SharePoint Tip of the Month

Increase User Adoption with a SharePoint User Request Portal

February 2015

“Where was that form again?”

“I can never find what I need when I need it!”

“It takes me so long to figure out where I need to go to submit my request in SharePoint. It’s easier to just do it the old way.”

Have you heard any of these comments from your users regarding your SharePoint implementation?

We all know that SharePoint is a powerful platform that lends itself to a wide variety of applications – from corporate communications portals to document management systems to intranets, extranets, and everything in between.

Sometimes the focus is placed so heavily on the technical specifics of creating the portal, that the end user experience becomes an afterthought. After months of envisioning, deploying, and tweaking to get this shiny new SharePoint environment up and running, you know exactly where everything is and are confident your business users will love it – after all, it’s going to make their lives so much easier!

But your own familiarity can make it easy to lose sight of the fact that this is brand new for your users and even if all the tools are there, they may not instinctively know where to go and how to leverage everything that you have put in place for them. With all of the effort your SharePoint team has put in to creating this powerful new space, wouldn’t it be a shame if your users didn’t use it simply because they couldn’t easily find what they were after?

One of our clients, Applied Technical Services (ATS) addressed this issue by implementing a User Request Portal, a one-stop-shop to give users a single point of access to all forms they might need to perform daily work functions as well as manage personal requests, such as PTO and Expenses.

To achieve this, we have created ATS-LIMS (Lab Information Management System), a subsite of the corporate intranet. The ATS-LIMS landing page serves as a hub for users to access forms as well as view up to date status information for all requests they have submitted and workflow tasks assigned to them.

Landing Page

The landing page leverages a new SharePoint 2013 out-of-the-box list type called Promoted Links. The Promoted Links list allows you to display a set of links in a tile based visual layout. So, instead of seeing a long list of links on a page, our users are able to interact with a much more dynamic view of available options. With the Promoted Links list, you are able to specify various options, such as an image to display in the tile, title and description text, as well as URL and launch behavior for when a user clicks on the tile (i.e. in page, new tab, or dialog). While the Promoted Links can be a great option for linking to external links, in this instance, we are linking to various internal request forms.

When a user clicks on one of the tiles from the landing page, a form is launched to capture all applicable information regarding the request. We are leveraging Nintex Forms to customize each of our request forms, which allows us to easily accommodate for specific validation as well as custom layout and design to ensure brand integrity and keep in line with the overall style of the ATS corporate intranet.

Request Form

Each request form is tied to a SharePoint list in the ATS-LIMS site, which serves as an intake list. When a user submits the form, a new item is created in the corresponding intake list and a Nintex workflow routes the data collected to a list or library in an appropriate department site.

From there, additional custom Nintex workflows have been designed and implemented to automate processes and meet specific business needs to route each item throughout the organization as needed – through a series of approvals, assigning tasks to remind users to perform manual operations, and even automatically sending email correspondence to external users.

In addition to the tiles, which provide quick access to request forms on the landing page, we are also leveraging two Nintex Workflow web parts – My Workflow Tasks and Workflows I’ve Started – to round out the one-stop-shop experience. Not only can users submit new requests, they can also reference the landing page for an aggregated view of real-time status information for all requests they have submitted as well as those that are pending their interaction, such as an approval task.

With the implementation of a hub like we have at ATS, users don’t have to think about the processes they are kicking off or spend half the day hunting to locate the form they need to submit a request. They can simply bookmark the portal landing page and with only a few clicks, workflows are off and running, your users are happy, and your SharePoint implementation can finally begin to reach its full potential.

This SharePoint Tip of the Month contributed by Abel Solutions Senior SharePoint Consultant Nicole Prestby.