Optimizing the SharePoint 2013 Approval Process

Including how to create a link directly to the edit form of the requested item

Although there is a built-in approval process for SharePoint 2013 in SharePoint Designer 2013, I prefer not to use it. On approval processes I create for Fpweb.net, the approval occurs directly on the list item’s form. There are any number of reasons for doing this, but the best one — the real reason — is that it makes it easy on the users. And anytime it’s easier on the user, it’s ultimately easier on the administrator!

Once such approval process is a standard requisition request. Basically, an employee submits a request, an Approver approves or denies the request, and then procurement orders the item. Nothing too complex here and pretty standard fare for any business.

I could use SharePoint’s approval process and it would work just fine. Meaning, it would accomplish the primary goal of requiring a manager to approve an item before it is ordered.

But in order to make it as easy as possible for all users involved, I decided the approval process should occur directly on the form.

This allows the details of the request to be seen with minimal effort at any point during the process. The Approver can see the employee’s initial request and any details captured in the form (suggested vendor, estimated price, reason, etc). In addition to all this, procurement can also see who approved the item and the date of the approval. And this can be done in one form, making everyone’s life easier.

I’m not going into details about creating the requisition library, the corresponding content type (because you do use content types, right?), and the basic requisition form.

That’s all pretty standard stuff. Here’s a high-level overview of what I did to make the approval process occur directly on the form. I may go into details on various parts of this process in future blog posts.

How to Add Approval Process to the Form in SharePoint 2013:

  1. Create the requisition form
  2. Add an approval section to the form (Fields: Approved By, Approved/Rejected drop-down, Approval Date)
  3. Create a choice field on the form called Approval Status (These are the following choices: Submitted, Awaiting Approval, Awaiting Order, Awaiting Receiving)
  4. Add views to the requisition form (Views: Submitted, Approved, Ordered)
  5. Create the workflow to put it all together

Simple, right? Really, it’s not too difficult. I’ll probably cover some of the above details in future posts, but what I want to share in this post is how to create a link directly to the edit form of the requested item. Why do this?

Because when an email is sent to either the manager or procurement, you can save them time and headaches by providing them with a link that takes them directly to the item’s edit form where they can quickly do what they need to do.

This seems like a minor detail, but it’s one that your users will appreciate. Instead of opening the email and then clicking the task that opens the SharePoint task and then clicking the related items link and then going back to the task item and selecting whether to approve or reject the item open in the other window, the user simply has to click a link that navigates directly to the request form. On this form they can view the details of the request and then choose whether to accept or reject the item.

Oddly (or not so oddly, depending on your experience with SharePoint workflow), there is no built-in Lookup to navigate directly to the edit view of a specific list item.

So how do you do it then?

How to Navigate Directly to the Edit Form in SharePoint:

In SharePoint Designer, I add an action to assign a task to the employee’s manager (the Approver).

Assign a task in SharePoint Designer

In the task details, use a Lookup similar to the following:

SharePoint Designer String Builder

Building the string…

So it’s basically the URL to the list and then append “/editform.aspx?id=” (without quotes), and then click the Add or Change Lookup button.

Choose the current Item ID as shown below:

SharePoint Designer Current Item ID Lookup

Current Item ID Lookup

Create this Lookup in either the Description section or the Email Editor of the task details.

Now when the email is sent to the Approver, they have to click the link (only one click), choose whether to approve or reject the item, and click Save. Simple, easy, and most of all, unobtrusive.

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About Matt Milsark

At Fpweb.net, Matt builds many of our clients' environments as well as supports and maintains them. These range from a simple dedicated single server to large multi-server SharePoint farms. Because of the sheer number of clients we have and the myriad of ways they use SharePoint, Matt has become intimately familiar with many aspects of SharePoint. Matt warns, "SharePoint is a beast. You may think you’re an expert at SharePoint, only to find out later you’re an expert at merely a small aspect of the beast's capabilities." Matt is also passionate about vinyl records. Check out his music site at lplives.com.
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7 Responses to Optimizing the SharePoint 2013 Approval Process

  1. Pingback: SharePoint Headache: Change in 'Wait for Field Change'

  2. Martha says:

    Hi, i have read your post and this is what i wanted to come up with. But i am still getting the link into a display form.

  3. Steve Ragen says:

    Hello. I thought this to be true and it may be some issue on my workflow but I seem to have two ID variables and I am unable to find the correct one. For instance when I click Edit Item, I see this link which is what I’d like to put into an automated email — https://mysite.sharepoint.com/sites/Dev/EOS/_layouts/15/start.aspx#/Lists/Workflow%20Tasks/EditForm.aspx?ID=346

    But I cannot for the life of me find this “346”. for me it is not Current Item:ID. For this particular item, Current Item:ID=123. No variable anywhere that I can find is the higher range of numbers. Would you have a clue as to where I can locate this? Everywhere I reference Current Item:ID it is the lower range of numbers…

    Thanks!

  4. Luis Duran says:

    It appears that when you have the Workflow create a task for you, there is no way to get the tasked, which would be required to create a link to the EditForm passing it the TaskID as a parameter.
    I got around thins by creating a new default DisplayForm and having it redirect to the EditForm when it opens. Only problem is that whenever you go to the task, you will be in edit mode unless you link to the original DispForm.aspx. Small price to pay I think.

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  7. Sune Pedersen says:

    I would love to see this in a step by step guide

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