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Workflows are one of the most used and useful features of UCM. They give you the power to quickly set up reviews and approvals for documents, web pages, product documentation, "stage gates" for project management artifacts, "virtual voting" on government legislation, gathering digital signatures, and SOX compliance reviews.
This article by Dmitri Khanine, author of The Oracle Universal Content Management Handbook covers things you'd be doing most of the time as well as other important things you ought to know about workflows. More specifically you will learn:
- How to set up and change Content Server workflows—allowing you to get up to speed really fast, walking you step by step through an automation of a real-world approval process.
- Hidden (and frequently overlooked) facts about content life cycle that will help you locate and reclaim your disappeared content items.
(For more resources on Oracle, see here.)
How to set up and change workflows
First thing's first. Let's start by looking at the tools that you will be using to set up and configure your workflows.
Discover the Workflow Admin application
Go to Administration Admin Applets| and launch Workflow Admin. The Workflow Admin application comes up (as shown in the following screenshot):
There are three tabs:
- Workflows: This tab is used for administering Basic or Manual Workflows.
- Criteria: This tab deals with Automatic or Criteria Workflows—the type we will be using most often.
- Templates: This is the place where you can pre-assemble Workflow Templates—reusable pieces that you can use to create new basic workflows.
Let's create a simple automatic workflow. I call it automatic because content enters the workflow automatically when it is modified or created.
If you will be using e-mail notifications then be sure to check your Internet Configuration screen in Admin Server.
I'll walk you through the steps in using automatic workflows.
Lab 7: Using automatic workflows
Here's the process for creating a criteria workflow:
Creating a criteria workflow
Follow these steps:
- Go to the Criteria tab and click on Add. The New Criteria Workflow dialog comes up (as shown in the following screenshot):
- Fill in Workflow Name and Description.
- Pick the Security Group. Only items with the same security group as the workflow can enter it. Let's use the security group we've created. Select accounting.
- We're creating a Criteria Workflow, so let's check the Has Criteria Definition box.
- Now you can specify criteria that content must match to enter the workflow.For the sake of this lab, let's pick Account for the Field, and accounting/payable/current for the Value.
Please note that a content item must match at least two conditions to enter the workflow: it must belong to the same security group as the workflow, and it must match the criteria of the workflow.
As soon as a new content item is created with Security Group of accounting and Content Account value is set to accounting/payable/current, it will enter our workflow.
It will not enter the workflow if its metadata is simply updated to these values. It takes a new check-in for an item to enter a criteria workflow.
If you need it to enter a workflow after a metadata update then consider custom components available from the Fishbowl Solutions (www.fishbowlsolutions.com).
You can use any metadata field and value pair as criteria for entering the workflow. But you can only have one condition. What if that's not enough?
If you need to perform additional checks before you can accept the item in a workflow then keep your criteria really open, and do your checks in the workflow itself. I'll show you how, later in this article.
The diagram next illustrates how a content item flows through a criteria workflow. You may find it useful to refer back to it as you follow the steps in this lab.
OK. We have a workflow created but there're two problems with it: it has no steps in it and it is disabled. Let's begin by seeing how to add workflow steps.
Adding workflow steps
Here's how you add workflow steps:
- Click on the Add button in the Steps section on the right (as shown in the following screenshot):
- The Add New Step dialog opens. Fill in the step name and description (as shown in the following screenshot):
- Click on the Add User button on the right and select approvers for this step. Also add yourself to the list of approvers so you can test the workflow.
- Switch to the Exit Conditions tab (as shown in the following screenshot):
- You can change the number of approvers required to move the item to the next step. You can make all approvers required to advance a step or just any one as shown on the screenshot.
- And if you put zero in the text box, no approvers will be required at all. They will still receive notification, but the item will go immediately to the next step. And when the current step is the last the workflow will end and the new revision will be released into the system. What do I mean by that? Until workflow is complete, revisions that are currently in a workflow will not come up in searchers and will not show on the Web. You will still see them in the content info screen but that's it.
- OK the dialog. You now have a workflow with one step. Let's test it.
But first, you need to enable the workflow.
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(For more resources on Oracle, see here.)
Enable the workflow
This is the easiest step of all:
- Click on the Enable button on the bottom right. Say Yes on a confirmation dialog. The workflow is now enabled.
- Bring up your Check In form and check in a small document with Security Group set to accounting and Account of accounting/payable/current (as shown in the following screenshot):
The Check in Confirmation dialog is displayed as shown in the following screenshot:
- Click on the Content Info link.
- Notice how the Workflow field shows the name of the workflow and the item's status is set to Review (as shown in the following screenshot):
- If e-mail notifications are configured, your approver will receive an e-mail, inviting them to review an item (as shown in the following screenshot):
- Click on the Quick Search button on the top right. Notice that your item does not show in the search results!
- Expand the Content Management tray on the left and click on the Active Workflows link. The All Active Workflows screen displays as shown in the following screenshot:
- Click on Manager_Approval. Content items in the workflow will be displayed (as shown in the following screenshot):
- You can now approve content by clicking on the Workflow Actions icon. A link under the item's content ID brings up the content item itself so you can preview the changes.
- Select Workflow Review; it's the first item on the list. The Workflow Review screen comes up (as shown in the following screenshot):
The right pane shows a web-viewable version of the file when available. The Workflow Review screen is another way to approve or reject an item in a workflow.
When rejected, content goes back to the previous step in a workflow. In our case, it will go back to the Contribution step, which is the stage of its original check in. You can then make the changes and check in to re-submit the item for approval. Or you can delete its current revision to cancel the change.
This is it! You're now all set to set up and use a simple workflow. Why don't you add another step to our test Manager_Approval workflow and check in another item?
You will need to disable the workflow before you can make any changes.
When you disable a workflow all content items that were going through it will be released. Be sure that you are OK with that consequence before making a changes to a workflow, which might be handling live content.
- Try approving an item on the first step and rejecting it on the next one. Watch it coming back to the first step.
- Observe how e-mail notifications change, reflecting the current step the item is in. Click on the link in e-mail notifications. See how it brings you to the Workflow Review screen.
- Get the item fully approved. Do a quick search. Watch the item being indexed and added to the search results.
And here's yet another way your approvers can access their pending items. Check out the My Workflow Assignments page (as shown in the following screenshot):
Congratulations! I hope you're getting a feel of what a simple workflow can do. Now let's get something quick but important out of the way.
Understanding the content life cycle
Is there a quick way to tell what's going on with a content item? Do you have to search all over the system to see where it might be?
Nope. It's much easier than this. All you need to do is bring up a Content Info screen. Have you noticed a Status field towards the bottom? This is the field that shows you exactly what's happening with the item (see the following screenshot):
Here're a few common states an item goes through and corresponding values you'll see in the Status field:
- Review: The item is in the workflow.
- Edit: The item is in the contribution stage. It has probably been rejected from the first step of the workflow.
- Pending: The item was included in a basic workflow along with the other items. It was approved and is waiting while the rest of the items go through the workflow.
- Done: Workflow is complete.
- GenWWW: Conversion is in progress. For instance, when you use the PDF converter to generate a PDF version after check in.
- Released: All done. The item is available and will appear in searches.
And now let's see another important use of the Status field in the next section.
Sometimes it might seem that a content item has disappeared on you! You know it was fully approved or there might even be no workflow configured for it. Yet the link to that item doesn't work or the content doesn't display on a web page. What happened?
The item may not be indexed yet. When you check in large number of documents, it may take a while for all that new content to get indexed and being showing up in searches. Or it may "get stuck" in an indexing stage and need to be reindexed.
The good news is that you can easily view all of that "hidden" content on the Work In Progress page. (Expand the Content Management tray to get to it, as shown in the following screenshot.) If content is there, you can use this page to resubmit it to the indexer:
While one or two odd glitches may not be concerning, if you start getting those often then it may be the time to rebuild your search index. How?
Use the Indexer tab of the Repository Manager Applet. Be sure to check documentation before rebuilding a large index or doing it on a live production system, otherwise you may cause some downtime.
Wow! We're learning some advanced stuff here and this is just the beginning.
We now know how to create a workflow. We have also understood the content life cycle.
In the next article More Things you can do with Oracle Content Server workflows, we will learn more things that we can do with Content Server workflows.
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About the Author :
Dmitri Khanine is one of the most respected names in Oracle UCM. He one of the two people in the world who are recognized as leading community enthusiasts and advocates in the field of Content Management with a prestigious Oracle ACE award. He also runs the Independent Oracle UCM Knowledge Center.
Dmitri is available for a limited number of training, speaking and consulting engagements. You can reach him at dk@stellentExperts.com.