SpeakingDIRECT readers know the value our internal teams have found in SharePoint, a workflow management tool that helps us improve workflow in real time and improve communication and collaboration between teams. In my last article, I mentioned a new front-end workflow at IWCO Direct, Order Acceptance—and I’d like to explain how we use SharePoint to manage that, too.
Integrating SharePoint Workflow Management into the Front-End
The Order Acceptance Board is an online order entry and tracking system. It provides our internal teams visibility to all client orders that need to be scheduled and planned for production, giving the right people the right access to projects that need to be moved forward.
Our long-term goal is to build an IT business system to integrate all of our intricate processes for the achievement of our business strategy. SharePoint’s workflow management interface allows us to rapidly prototype the concept of a larger system without expending valuable developer resources—even if it’s not the perfect end-state solution.
First, the project team provides input on what fields, workflow notifications, views, and features they need to make the order acceptance process smooth. Then our SharePoint Team can configure the team site to accommodate their requests in a matter of minutes or hours depending on the size of the request.
The way the Order Acceptance Board works is as follows:
- Account Team member submits the order.
- SharePoint automatically routes the order to Scheduling and Engineering.
- After Scheduling, Engineering, and potentially our Strategic Sourcing departments process the order, SharePoint automatically routes it to the Planning department.
- Planning plans the job and then validates the plan against the final art. Once validated, they close the order on SharePoint and Account Teams manage the job in our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from that point forward.
SharePoint’s workflow management features are perfect for a quick-turn solution like this. We created a user-friendly form using InfoPath and programmed automated email notifications using SharePoint Designer. Leveraging SharePoint’s out-of-the-box functionality is a best-practice, so we’ve limited the scope of the project to remain within the boundaries of SharePoint’s abilities.
We are prototyping the Order Acceptance Board first to validate its benefits before implementing it for the entire enterprise. We’ve seen a few of these benefits already, but these are a few of the main criteria we’re looking for before expanding the project:
- Single source-of-truth for checking the status of an order.
- Visual representation of how many orders are in any given status (e.g., To Be Scheduled, To Be Planned, Done, etc.).
- Smoother change management communication and less dependence on multiple back-and-forth emails.
- Organized work queue from which Planning can assign work to Planners, track cycle time, and see their workload at any given time.
- Organized work queue for Scheduling to see their workload at any given time.
- Automated and targeted email alerts—avoiding sending emails to people who do not need them.
The Only Thing Our Clients Will Notice: Faster, Better Communication
The Order Acceptance Board will ensure that client programs are scheduled and planned by executing a smooth process—starting with SharePoint’s workflow management ecosystem. Instead of relying on emails to communicate the status of these orders, our Account Teams will be able to access the information on their own within our intranet and answer client inquiries immediately.
We’re hoping for a full rollout later this year, once our teams have had time to measure its effectiveness and the benefits it brings to our front-end processes. Keep an eye on SpeakingDIRECT to follow along as this project is prototyped and rolled out to all the Account Teams.
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