sharepoinTony

@info – The practical side of SharePoint

Poor Folk’s Calendar Reminder (part 1)

Posted by sharepoinTony on April 10, 2009

I received a request from a small department that has a (MOSS 2007) site on one of our SharePoint portals.  The group is an accounting group who, like most accounting groups, has a calendar full of due dates for various accounting activity.  There are a handful of those due dates which are for accountants in other locations to submit something back to this accounting group.   The accounting group establishes these due dates and enters them on this one specific SharePoint calendar.

The Problem

Although everyone involved in this process has access to the calendar, most of the remote accountants do not regulary visit the calendar.  They call and ask when something is due.  Often they don’t call, someone in the local accounting group has to call them looking for something that was due today or yesterday.

The Request

Allow the user creating the calendar item to mark it for reminders and define who should receive the reminders for each event.

Discussion

This is a sore spot for me.  Microsoft obviously knows how to enable reminders on calendars, it has been around in Outlook for a very long time.   They really should have enabled reminders in SharePoint calendars without having to fully integrate with Outlook…and in my opinion, should have enabled the features requested above as part of the base SharePoint calendar feature set.

Additionally, I know there are several very good third-party tools to accomplish this.  I also know there are numerous methods to accomplish this with some custom coding.  However, as the title of this indicates, this is one possible method which I was able to implement at no cost and doesn’t require me to tap our understaffed, overworked and highly paid developers.

I am happy to hear any and all comments, improvements, or arguments about my implementation, I believe in continuous improvement.

The Poor Folk’s Solution

After reviewing several good blogs related to this topic of setting up reminders using a workflow, I came up with the following for my solution.  Relatively easy to implement, easy to use, and flexible enough to allow some notification options for the users.  Primary requirement was to meet the basic needs of the users.

Plan of attack – Overview of solution

My workflow is actually very simple from a flow-chart point of view.  I have 4 steps, the first checks to see if a ‘reminder’ flag is set, if it isn’t the workflow stops.  The second step checks selections made by the creator of the event, sets variables, and pauses for a pre-determined amount of time – if the user chose to remind a certain number of days prior to the event.  The third step checks for a specific date reminder and pauses until that date – if that is what the user chose.  The fourth step verifies the flag after the pause and sends the email notification.

My concept evolved during the implementation of this solution.  At first I made the user select a specific date that they wanted the reminder email sent out.  This wasn’t very flexible and required the user to calculate out the dates themselves.  After talking with the primary users, I learned that they had a short list of possiblities that they expected.  The would want to set reminders 1, 2, 3, 4 or 7 days in advance of the event.  Why not just let them chose one of these options.  Since I already set up the “reminder date” column in the list from my starting concept, I decided to keep it and allow additional flexibility.  The user could then either choose a specific date for the reminder or select one of the predetermined options.

Building Steps – List Fields

I added the following fields to the Calendar list:

Reminder – This is a Yes/No column (actually setup as a Choice column with Yes/No options)

ReminderDate – This is a Date and Time column

ReminderDays – This is a Choice column, with choices of “0,1,2,3,4,7” and a default of 0

I also added ReminderStatus as a Single line of text column so that I could update it from within the workflow to provide some status information right in the calendar list (I create a standard view displaying these fields rather than the standard calendar view).  You may not want this, so consider it an optional field.

These fields need to be created first so that they are available to SharePoint Designer when creating the workflow.

Next Time:
Building Steps – People

Building Steps – Workflow 1

Calendar Reminder (Part 2)

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3 Responses to “Poor Folk’s Calendar Reminder (part 1)”

  1. Daniel Valdes said

    When will we see step 2? Such a wonderful read and then it stops. You have captured my interest, please provide more input.

    Thank you,
    Daniel Valdes

  2. […] Poor Folk’s Calendar Reminder (part 1) April 2009 2 comments 4 […]

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