New study reveals progress level of workflow management under Microsoft SharePoint

Karlsruhe / Germany

Improved acceptance in response to company-wide use, customer satisfaction inadequate

Automating business processes is a crucial aspect of the digital transformation and the role played by Microsoft’s SharePoint workflow solutions continues to grow. A recently published study, conducted by GROUP Business Software (GBS), the Stuttgart Media University (Hochschule der Medien) and the specialist portal, examines the progress being made in the development of workflow tools and applications under Microsoft SharePoint. The study is based on a survey conducted in March and April 2017. Participants included approximately 150 representatives from a wide range of businesses in German-speaking countries. The majority of the participants were IT, marketing and management decision makers.

Existing onboard resources supplied by Microsoft provide the basic tools needed for automation and process support. However, the capabilities of these tools are limited, leading many businesses to either program their own enhancements or to seek professional workflow and process tools from third party suppliers.  The SharePoint Workflows Special 2017 study obtained valuable information regarding user demands on workflow tools, the expectations placed on solution providers and the growing chances in the field of workflow processes for established solution providers and newcomers.

The key points – an overview

The number of businesses using Microsoft’s Office 365 with the integrated core component SharePoint Online is growing steadily. Professor Dr. Arno Hitzges from the Stuttgart Media University explains: “Although the majority (64%) of businesses surveyed still run their solutions on-premises, cloud use is gaining popularity and acceptance. Now 29% rely on the cloud suite in various forms, compared to just 13% last year.”

Many companies are already focussing on creating workflows and thereby automating business processes. 56% reported currently using SharePoint for workflow management, an additional 26% of those surveyed plan to do so in the near future. “Noteworthy is that SharePoint, which was formerly used primarily in IT-departments, is now often put to work in other departments. Especially in sales (36%), purchasing (36%) and personnel (34%), SharePoint use has surged,” according to Wolfgang Miedl from SharePoint 360. Surprising: The prevalence of SharePoint in the these departments is suddenly close to the prevalence in IT departments. Current SharePoint usage in IT departments, for administering support tickets, for example, is 38%.

One of the most impressive revelations of the study is the level of discontent many users have regarding the features provided by SharePoint: 58% of those surveyed replied that they are “not at all” or only “partly” satisfied with the workflow features offered by Microsoft. Taking a more detailed look at the use of workflow tools, the effects of that dissatisfaction quickly become apparent: 71% of those surveyed rely on additional software. Only 32% of those use the additional tools available from Microsoft exclusively, almost half – 49%– prefer using third party solutions for developing work flows. In the end, the tremendous reliance on external workflow tools is partly related to the difficult situation in personnel resources: More than 80% of businesses have less than five employees in their SharePoint environment.

Even though most businesses count on third party solutions, only 6% are “extremely satisfied” with their current solution. The majority, 52%, is either “fairly satisfied” or “dissatisfied”.  Andreas Richter, EVP Marketing & Product Management at GBS, says of this situation “The dissatisfaction we see, not only with SharePoint tools but with third party solutions as well, tells us that there is significant room for improvement. For GBS as a solution provider that means concentrating not only on intuitive operation but on platform-independent usability and integration with third party systems, such as SAP as well.”

Potential abounds for established providers and for newcomers, easily recognised in the overall investment readiness: 20% of existing users plan to invest more than € 50,000 in workflow solutions in the next twelve months.  The vast majority, 75%, plans to invest up to € 50,000 within the next year. One thing is certain: New businesses are popping up, bringing innovative solutions to the workflow tools market and that means an exciting race is coming up.

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