Still sending paper forms around campus for approval and signatures? Yeah, still there – doing that. The good news is that our college is motivated to implement digital forms and workflows. However, on a large campus, not all units and entities are on the same timeline to transition to digital processes. In order to adapt to this reality, we are developing digital processes within the college and when required, generating paper or scanned documents to pass on externally. SharePoint has many tools for workflow, in addition to its document management capabilities. Using these tools within SharePoint is relatively well documented but can require a great deal of work creating and utilizing Library, List and Site settings to use forms within SharePoint. Also, we have several sources of data external to SharePoint that need to be integrated for effective transactional solutions as well as for developing accurate and meaningful data reports in order to move towards becoming a more data-driven university. One example of how we wish to implement this sort of integration is taking transactional data from a Contract Generation app for course buyouts for faculty and combining that with information from associated processes such as Sabbatical Proposal Reviews, Research Grant Matching, or Administrative Appointments.
We have concluded that combining data from SharePoint and other sources and creating forms is easier to implement in home-grown PHP apps while we use SharePoint for document and transactional data storage. After several months of trial and error and collecting pieces of the puzzle from dispersed and scattered sources, we have been able to implement some basic functionality to integrate SharePoint and PHP apps. To get data from SharePoint to apps, we use the SharePoint API to query Libraries and Lists. To get data from apps to SharePoint, we use Microsoft Flow. We use Flow to move files, with their associated metadata, from apps into SharePoint Libraries. We also use Flow and file templates to take PHP form data and generate documents within SharePoint.
Danny HarveyWeb Applications Developer
Danny Harvey works as a web applications developer in the Letters and Science Web Development Office at UW-Milwaukee. His professional experience includes fourteen years as a Materials Engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. and twelve years as a web and mobile app developer at Eastern Illinois University. Harvey provides technology support for business processes, research, and assessment.