Nintex Best Practices: Naming Workflow Actions

This is the second post in my series of best practice posts for Nintex Workflow. In the last post titled “Nintex Workflow – Best Practices – Workflow Design” we examined the important aspects when designing workflows. Although titled “Nintex Workflow – Best Practices – Workflow Design” the principles can be applied to any workflow product on the market.

For the rest of the Nintex Workflow – Best Practices series, we will actually focus on Nintex Workflow. Most of the practices can be applied to any version of Nintex Workflow and I will point it out if that is not the case.

Once the workflow has been designed on paper, it is time to fire up Nintex Workflow Designer and start building the workflow(s) using the workflow actions provided. When working with workflow actions there is an important part to consider, which constantly gets missed, the workflow action labels. At a first glance they seem rather unimportant and most people leave the standard labels in place.

Let’s quickly examine a workflow action, using the “Send notification” for the purpose of this post. Every action has 2 options to modify its labels. Either in the designer by simply clicking on the action title or through the action configuration dialog in the Settings category, named (take a guess J ) “Labels”. Use either of them to your liking. I will stick with the labels in designer mode for the rest of this post.

Figure 1 – Edit labels in the designer

Figure 2 – Edit labels in an action’s configuration page

First, copy the standard text in the top label into the bottom label. This will ensure that whoever looks at your workflow and is not familiar with the action’s icon can still gather what the action does. As a second step, add a meaningful label text to the top label. Let’s assume the notification is supposed to go to the workflow initiator’s manager. Therefore we will put “Notify initiator’s manager” in the top label.

Figure 3 – Properly labelled workflow action

That is all you have to do really. For each action in your workflow. But why is this considered best practice? There is a few reasons which have mainly to do with the workflow history and documentation.

Documentation

As said previously, putting the standard description from the top label into the bottom, everyone looking at the workflow still knows what the action does in essence. And having a meaningful description in the top label will allow you to print the workflow and not only take it to your technical people for review, but also the actual business process owner. That person will have far more benefit from labels like “Notify initiator’s manager” or “Send approval confirmation to initiator” rather than reading “Send notification” every time you send an email in your workflow.

Workflow History

I take it, everyone reading this post has seen the workflow history, whether through the Nintex Workflow graphical UI or the detailed, text based workflow history page.

Figure 4 – Nintex Workflow graphical workflow history

Figure 5 – Workflow Action History List

The above screenshot shows the action history for a workflow using the standard, out of the box labels. You might have noticed that the action label is used for the action history list. Now, with a workflow that uses custom labels, it will be far easier to examine the action history list. That is why every action should be labelled according to its ultimate purpose and not use the standard labels.

The same applies if you look at the graphical workflow history. Having each “Send notification” action labelled “Send notification” doesn’t mean a lot to the ordinary end user. However a meaningful label will help them understand the process and its current status better as well as help driving adoption as users actually know what is happening in the processes they participate in.

Figure 6 – Nintex Workflow graphical workflow history

Figure 7 – Workflow Action History List

Web Parts

Last but not least the top labels are also used in the Nintex Workflow web parts. So rather than having a web part of processes I have started, showing “Send notification” as the current action, a properly labelled action will show something like “Notify initiator’s manager”. Again this all comes back to making your business process application as simple as possible for end users, helping them understand where things are in the process and what the workflow is currently up to.

Figure 8 – Nintex Workflow – Workflows I’ve started web part

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