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Introducing "Request sign-off" - an approval flow that requires no set up

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Kerem Yuceturk
Microsoft

We are happy to announce a new feature in SharePoint called "Request sign-off". The goal is to provide you an easy way to send an item for approval to someone else. This feature enables an open approval process that allows you to easily record whether or not a document or list item was approved or not. There is no setup required.

 

Request sign-off makes use of SharePoint's integration with Microsoft Flow. You can use it by selecting a file or list item (but not a folder), and then pulling down the Flow menu in the modern library or list UI, and selecting "Request sign-off". This flow will appear alongside any other custom flow that you or others may have added to the library.RequestSignOff Flow menu.png

 

Once it is invoked, Request sign-off will create a new text column in your library called "Sign-off status". This column will record the state of your request. It works just like any other text column, you can sort, filter or group by it to organize your library.

 

Pending.png

On invocation, this will tell you that it will send an approval request on your behalf, and ask your consent. Once this is provided, you can pick one or more approvers, and write a message to them for your approval request. If you add more than one approver, any one of them can approve your request:
RunRequestSignOff.pngRunRequestSignOff2.png

The person you sent the approval to will receive an approval request.  This will be an actionable message on clients that support it (meaning you can approve it directly from within Outlook). The approver can also provide some comments along with their decision. There will also be a link included that lets the approver view the item in question:

 

ApprovalEmail.png

 

The sign-off status column is then updated with the decision, and the person who sent the approval request will receive an email with the comments:

 

ApprovedEmail.JPG

 

Approved.png

 

By saving you the trouble of setting up a flow and creating a new column to track status, we hope that this feature will make it easy to add a lightweight approval process to your libraries and lists.

 

We expect this feature to start rolling out to our customers in targeted release (previously called first release) after April 9. Barring any issues we will continue to roll it out to the rest of our customers in two phases late April and early May.

 

 

206 Replies
Looking forward to this new feature!

Is there any admin possibility to turn that feature off on site / tenant level?
Furthermore, is it possible to modify the sign-off flow?

Thank you this is a great quick feature addition.  I have a couple questions about the rollout:

  1. Will this feature be able to be edited in Flow and used in a serial or parallel approval flow for multiple required approvers?
  2. Will we be able to add column(s) to track who has approved documents/lists and when, similar to an audit function?

 

Will this create a approved version of the list item like the old SharePoint 2010 approval workflow?
Why an additional column? Why have you not implemented this with the existing Status column which works together with Minor/Major versioning settings? If we use this sign-off approval does this mean that it also sets the existing Status field in a 'document' library to approved/rejected? I am aware that approval for lists is available but still waiting to be able to move away from SharePoint Workflows to Flows for standard document approval. Hoping you can shed some light on this

What will be the retention history for these approvals?  Is there a limit to 90 days like the workflows?

Question about permissions: can you request signoff from someone who does not have permissions on that library/document? If you can, does it automatically "share" and grant them permissions? Or will it only allow you to select people who have permissions on the library?

Hi @Deleted at the outset, there isn't a switch for this. But we are working with the Flow team to be able to manage the list of flows that are available to the library in general, and we hope to be able to manage this particular flow along with the others when that feature becomes available.

Thank you @Gina Hall

 

The flow powering this will not be editable at the moment. We do want to make the template available, however, so you can start to create your own flows that are based on this model, and can use it to create your own custom flows tailored to your specific scenarios. When you create a custom flow, you can also record who approved the documents/lists.

 

The flow approval center will have a history of approval requests you have sent as well as received as a record.

Hi @Tanya Denton@Gabriel Smoljar, this is not using the "Approval Status" column that is associated with the content approval feature. That particular feature is usually not turned on for vast majority of the libraries, and as you know, it affects how items are displayed to visititors, and other members of the site. Also, in "Content approval" scenarios, the approvers for an item are locked, whereas in this scenario, it is open. We find that users would need some education on the implications of turning that feature on, and we wanted to enable a lighter weight scenario.

 

If your library uses content approval, you can still create a flow that automates your approvals. Back in December, we released the "Set Content Approval Status" action, which works primarily with Pages libraries, but can be made to work with other lists and libraries too. We are working on some closer UI integration for publishing scenarios that will be coming in a few months as well, but please let me know if there is anything that can be made better about using the "Set Content Approval Status" action that exists.

Hi @Katrin Weixel, at the moment, it doesn't change permissions, so you will have to share the item separately if the recipient doesn't have permissions already. This is not ideal. We are working on adding a flow action to get a link for a document that anyone in the company can open, and when we have that (hopefully within a few months), our plan would be to update this so that the link that is sent will be company shareable link. 

Hi @Keremt Yuceturk, many thanks for the quick response. I am aware that this new Sign Off does not use the Approval Status column hence my post. I looked at the release 'Set Content Approval Status' and have had a go at creating a Flow for a 'document' library, however as others have commented in other posts, this is not available for document libraries, only list libraries (unless there has been an update to this in the last few weeks).  If you can point me to a blog/post/help article relating to how to create an approval that interacts with the 'Approval Status' column; meaning when a user receives the Approval email with the Approve/Reject buttons, that when the click on Approve button in the email the flow actually updates the Approval Status to 'Approved'.  All posts that i have seen have been based on creating your own Approval Status column and using that instead.  Hope this makes sense.

I really hope that this does not get released without the ability to switch it off. For those of us that have heavily used Document libraries with workflow, we don't want the users to be confused with an option that is different to the intended use.

 

I love the features that Microsoft is developing, but the ability to control them is critical. Another example is the 'Send by Email' button on modern pages. In classic team sites, this button now appears on all modern pages, which makes no sense.

Hi @Michael Droschak, Approvals data, including history, is stored in a Common Data Service database. Unless a database admin chooses to remove history, it will be retained forever. 

Hi there - how will this work with making documents visible to those that have read-only access and can't view minor versions of documents? i.e. will it publish a major version once approved? We are looking at simple ways to ensure only major published/approved versions are visible in libraries to visitors with read-only access so this could be a good feature to ensure we don't need to do too much training on how to publish a major version (as it is currently buried in the long menu and not intuitive to find).

Hi @Kerem Yuceturk it’s great to see both workflow and new innovations working in SharePoint. Given the comprehensive questions (and answers) here it would be great to see a Q and A response covering what is delivered in this iteration of Request sign-off and what the mini-roadmap is for this feature given the integration with Microsoft Flow..

Does it consume our FLOW runs?
Is the txt field 'read only' for FullControl users?
Where are NonDeliveryReports are sent to?

Good news. Can't wait to try it.

I have also the question whether admins have the possibility to disable the new approval flow, or how is the situation if users have no Flow license assigned? Will they start a Flow trial with the first use of "Request sign-off"? 

Question is will the ability to deploy flows to specific sites on the roadmap at all?

Would be good to share and allocate flows to specific sites.

Fantastic news! Can't wait to see this rolled out, great job guys! @eddierthomas

Excellent news. Can't wait to start using this feature for our simple approval workflows.

Hi Tanya,

‘Set Content Approval Status' action does work with Documents Libraries (at least it works for me at the moment :)) and it updates the ‘Approval Status’ accordingly if Content Approval is turned on for that specific library. You have to ‘Set Content Approval Status’ to Submit before you start an Approval and ‘Set Content Approval Status’ to Approved or Rejected based on the outcome for the Approval. Make sure you use the ETag property when setting approval status to either Approve or Rejected. I hope this helps.

@Deleted  Thank you so much for the info, I will give it another go as it would be great to move away from SharePoint Workflow's with tasks all over the place and centralize approvals into one view.

@Ovi Mocanu - I'd like to see how you're using it with major and minor versioning. I just created one within the last week and had to create a trigger column and am using just major versioning. Here's a reference page with the post and more details. Maybe you're using a trigger column and then using the workflow to set the Approval Status to "Submit" (for publishing)?

Hi @Tanya Denton, the Etag needs to be set for libraries (pages and other files) to succeed. It is a bug that we don't clearly state that, and the ETag is hidden under advanced settings. We will fix that soon. You can get the ETag using the Get file metadata action in Flow.

 

Feel free to send me a private message with the specifics of your flow if that doesn't work for you.

Hi @Jeremy Hancock, we are working on a model for being able to turn this flow off using the Flow admin center on a per library/list basis. I've also passed along the feedback about send by email to my colleagues who work on modern pages.

Hi @Abbie Hughes, this feature doesn't use content approval or restrict the visibility of items in a library. We find that most libraries (like group files) do not make use of read-only access or major/minor versions, so this is not optimized for those scenarios that our more savvy users make use of. 

 

I would recommend that you create a different flow of your own for tackling that scenario and use the set content approval status action in flow. I can follow up and help you set it up if you send me your details in a private message.

Thank you @John Wynne. That's a good idea. I will try to get that organized in the near future.

Hi @Stephanie Sachs, yes this would consume a run every time it is run. The column we add is a regular text column, it is as if you added a column to your library to record the status of an item.

 

I don't think we handle NonDeliveryReports. Do you mean when you send something for approval, and the person has left the company? That should be a rare occurrence because we use the people picker that should not include anyone that no longer has a mailbox.

 

 

Hi @Tobias Asböck, we will work on a management story for each library. @Philip Worrell, we are working on being able to share a flow with a site/library so that the owners of the library become owners of the flow, and members can run it. This is coming soon.

 

To be able to create a flow and add it to different libraries is also something we want to do, but we don't have a timeline for that yet. I'm hoping towards the end of this year.

Hello Jer,

I went over the reference page describing your Flow however my requirements are different in the sense that I use ‘For a selected item’ trigger for my Flow (e.g. only selected users can send documents for approval). Also, I’m not using a separate column to track Document Status, I’m only using Approval Status column which is updated accordingly to either Approved or Rejected by the second ‘Set content approval’ action (this action is executed after the ‘Start an approval’ action, in both branches of the condition where you check the Response for your approval). If you have major/minor versioning turned on for your document library the Approval Status column is updated accordingly (either Approved or Rejected upon successful execution of your Flow) and the version is updated to the next major version (published document).

On a total different note, great job to Kerem and Microsoft Flow team for this OOTB (aka. No-Setup :)) Flow. Keep up the great work!

Good feature. 

It may cater small flow of business process.

The document library fails to load, it comes up as a blank screen, I can see the library in other views I have created but can not upload files at all. Even the black O365 ribbon is blank .

ANy ideas


 wrote:

Good feature. 

It may cater small flow of business process.


 

 Would you please clarify what you are asking.  Where it shows the blank screen. 

I would request you to Post a question in new thread as this thread is for the new feature in flow.

 

Yes, sorry, I have started a new thread.
Hi @Kerem Yuceturk can you confirm Request Sign Off will be rolling out to Targeted Release from today? Thanks!

Hi @John Wynne and everyone.

 

We found a small bug where the presence of Request Sign-Off breaks the flow button available through our column formatters, but we have a fix that is rolling out. We are waiting for the fix to become available everywhere to turn this on. Sadly this means, we will likely wait until next Monday/Tuesday to go to Targeted Release. Sorry about the delay here...

Thanks for the reply. Sorry to hear about the delay but thanks for managing expectations on rollout.

Hi, just a short question:

Is everyone who is able to edit the Doc Lib also able to edit the status of the newly created column?

Because we are a bit struggling with that ...

Because how to be sure that the status was changed because the approver approved the request and not by someone else who is just able to?

Hi @Deleted,

 

This feature is designed as a shortcut to help our users be able to create a new column to record some metadata in a column, and then to wire up an approval process using flow. So like other columns that can be created by other users in the library, users with edit permissions will be able to edit this column as well. In a later version, we want to be able to show the date and time information on when an item was approved from the history that will be stored on the Flow approval center. 

 

If your scenario requires more control, it may be better to use the content approval feature, which provides a column that can only be changed by users with Approve Items permission on the site.  Request sign-off doesn't use this feature because of the implications this has on the library items that may not be desirable for the more common way libraries are used.

Too bad .. than we are still lacking of a good Approval feature.

We want to collect the approval from three different Users and want to be sure that just them are able to approve it.
Do you think there will be a easy way to do this with Flow in the Future?

I agree. We need a way to add a column with restricted access to a list. Only site administrators or process (flows; apps...) should be able to update it. 

Hi @Kerem Yuceturk is this new feature likely to go to TR today? Just keeping tabs on progress. Thanks!

@Deleted, @Benoit Fournier, you should be able to accomplish this more authoritative approval flow using a combination of the content approval feature for your list or library and flow by using the "Set content approval status" action in flow to provide that approval. It takes more work to set up, I agree, but once set up, it should be able to do exactly what you want. It is harder for us to have that set up automatically as people use different types of business rules to enforce these.

Thank you for keeping us on our toes @John Wynne! :)

 

This feature is on in Targeted/First Release as of today! Please give it a try.

As Kerem indicated “Set content approval status” works like a charm and “Send for Approval” action is very flexible (e.g. multiple approvers, everyone/anyone approves, etc.). You can also use the column formatter to start your Approval Flow for the selected item as per https://github.com/SharePoint/sp-dev-column-formatting/tree/master/samples/generic-start-flow
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