How to create and execute Excel workflows with Spreadsheet Router
What’s an Excel workflow (and what’s not)?
With Excel workflow, we don’t mean the modeling of process and workflow models in Excel. That is not what this tour is about.
We refer to Excel workflow as a workflow that is carried out using Excel spreadsheets and forms, for example to collect data, to document work results or to make computations.
Typically, we are talking about human workflows involving multiple users, each of them doing some work and entering some data into the spreadsheet, thus doing a part of the tasks to be done the overall workflow. It’s very likely that you've encountered such Excel workflows in your work life.
What is Spreadsheet Router about?
Spreadsheet Router enables you to turn your Excel spreadsheets into real automated workflows by explicitly modeling the tasks and the process that happen around your spreadsheets and forms. Hence, it can be considered a Workflow Management System or BPM tool specifically for Excel spreadsheets. It is particularly suitable for form-based and document-based workflows, like Excel workflows, but can be used for all kinds of workflows. With Spreadsheet Router you can create your own Excel workflow app.
Our little tour through Spreadsheet Router in the following will show how to create an Excel workflow and how users interact with it.
1. Creating and instantiating a spreadsheet workflow template
Let’s assume we have an Excel spreadsheet for collecting, storing and evaluating some information. What we want is to route this spreadsheet through a workflow and to let users do certain tasks that involves entering information in a certain order. For that, Spreadsheet Router lets you model the workflow for this spreadsheet using an intuitive graphical interface and BPMN. Workflow modeling is made really easy and can be done even by workflow novices. Simple but also complex workflows can be captured with
- Conditional splits / decision points (e.g., if condition „a“, user A / task X, if condition „b“, user B / task Y),
- Parallel / concurrent tasks and branches (e.g., users A and B work on a Spreadsheet concurrently) and
- Loops (e.g., if the spreadsheet’s not correct, return to the last user who worked on it)
Each workflow step can have a due date and many more options that you would expect from a Workflow Management System.
Spreadsheet Router lets you define individual access control rules for each spreadsheet workflow templates (e.g., who can run a workflow instance of that template ). The user management interface lets you create users and roles and grant them rights, for example who is allowed to monitor runtime data.
Once a spreadsheet workflow template is defined, we can start an excel workflow instance.
2. Doing tasks and entering information to the spreadsheet
Users can log in online to Spreadsheet Router to see and do their tasks. A dashboard shows which tasks are open and tutorials that help to efficiently use Spreadsheet Router.
When opening a task, the user will see the task details including data extracted from the spreadsheet, information on who has worked on the spreadsheet, the spreadsheet’s due date and attachments like pictures or documents. The spreadsheet can be opened from the Spreadsheet Router interface with a single click.
Once a user is done working on the spreadsheet and concludes the workflow task, Spreadsheet Router automatically updates and synchronizes data. The spreadsheet is passed on to next users or roles as predefined in the workflow template. If the workflow task is not yet done, the user can resume and continue working on that task at any other time. A built-in chat feature allows for quickly asking and answering questions on tasks.
3. Monitoring Excel workflow and evaluation of gathered data
Spreadsheet Router not only enables the evaluation of data gathered in a single spreadsheet but also across all spreadsheets / workflow instances of a workflow template (e.g., what are the total expenses in all workflows). You can easily configure sophisticated charts for the gathered data and export them in different formats like PDF and PNG.