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Recurring Tasks Management with SharePoint Workflows

A SharePoint tutorial by Peter Kalmstrom

Many companies have a number of subscriptions that need to be renewed at different times. Most vendors send out reminders when it is time for the renewal, but you get better control and overview if you have an efficient renewal system of your own. SharePoint workflows may well be used for that.

In the demo below Peter Kalmstrom, CEO of kalmstrom.com Business Solutions and Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist and trainer, shows how to make SharePoint create a renewal task for the responsible person two weeks before the subscription expires. A subscription list, two workflows and a retention setting is needed for this to work.

This setup may of course be used for other events than subscription renewals. It can be applied to all scenarios where you need to give a reminder for a recurring event.

Regretfully a SharePoint 2013 workflow cannot be started by a retention stage as described in step 4 below, so it is necessary to make the second workflow a SharePoint 2010 workflow.

Also the first workflow may very well be SharePoint 2010, and the whole Tip works in SharePoint 2010 too, even if Peter uses SharePoint 2013 in his demo.

These are the steps:
  1. Create a custom SharePoint list where the subscriptions are stored
    This can be done in SharePoint, but as Peter will use SharePoint Designer for the workflows he also creates the list here.
    1. SharePoint Designer iconIn SharePoint Designer, select Lists and Libraries
      and press the Custom List button in the ribbon
    2. Give the list a name and click OK
    3. Open the new list and click the link Edit list columns
    4. Press the Add New Column button in the ribbon and add a Date and Time column for the Expiry date
    5. Open the column and set the default value to None
    6. Add a Date and Time column for Renewal date and set the default value to None (this date will be set by the first workflow)
    7. Add a Person or Group column for the responsible person
    8. Save the list

  2. Create a SharePoint workflow that sets the renewal date
    1. Press the List Workflow button in the SharePoint Designer ribbon to create a new workflow, 2013 or 2010.
    2. Give the workflow a name and click OK
    3. Set the Transition to stage to "End of Workflow"
    4. Click the workflow name and set the workflow to start automatically when an item is created
    5. Click the Edit workflow link to continue editing the workflow
    6. At Stage 1, enter Add Time to Date and add a calculation of -14 from the lookup Expiry date
    7.  Create a new variable and give it a name (Peter calls it MyRenewalDate)
    8. Set the field Renewal to the new variable
    9. Publish the workflow

  3. Create a SharePoint workflow that creates a renewal task for the responsible person
    1. Press the List Workflow button in the SharePoint Designer ribbon and create a new SharePoint 2010 workflow
    2. Set the action to Assign a To-do Item
    3. Click the to-do link and create the task
    4. Assign the task to the Responsible
    5. Publish the workflow

  4. Set the time when the renewal task workflow should be run
    1. SharePoint logoIn SharePoint, open the List settings for the custom list you created in step 1
    2. Open the Information management policy settings under Permissions and Management
    3. Open the default Item Content Type and Enable Retention
    4. Click the Add a retention stage link and set it to Renewal + 0 days
    5. Set the action when the stage is triggered to Run a workflow and select the workflow you created in step 3
In the demonstration Peter also removes a workflow variable and hides a list column. Both are created automatically but are not necessary for the performance. You may leave these part untouched if you so wish.

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