So, one area that Microsoft seems to leave totally in the hands of 3rd party companies is the whole document capture and scanning piece when it comes to workflow. So what is the best way to take paper, and kick it into a SharePoint workflow? There are several companies that provide this whole piece, and give great onramping capabilities to any scanner so you can bring scanned images into a SharePoint Workflow:
PSIGEN makes a fantastic application that is not only good for SharePoint Scanning and Capture, but it also supports 49 other output formats. This is the most capable of all the SharePoint scanning apps, and supports everything from handwritten text recognition, barcoding, and even extraction of information through regular expressions.
Konowledgelake is a player in the document scanning play with SharePoint, and they focus solely on this platform. They seem to have very light capture capabilities, and bundle other vendor software, ReadSoft, in to extend their capabilities.
This company has a very simple scanning application that works through the SharePoint web interface, and provides a great flow for low volume scanning into workflows.
There are a ton of other options for scanning into workflows, and many of the large scanning companies have made feeble attempts to give you an onramp into SharePoint like Kofax, EMC and others. Making workflows digital with SharePoint will require some sort of paper conversion platform, and these will help you automate even more business process within your company.
SharePoint Workflow and Automation
SharePoint Workflows help employees to collaborate on and share documents and to manage project tasks by implementing digital business processes on documents and items in a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007/2010 site. Workflows provide standardization to help organizations to adhere to consistent and repeatable business processes, and they also improve organizational efficiency and productivity through the use of technology. This enables the people who perform these tasks to concentrate on performing the work rather than managing the workflow. Workflow can provide even more efficiency when coupled with a SharePoint Scanning and Capture process, with an effort to digitally image paper documents.
To be a little more complete in the definition, workflow is sometimes defined as a group of tasks that produce a desired outcome. If you place the discussion of workflow into Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies, workflow can be defined in a more narrow sense as the automated movement of documents or items through a sequence of desired steps or tasks that are related to a business process or function. Workflows can be used to provide a consistent and standardized process, and to manage common business processes within an company or organization by enabling the entity to attach business logic to documents or items in a SharePoint list or library. Business logic is basically a set of instructions that specifies and controls the actions that happen to a document or item.
Workflows can streamline the process and time required to deploy, manage and coordinate common business processes, such as project document approval or document review, by automating and tracking the human tasks involved within these processes. For example, in an Office SharePoint Server 2010 site, you can add a workflow to a document library that routes a document to a set group of people for approval. When the document author starts this workflow on a document in that library, the workflow creates document approval tasks, assigns these tasks to the workflow participants, and then sends e-mail alerts to the participants with task instructions and a link to the document to be approved. While the workflow is in progress, the workflow owner (in this case, the document author) or the workflow participants can check the Workflow Status page to see which participants have completed their workflow tasks. When the workflow participants complete their assigned workflow tasks, the workflow ends, and the workflow owner is automatically notified that the workflow has been finished.
Taking SharePoint Workflow beyond the basic capabilities of business process automation without the need for a full time developer can require additional software. Below are the options on the market:
Nintex is a leading global innovator of software that extends Microsoft SharePoint, bridging the gap between existing SharePoint features and customer needs. All Nintex products are designed with a passionate commitment to innovation and user experience. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Nintex aligns with Microsoft’s strategic and architectural direction to ensure that Nintex and Microsoft products work in harmony, both today and into the future.
Their Product development principles include:
- Deliver great value in SharePoint Workflows;
- Build products that are quick and easy to implement;
- Build products that are second to none in terms of engineering excellence and product quality;
- Develop products that help companies and organizations to become more productive and efficient;
- Align technically and strategically with Microsoft product direction;
- Deliver true innovation through great ideas and continually investing in research and development;
Their vision is to build software and tools to enhance information sharing and collaboration across the Microsoft knowledge workplace.
Skelta SharePoint Workflow and BPM - Skelta SharePoint Accelerator is a full service BPM solution that seamlessly integrates Microsoft SharePoint™ with your business processes. It extends advanced BPM functionality to SharePoint to create a powerful integrated platform for collaboration, business intelligence, enterprise content management and strategic business solutions.
Skelta SharePoint Workflow Accelerator is business user-friendly and facilitates creation of an automated BPM environment without significant investments in software development. Its powerful wizards provide the ability to create workflows that range from the simple to the very complex without programming knowledge.