We recently had a close encounter with an Approval Workflow. We started out in our current SharePoint ECM project with a requirement that “some reports be routed for a supervisor or subject matter expert review.” We control this routing from a related list of people and facilities where the requirement for this special routing can be designated. During a discussion, after a few weeks of using the system, someone observed that “all reports should have a peer review.” This presented us with the opportunity to eliminate a complex workflow task and simply turn on the Content Approval settings in this library. On closer examination, we decided against taking that step.
Too Soon – This requirement popped-up outside of the analysis process that led us to the first solution. This is precisely the kind of feedback that needs to be logged, discussed and considered during the Post-implementation Review that we are planning to conduct. This is not the kind of change you implement immediately upon hearing it as a suggestion.
Too Formal – Requiring approval raises a task to a level of formality that simply may not be required. In some cases, the normal working relationships between the people involved are such that the documents in question are being reviewed, perhaps several times, before they are submitted. Adding an approval process in one of these cases is redundant at best and insulting at worst. Simply put, the more rigid a process is, the more it seems like you don’t trust the people involved to be able to use their brains.
QC vs. Control – There is a fine line between controlling content and controlling the quality of content. Requiring approval before documents can be added is a great way to keep unrelated documents out of a library that has a specific purpose. In our case, every document being created in this library belongs there, the department head is simply trying to make sure the documents represent the best effort his employees are capable of producing. That goal is better achieved through cooperative control mechanisms than through arbitrary control mechanisms.
Unlike the task of validating data in an input form, the goal of improving quality in a document is subjective, and is often achieved via a deft hand or a subtle approach. We need to make sure our content management solutions support, encourage and facilitate that process. #SharePoint
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