robotic Process Automation) which essentially combines all the capabilities of the BPA/BPM platforms plus adds in ML (Machine Learning) and some AI capabilities as well.

ALL of this though goes back to Robert’s comment that you need to really define what “level” of capability the organization needs, what the ability of the organization is to absorb the change and leverage the new functionality, and what the organization has the ability to sustain and support. And, obviously, the amount of money that can be devoted to this vs. competing priorities.


We have had customer using Canon’s Therefore to manage workflows and version control with Sharepoint. Along the way, we added intelligent capture with IRIS and combined both systems into an effective ECM.

Canon Solutions America

We have been evaluating and more recently rolling out M-Files and there is some really nice workflow functionality built into it. You can very easily create your workflows using a graphical interface (very similar to drawing out a visio workflow for example) and you can easily add automatic transitions, actions, notifications etc. etc.

Attric Limited

Thank you all very much for your input. Much appreciated. We will be doing a process audit very soon to ascertain the moving parts that will need to be automated and their overall needs. They have currently invested in MS 365. They are however seeking best in class solution and are open to all other options.

Efficient Delivery Solutions

As others have mentioned, a most important first step is to identify the information flows you wish to enable and manage. In our business we call these the “use cases” and I’m sure you’re familiar with mapping out information flows. Some organizations will work from their content repository such as Content Suite and add workflow on top – typically to control the creation, revision, storage and retrieval aspects along with governance (RM). Others have one or more content repositories, often from various vendors, and wish to automate the intake of the information that may be in the form of paper or digital intake. In my business area (yes, I’m sales) we specialize on intelligent forms automation for our customers, which means the creation of information flows through paper forms, online digital forms or both (Hybrid). On top of that we put input data connectors so that inbound forms are dynamic and connected to the business (think of a bank or insurance company online onboarding form, claims process, HR application, etc.). As information comes in it is routed for review, attachments added and viewed, supervisors or managers are engaged to perform tasks, and ultimately the information flow is completed, notifications issued, and the content and attributes are then stored, data from the forms exported to various systems.

The tools at OpenText are called TeleForm and LiquidOffice – you can easily look them up at the OpenText website.

So, it is all about getting your Use Cases defined, and then you can look at the suitable tools you may need to deploy.

Hope this helps.

OpenText PRIME

My approach would be if a client already invested in Office 365 they already done half of the maybe may even more than half. I would add a workflow tool on that and have a powerful system that uses what they already have and the cost would be minimal than putting an entire system.

There are tools that are very powerful in Workflow Automation like Nintex, check it out. Also getting a partner that will help you get going is important someone who has done this with the tools that you have. Nintex not only runs with SharePoint you can also run it on it’s own and connect to your existing SharePoint if you have it. Check Nintex – Advanced Workflow and Intelligent Process Automation

If you read my comment you will see that I already brought up Nintex and others like it.


Marsha, I can’t say it any better than AIIM when it comes to developing a plan for implementating a large enterprise ECM solution. The real question becomes how your customer plans to measure success? What are the KPIs and what are the short and long term goals of the origanization? Well defined goals helps to establish clear priorities. As Jack Welch, former GE CEO, used to say, it all boils down to business velocity.

Sample KPI categories
Improved ROA, inventory control, and risk management
Increased Sales / Operating Revenues
Reduction in Days Outstanding, Headcount, or Legal Expenditures
Faster Time to Market, Shipping, Onboarding, and/or Contract Administration
Source AIIM > “Digital Transformation in Action 21 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW”
Mom was right. Before you do anything, clean your room!
A unified information strategy is not a luxury.
Focus, focus, focus. And then focus some more.
Remember that simple is hard.
Find a trusted partner that will listen and is excited about your journey.
Leverage the technology you already use.
Think BIG, start small, grow steadily.

Konica Minolta USA PRIME

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