How do I – Add an Approval Workflow to my SharePoint list

Written by Cornelius J. van Dyk on . Posted in How Do I...

Approval workflows come with SharePoint 2010 as an Out of the Box workflow that allows for some quick, customizable management of approval processes.  Here’s how to activate and use these powerful workflows:

  1. Navigate to your target list.
  2. On the ribbon, click the “List” tab.
  3. Depending on your screen resolution, the “Workflow Settings” option should appear to the far right of the ribbon.  On lower resolution screens, the wording may not appear and instead only a small version of the icon would be visible.  If you are unable to locate “Workflow Settings in the ribbon at all, navigate to it via the “List Settings” option instead.
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  5. Click “Workflow Settings”.
  6. On the Workflow Settings page, click the “Add a worflow” link under the “Workflows” section.
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  8. If you notice a limited number of workflows like “Three-state” and possibly “Disposition Approval”, but no “Approval” workflow, then it means that your site collection workflow Feature is not enabled.
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  10. Click “Site Actions” on the ribbon in the top left of the page.
  11. On the dropdown menu, click “Site Settings”.
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  13. On the Site Settings page, click “Site collection features” under the Site Collection Administration section.
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  15. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the Features list.
  16. Locate the Workflows Feature.
  17. The button to the right of the Feature should say “Activate”.
  18. Click the “Activate” button.
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  20. Once the Feature has been activated, the button should say “Deactivate”.
  21. There should also be a label to the right of the button that reads “Active”.
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  23. With your site collection Feature now activated, navigate back to your list in question.
  24. Navigate back to the workflow settings of the list in question.
  25. [***TIME SAVING TIP***]  You can simply use your browser’s back button to navigate directly to the page titled “Workflow Settings”.
  26. Now click the “Add a workflow” link again.
  27. This time you should see more workflows in the “Select a workflow template:” section.
  28. Scroll down and select the “Approval – SharePoint 2010” workflow.
  29. In the name field, type a name for your new workflow.  NOTE: This name will be used as the column name for status values in the list view so you don’t want this name to be too lengthy.
  30. In the Task List field, by default, SharePoint will select the “Tasks” list for you.  This list was created when you activated the Workflows Feature on the site collection in Steps 10-22.  You can change this selection through the provided dropdown or you can even create an entirely new tasks list via the dropdown.  The choice is yours.
  31. In the History List field, by default SharePoint will select the “Workflow History” lists for you.  As was the case with the Tasks list, this list was automatically created when you activated the Workflows Features on the site collection.  Again, you have the option of selecting a different workflow history list or creating an new one via the dropdown.
  32. In the Start Options section, the “Allow this workflow to be manually started by an authenticated user with Edit Item permissions.” option is checked by default.  This option simply means that anyone who can modify items in this list, can manually start an approval workflow on an item.  In many cases, you may with to disable this by unchecking the box.
  33. The secondary check box titled “Require Manage List Permissions to start the workflow.” allows you to limit manual starting of the workflow only to list managers/designers.  This allows the workflow to still be manually started, but normal users who can only modify items in the list, would not have the required permissions to do so.
  34. The next check box titled “Start this workflow to approve publishing a major version of an item.” will be disabled (grayed out) unless you have Version History configured on the list with both major and minor versions.
  35. The next check box titled “Start this workflow when a new item is created.” is the most frequently used.  When this is checked, any creation of a new item, will result in the workflow being started.
  36. The next check box titled “Start this workflow when an item is changed.” allows the workflow to be terminated if something is modified in the item while the workflow is running, and then restarting the workflow from the top.  It is a good idea to check this box in most workflow cases.
  37. Once you have configured your options on this page, click the “Next” button at the bottom.
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  39. On the final configuration page, we get to configure the who and when of the workflow.
  40. In the Approvers section, you can add people/groups to who the approval task is assigned.  Since people change jobs and responsibilities all the time, it’s a good idea to create a site security group for the approvers here.  In our example, we are using a security group called “My Approvers List”.  The members of the group would be all the people who can approve items in this list.  NOTE:  In addition to the approvers configured here, anyone with administrator or owner rights over either the list, the site on which the list resides or the collection in which the site on which the list resides, will also have the ability to approve tasks in this workflow directly.  That is why best practices dictate that administrators should be carefully selected and careful consideration should be given any time the number of administrators exceed two.
  41. By default, the “Expand Groups” check box is checked.  This is only applicable when you are adding security groups to the Approvers list above and it means that if our security group contains three people, each person would be assigned the approval task.
  42. The “Request” field contains custom text you wish to have appear in the task assignment email that is sent to the approvers.
  43. The “Due Date for All Tasks” field is very seldom used due to its fixed nature and it allows you to select a specific due date for tasks.
  44. The “Duration Per Task” and “Duration Units” fields work together and is the preferred way to configure task due dates.  In our example, we are giving task assignees 3 days to act on the tasks.
  45. The CC field allows you to copy managers or interested parties on the assignment emails.
  46. The “End of First Rejection” check box controls what happens if any one of the approvers rejects the item.  When checked, it will terminate the workflow in a rejected state.
  47. The “End on Document Change” check box which is also checked by default, terminates the workflow if any changes is made to the item while in a pending state.
  48. The “Enable Content Approval” check box functions in cooperation with the Content Approval settings on the list or library.  When checked, the new item or document will automatically become visible to all users if the approval completes.
  49. Once you’ve configured the workflow behavior, click the “Save” button.
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  51. Congratulations!  You’ve now configured an Approval workflow on your list or library.


Cheers
C




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Cornelius J. van Dyk

Born and raised in South Africa during the 70's I got my start in computers when a game on my Sinclair ZX Spectrum crashed, revealing it's BASIC source code. The ZX had a whopping 48K of memory which was considered to be a lot in the Commodore Vic20 era, but more importantly, it had BASIC built into the soft touch keyboard. Teaching myself to program, I coded my first commercial program at age 15.

After graduating high school at 17, I joined the South African Air Force, graduating the Academy and becoming a Pilot with the rank of First Lieutenant by age 20. After serving my country for six years, I made my way back into computer software.

Continuing my education, I graduated Suma Cum Laude from the Computer Training Institute before joining First National Bank where my work won the Smithsonian Award for Technological Innovation in the field of Banking and Insurance. Soon I met Will Coleman from Amdahl SA, who introduced me to a little known programming language named Huron/ObjectStar. As fate would have it, this unknown language and Y2K brought me to the USA in 1998.

I got involved with SharePoint after playing around with the Beta for SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Leaving my career at Rexnord to become a consultant in 2004, I was first awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award for SharePoint in 2005, becoming only the 9th MVP for WSS at the time. I fulfilled a life long dream by pledging allegiance to the Flag as a US citizen in 2006. I met the love of my life and became a private consultant in 2008. I was honored to receive my ninth MVP award for SharePoint Server in 2013.

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