Purchase Request Workflow Automation | A SharePoint Case Study

Purchase Request Workflow Automation | A SharePoint Case Study

A common issue with enterprise is how to reliably control, track & audit purchasing. Small to medium enterprise generally do not use expensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that allow for approvals of orders, and larger organisations may not feel that the cost associated with licencing ERP for all users is worthwhile.

With Office 365 & SharePoint we can build forms & workflow around many processes. Moving these out of hard-to-track emails or paper forms for anyone with an Office 365 licence.

A recent Forsythes Technology client implementation of this was a Purchase Order (PO) request application to replace current excel based forms following a string of issues with over-ordering and miss-ordering. By integrating into the clients accounting application and controlling the approval workflows we ensured that any ordering outside of defined parameters are being flagged to the required staff.

The PO application in this case displays a list of all current purchase orders, their status and the ability to quickly filter down via selected columns. The security setup also ensures that end users can only see their own orders while administrators or finance staff can view and access everything.

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Figure 1 - The Purchase Order Request Application

The request form itself all required fields that indicates to users what is needed to produce a valid request, helping reduce time wasted chasing down important information.

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Figure 2 - The purchase order form. Required fields are indicated by a red '*'

Users can add multiple items to a request and input quantities, with a running total calculated on the fly for easy feedback. Any changes made to the form during the process are captured by SharePoint’s versioning system and can easily be checked to see what changes were made, when and by who.

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Figure 3 - The current list of items to be ordered showing the price and quantity as well as the total at the bottom

Upon submitting a form, we utilise Microsoft Flow (Microsoft’s cloud-based workflow engine) to initiate one or more approval processes in the background. The workflow, in this case, directs the approval based on the site location and several costing thresholds. The approver can then action the request directly from their email or mobile.

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Figure 4 – An example flow approval email that an approver might receive

The approval contains all the required information for the approver to make an informed decision, though if needed, it also contains a link to the form to view & edit. When actioning a request, the approver may add a comment and either approve or deny the request. The user that created the purchase order will then receive a notification with the result and any comments. If the purchase order is approved the details are then forwarded to finance for processing. Finally, as we are capturing information around the creation, approval and content of the approvals within SharePoint we can easily add business intelligence on top of the data using Microsoft Power BI to extract important and meaningful reports.

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Figure 5 - Sample generated report data from Power BI

If you’re interested in seeing how our SharePoint team can automate your processes and workflows please get in touch! 1300 766 661