Using SharePoint When You Have Unstructured Business Processes

SharePoint lets you use workflows, but you can’t create a workflow unless you have a defined, structured process. What do you do with undefined processes? ActionBase for Microsoft SharePoint is a task management solution that answers that question, letting you track and control dynamic human processes for a group within the SharePoint working environment. It provides the missing link between SharePoint and the ad hoc, unstructured processes that take place in email and documents, particularly processes that require follow-up and delegation and follow-through, processes that even with SharePoint workflows in place can fall through the cracks.

Eyal Maor of ActionBase explains more about unstructured processes: “Audits and investigations don’t always have a well-defined workflow, for example. There’s a lot of back and forth in process via email before findings and recommendations appear in Excel documents. Each review can end up with 10 to 20 findings to follow up,” that can total, he says, in the thousands.

ActionBase can work with Outlook and other applications and turn an email into a process. “When you send email, you don’t have a tracking mechanism unless they reply. You lose track or get in a chain reaction of emails. Once we assign an action for a process, we collect all emails, turn that into an “action mail” with defined due dates and targets. If I want to see what is happening, I can see email broken down into various correspondent items, I can track them, they can be consolidated into one message and one view, with all the related information and attachments.”

“In documents we do the same thing. Minutes or contracts for example, you can mark and start creating an action process that will be populated to others. People will be able to see documents in email if they need to see them or otherwise will just receive tasks to complete. You are allowed to see all processes below you and you know where processes above you came from. You get an action from executive management, you see where it came from, say a meeting, but you don’t see the document from the meeting, just that you were assigned an action and then you can see all the actions you do and the actions you assign. You can start a new action by yourself, too, if you don’t want upper management to see it, and assign and delegate tasks.” To explain how ActionBase could be used, Maor offered several scenarios:

  • Place an ActionBase Web Part at a MySite, so a group could create and assign and show and view items as well as collaborate and assign tasks based off of email messages.
  • A global decision-making site in SharePoint using Action Base, where a group of executives could view all actions on a website and get action-based reports that include email.
  • An audit tracking solution where one site is for audit management and has all the consolidated reports of audits and assigned actions and in the SharePoint site you can view all items and can prioritize items and actions. The SharePoint site could then reflect changes in realtime project status from emails. You could drill down and see all the updates and correspondence and related documents.
  • Convert an email Inbox to an action and route complaints to it and automatically transfer email to the proper recipients and run reports to ensure follow-up.

“It started as a project for Intel. We needed something to manage actions on projects. It developed and expanded to manage action items such as meetings and follow-ups to meetings,” Maor says. “There are many, many use cases. Microsoft told us, ‘You guys are managing the conversation.’” To learn more about ActionBase, visit their website.

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