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Infopath and Sharepoint Form issues

Posted on 2014-01-09
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Last Modified: 2014-02-21
Hello,

The company I work for is in the process of switching from paper-based forms to web-based forms.  We hare using Sharepoint and Infopath 2013.  Because this is a new practice no one here knows how to best accomplish this task and it has fallen on my shoulders.  I am new to not only IT (as a new employee here) but also to SP and IP!  I am attempting to train myself on both softwares and figure out how to have the forms I have created on the new website (we are switching from 2010 to 2013) with the ability to submit the forms using a workflow.  I am having a lot of issues.  Let me explain a little of what we need and what I have run in to.

This is my biggest and most prominent issue at the moment: As a university we have a lot of forms that need to be processed, from check requests, to purchase orders, to vacation and sick leave forms.  Ideally we would like to be able to have one library designated to each department (Business office, HR, Admissions, etc) with all of the forms for that department available in that library.  For example, we want to be able to have a library called Business Office and then have different subs of that library (Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll) as each of those sub-departments have lots of forms and only need access to their particular forms.  Then as a user, I could go in to the forms location in SP, click on business office, click on AP, and select the form I need to update, fill it out, and submit the form, all within the web browser.

Here is the issue I am running in to--I have run in to the issue that only one form can be connected to each form library.  This would mean that every form we have would need it's own library.  And the only way I can create a form library is at the app level.  What I want to know is if there is a way to create a form library that contains several different forms, all able to be submitted to a different location with a different workflow?  

I tried creating a form library and in that library creating a folder (Business Office) and within that folder creating a folder (AP).  But when I go to publish my form it asks me which form library I want to publish it to and only gives the main form library option which then ties that form to each folder.  (I hope I am making sense to someone out there!!)

Is my ideal possible?  What is the best way to achieve my ideal or something close to my ideal?  We really don't want to have a list of 50+ forms along the side of our webpage--we'd like to be able to organize these forms in any way.  

ANY help would be appreciated!!  I am reading books, watching tutorials, reading forums, and so far I haven't found anything to help with this issue!
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Question by:reedcp
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The InfoPath blog by Microsoft is a good resource. Also infopathdev.com

A lot comes from just experimentation.  Make lots of simple sample forms to test each piece of your solution before adding it to the production solution so you understand how it will function on its own.

Organization and architecture is the key to SharePoint.

From a architecture standpoint, if you are going to jump into electronic forms with both feet, you really should look at housing the data in a SQL database.  I would recommend you look at www.qdabra.com and their solution if for nothing more than an example.

The issue is as this takes off you can run into a couple issues. One is shear number of forms, if you anticipate multiple forms with multiple users and lots of submissions the forms add up and SharePoint does not do real well once you get into the thousands and tens of thousands of forms. Where as a database does not have these constraints as much.  Another issue is reporting, typically the process owners, are going to want to dump the information into another process or applications or wants reporting on the data.  This is also challenging if the data is only in a library and or multiple libraries.  Aggregation becomes tough. Another issue with workflow and multiple people involved in the form process is keeping track of the latest data, etc.  

My recommendation is to host the forms in SharePoint. Have links, put them on dept's sites, etc.  But do not save the forms. The form just queries the database, presents the information based on the user, their group membership, and the stage of the form, and then the data is saved back to the database.   You can use SharePoint workflow but it is pretty complex and has a learning curve.  I prefer to do the logic in InfoPath and just use notifications via the form or from the backend database to move the workflow around.

Probably the biggest thing is, if you do not have enterprise application experience, you are going to want a resource, maybe a consultant to help you architect this.  Once you have a plan the building is not that tough but the success is really in the design.  There are lots of gotchas in both IP and SP where it seems like a path will work and you get quite a ways down it before finding out it wont.

There is great opportunity in this kind of project to really leverage technology and make a step function change in the organization, but only if it is implemented successfully.

Another common mistake is to just replicate paper forms.  Going digital means not having to type things more than once and an opportunity to make a wizard that makes the forms intelligent and simple. You can always have a second view if they need to print it. But take the opportunity to get the essential information and make it concise to get the most value from the conversion.
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