SharePoint workflow by nature is document centric in that you have to have a 'thing'; A object for the workflow to run on. This object can be a document, form or simple list item but this thing has to exist as the anchor and context of the workflow.

What I've started thinking about is a more abstract sort of workflow and how it would be useful in SharePoint. Workflows are user driven processes after all but the workflow or business process might want to trigger on an event instead of a user needing something done. So perhaps an accident happens for example. The event might be manual or automatic creation of an accident list item. Now the process will need to have a set of official forms filled in by various people. This is where I find SharePoint limiting me with it's document centric nature.

Typical workflows are about the document, like getting it approved or reviewed or some such. In this case the workflow needs to create new documents, InfoPath forms perhaps. Using task forms within the workflow gets part of the way in getting users to complete the forms. The problem here is that the forms are tucked away in a task list now and referenced only within the workflow summery. These are official documents in their own right and need to be easily accessible. So perhaps copy these completed documents into separate libraries but then some link will need to exist back to help the user find other related documents generated in the workflow.

I find that all this rapidly gets messy in trying to retrofit this different type of workflow into SharePoint. There are ways and means but I can't find anything ideal, or even just something I'm semi happy with. I'm hoping that people could answer with ways they can think of for using a workflow to drive further document creation and have the trail and links between these documents clearly visable to any particular user but accessible outside to the business outside the context of the workflow if needs be.


Perhaps you can have a look at how they implemented Site Workflows in SharePoint 2010 as that appears to be identical to what you are after.


It sounds as if you've never explored the workflow developer in SharePoint Designer, just the workflows available through the browser interface. If you develop workflows in SP Designer, you can do many more abstract things than just create a task. I have developed workflows that populate a list or update existing list items, send notifications to various users, verify data entry, etc. And while you still must attach an SPD workflow to a specific list (or library), it functions much more like an abstract workflow than what you can access through the browser. The list serves to hold the data the workflow is initiated from as well as the data generated by the workflow.

To get started with SPD workflows, take a look at these two pages published on MSDN:

NOTE: This information applies to SharePoint 2007.

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