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Content Approval Models in SharePoint Intranets

SharePoint 2013 provides a number of ways to author, approve and publish content. When we work with clients on Bonzai implementations we take into account both the Intranet publishing model that an organization will use and how this can be implemented in Bonzai.

Firstly when we talk about Intranet Publishing Models the gold standard for this is Step Two’s fantastic article “Five Intranet Publishing Models“. We use this when we speak to clients to determine exactly how content will be published on their Intranet. What is interesting from a SharePoint perspective is that clients can actually have different types of publishing models in different Intranet sites. For example maybe the content on the Home Page uses a Fully Centralized Model and content in departmental sites uses a Publishing with Review model for instance.

The nice thing about SharePoint is that there is 3 ways that you can configure approvals for content in your Intranet. In this article we will go through the 3 approval models for content, their uses and various scenarios:

Option One: Publishing Without Review

Overview: Publishing without review allows anyone that can author content in the Intranet the ability to publish it as well.

How to Configure: Publishing without review is something that has to be manually configured on your lists and libraries in a publishing scenario. To make the happen simply go to your library and set Content Approval to “No” as below:

01-Settings-No-300x50

User Experience: Any user that can author pages will also be able to publish pages as well. Authors will also find that the Submit and Cancel Approval buttons are disabled since there is no concept of approvals.

02-Publish

Usage Scenarios: Publishing without review streamlines content publishing in that there is no review cycle. Therefore we find that this approach is used in the following scenarios:

  • Content “Loading” before launch: Since this option is the quickest in terms of authoring and publishing content many organizations use this approach to quickly create content for Intranet launch. A manual review cycle is then performed by the organization to approve content before launch
  • Social Intranets: If you want to follow the concept of a social Intranet whereby anyone can author content then this option is the way to go. You would give every user the ability to create and publish content using this publishing model.

Option Two: Publishing with Approvals

Overview: Publishing with Approvals is the default option when you create a SharePoint site using the “Publishing Site” template.

03-Publishing-Site-Template

How to Configure: Well you don’t really need to do anything to make this happen, simply create a Publishing Site. However if you do want to configure this manually then in your pages library you will need to make sure that Major/Minor version history is set and that you set the Content Approval option to True:

04-Content-Approval-1024x136

User Experience: You will also find that you will now be using a couple of different SharePoint Groups that have a slightly different experience and available actions since we have effectively broken down the authoring into two main groups:

Authors

For users that have authoring rights, but do not have approval rights, they will be able to create, edit and delete pages as normal. However they will only be able to create minor versions of content which by default will not be seen by end users. Instead of being able to publish a major version of content that option will be replaced by the option to Submit for Approval as seen below:

05-Submit-Approval

Once a page has gone for approval the Author will see another set of option whilst the page is waiting for approval. As seen below if an author wants to cancel the approval process, for instance they made a mistake and want to make another edit, then they can cancel the approval process.

06-Cancel-Approval

Approvers

Users in the Approvers group have a different experience than authors since they can actually approve content (which really means that they can publish major versions of a page so that all users can see it). There are two main use cases for approvers:

1) An approver authoring content

If an approver tries to author content then they have two options. Either they can publish a page directly or they can submit it for approval (which they can approve anyway so this isn’t commonly done). Basically if an Approver authors content then they can choose to directly publish the page.

07-Publish-or-Submit

2) An approver approving content for publishing

If a piece of content has been created and is waiting for approval then a user in the approvers group sees the following options:

08-Approval

  • Cancel Approval: This simply cancels the approval process and leaves the page in its current draft format
  • Approve: This approves the page to so that it is published as a major version. The approver will also get a chance of putting in a comment that is part of the approval
  • Reject: This rejects the page so that it remains as a minor version. The approver can also provide a comment on why the page was rejected.

Usage Scenarios

This way of authoring content in SharePoint works when you need to have a level of approvals before content gets published and is visible to all Intranet users. It is most commonly used when an organization would like additional control when authoring content by providing an additional level of approval.

Option Three: Publishing with Workflows

The final option is to publish content using workflows. This option is set by default if you create a site using the “Publishing Site with Workflow” option.

09-Publishing-with-Workflow-Site-Template1

This option provides a couple of additional capabilities. Firstly it provides the user the ability to schedule the publishing of the item so that an item can be published at a future date. It also gives the organization the ability to configure who has to perform the approval by specifying some workflow defaults. Finally because the publishing is driven by a workflow users who are involved in the approval process are notified via email as well.

How to Configure: The Publishing with Workflow option has the same document library configuration as the “Publishing with Approvals” option but a workflow is also configured in order to publish items. The thing that makes this all work is that workflow that is set up has the option of “Start this workflow to approve a major version of this item” set to true.

10-Start-Workflow

User Experience: There are now additional buttons that an approver and author will see when this option is enabled. Firstly the schedule button allows you to set the publishing date to a future date.

11-Publishing-Options

The Workflows section allows you to view any workflows that are currently in progress for the page using the “Status” button. The Workflows button allows you to start a workflow on the item.

Usage Scenarios: This option is most useful in two main situations:

  1. You require the ability to author content and publish it at a future date: Since you now have the ability to schedule content for publishing this is easily achieved
  2. You require the ability to have multiple people approve content: You can configure the approval workflow to have multiple people in the approval process.
  3. You want email notifications for approvers: The workflow that is configured will send email notifications throughout the approval process which can be very useful for keeping track which content requires approval.

As you can see there are a number of publishing options in SharePoint that can be applied to your Intranet. Hopefully this article provides you the information to make the right choice for your Intranet.

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