Basic Workflow Configuration Points Using EPM Live's Ideation App

With EPM Live’s newest native bundled app – the Ideation App – your business has a head start to being able to capture, evaluate and promote individual creativity from idea to concept to project, thus netting a benefit for your company. The Ideation App provides the basic ideation framework that any organization needs to either implement a process for the first time or automate an existing process.

This blog is meant to highlight the technical design and configuration points in this bundled app, which has transferrable concepts to other EPM Live apps. Specifically, I’ll focus in on the workflow templates that come with the bundled app so that you can get a handle on how you might modify this particular bundled app, as well as other list apps with workflow templates that EPM Live provides.

Ideation Process Overview

First, let’s take a quick look at the overall process that the EPM Live native-bundled Ideation App follows: 

Understanding at least the high-level process is a key to successful automation using workflow. We use three workflows in this bundled app to automate the copying of list data and count votes that users submit.

Now, let’s look at the technical pieces which make the Ideation App a great starting point, regardless of process maturity:

  1. Idea list app
    • Fields, views and two workflows
  2. Concept list app
    • Fields, views, and one workflow
  3. A field added to the Resource Pool
  4. Assumption of Project list app

Since I am using our Ideation app as the example for covering workflow configuration points, it’s important to be aware of all the pieces included in the app design. This is true of any list or bundled app which you want to modify.

Okay – the overview is covered. Let’s talk tech.

1 – the Idea list app

The out of box (OOB) data entry form in the Idea list app is extremely simple yet highly configurable. If you’ve already taken the administrative training courses for list app configuration, you will know how to modify the fields and views provided, and I’m not covering those concepts here.

For fun, let’s see what data is captured in the Idea list:

Idea list new form

Title, Category, Detailed Description and Followers are initially available. These four are a great base on which to build! Of course, you can add new fields, or hide existing fields, but keep in mind that modifying the field configuration may also require the Idea to Concept workflow to be adjusted, since we are copying list data programatically.

In this particular bundled app, you need to associate two workflow templates that came with the app to the list in order to get the process flowing.  You can use these basic steps with any EPM Live app that contains workflow templates.

To associate a workflow template to the list, go to the List tab, and then List Settings, Workflow Settings.  Select the Add a workflow link. 

Add a Workflow to a list app

(In a real life implementation of this bundled app, you would add two workflows to this list from the templates provided, which are Idea to Concept and Vote on Idea. For the purposes of this blog I am only demonstrating one of the workflows being added.)

Here’s a screenshot of the Idea to Concept workflow template being associated to the list:

Associating a workflow template to a list app

You can see that the workflow publisher designed it so that this workflow can only be run when an item is changed (not on create). If you wanted to change the allowable run options, you need to modify the workflow template via SharePoint Designer (SPD) and then publish it out to the site. That is true for any workflow template that comes with an app: you can always modify the allowable run options in the template and re-publish it to suit your design requirements.

Getting back to associating the workflow template, once I click OK, the workflow template is associated to my list with the name I gave it:

You can also see there are a few new options on this workflow settings page, which you can use to administer and monitor the workflows on the list going forward. If you are not familiar with the workflow settings page, take a minute to navigate to and explore it in one of your list apps.

I mentioned earlier that you will need SharePoint Designer (SPD) to modify the workflow template. Here’s a quick shot of the Idea to Concept workflow design from SPD. Step 1 is where the number of votes threshold is configured and set to the value 3 (highlighted below). If you want a greater or lesser number of votes on an idea before it is automatically promoted to a concept, update the value in the first If statement.

Idea to Concept workflow design

You can also see that the design of this workflow is very straightforward. The logic goes like this: once the Idea is modified (which it will be when a user votes), the count of votes goes up. When the field containing the vote number reaches the threshold set in the workflow, the data is copied to the concept list, and a flag is set on the Idea item so that it doesn’t keep getting copied over even if the vote count continues to increase.

If you wanted to change fields that get copied over from Idea to Concept, you would do that in SharePoint Designer as well.

Another key technical piece to making the process work is the Idea list app workflow Vote on Idea. That’s where the voting magic happens. Basically, the Vote on Idea workflow checks the field that was added to the Resource Pool (which has the allocated number of votes a user has) and if they have at least 1 vote, it runs through adding the Vote to the Idea item and subtracting it from the user’s available votes.

Assuming you already associated the workflow template to your list, you can easily add a Vote button to the ribbon for users to leverage. I’m not going to cover adding a button to the ribbon in this post, but will post on it in the future.

Please note: we included email notifications to the Idea creator in each workflow. So, each time a user gives a vote to the idea, the creator knows about it. Each time an Idea gets promoted to a Concept, the creator gets notified. If you don’t want email notifications from the workflow going out, you need to remove the action line for “then Email CurrentItem:CreatedBy” in each of the workflow templates and publish the change to your site app.

As a best practice, remove any previous versions from your list app using the Workflow Settings page shown above after making changes. A version will be created each time the workflow is changed and published to the site app.

 

2 – the Concept list app

The Concept list app contains the same basic technical pieces as the Idea list, so I won’t bore you with repetition. The main thing to know about making configuration changes to this list is that the out of box fields are already included in the Concept to Project workflow, which copies list data to the Project list.

Take a look at the details of the “Create new list item” workflow action that we have configured for Concept to Project

Concept to Project OOB mapping
 

Any changes to the list app fields would need to be reflected in the workflow action. Also, you could send the data to a totally different list than “Project Center” (Projects). Simply draw out a map of the data fields from the Concepts list app to the list app of your choice, and then edit the workflow in SPD so that it pushes the fields to the correct list (and fields) for your design requirements.

 

3 – the  Field added to the Resource Pool

The field added into the Resource Pool configuration contains a parameter that specifies the user’s available number of votes (the field is called IdeaVotes and is a number type data field). The number of available votes is automatically reduced by the Vote on Idea workflow in the Idea list app.

Modifications to this piece of functionality could include stripping it out entirely (by removing the workflow action via SPD), or increasing/decreasing the number of votes each user has by updating the IdeaVotes value in the Resource Pool.  To update the value, edit the resource and change the number stored in the IdeaVotes column.

 

4 – the Assumption of Project list app

The Ideation App will put Concepts that are promoted to projects into your existing portfolio in the Project list app by default, but all that is configured inside the workflow.  I mentioned briefly in covering technical piece #2 that you can adjust the workflow in the Concepts list to go to any list app – it’s simply a matter of planning the data mapping so that you are capturing what you want and sending it to where it needs to be to meet your business needs.

So really, the Ideation bundled app design doesn’t require the Project list app – it just assumes it for out of box functionality. With a few quick modifications in the Concept to Project workflow, you can easily use any list app of your choice. 😎

 

That’s it for the basics of using EPM Live’s workflow templates that come with apps. The concepts mentioned around modifying workflow templates for Ideation are transferrable across EPM Live list apps and bundled apps, so I hope you find them helpful.

Whether your company is starting off in Ideation process, just checking out the apps EPM Live offers, or taking your site app to the next level, we’re glad you’re choosing EPM Live to empower your business for success!