Workflows: Productivity enhancers or death by Email alerts?

Workflows in SharePoint, we all love them, right? They automate busienss process and increase productivity, right? Well, yes, in most cases this is absolutely true. However what I’m finding is that more and more organisations are embracing 3rd party workflow tools such as Nintex/K2/etc. and using these technologies to a point that they’re becoming counter productive.

The number of email alerts created are making mailbox management an administrative nightmare (which is one of the primary reasons for organisations embracing collaboration tools in the first place).

Not only this but managing by email is dangerously risky.;

  • Staff miss and delete emails and tasks are missed and overrun thier intended due by dates.
  • Emails cause constant disruption to staff

Workflow Task Dashboards

As someone who has embraced Enterprise Social and someone who has personally experienced the postive effect it had in a work environment (inbound emails reduced by over 60% allowing me to focus on day to day tasks). The number of Workflow notifications and task alerts frustrates me to no end. My proposition to all you Solutions Architects, Solutions Consultants , Developers and BAs out there is to avoid workflow email notuifications at ALL costs.

Here are some design considerations when building your workflows and designing the overall solution architecture;

  1. Consider a digital dashboard which aggregates workflow tasks from all site collections in the farm into one location.
  2. Give users the power to subscribe or unsubscribe email notifications should they wish to
  3. The most obvious: use email notifications sparingly

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way knocking workflow, or Nintex, or K2, or business process automation for that matter, I just think we need to be smarter in our approach to design to ensure our attempts at increasing productivity don’t negatively imopact business users and their abilities.

Please feel free to comment, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts.


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