Box Relay is both a flexible and powerful way to automate routine and repeatable business processes that are centered around content. But its flexibility also means you can configure different workflows with many variants.
There are seven types of triggers from which you can choose to begin a workflow in Relay:
- File events
- Folder events
- Files with metadata
- Task events
- Manual start events
- File Request events
- Scheduled events
You have multiple subsequent sets of options, depending on which trigger you choose.
Box also provides a robust set of pre-built workflow templates, appropriate for a range of business lines, that you can modify as you see fit. You may wish to try using a template to more quickly familiarize yourself with workflow components, and to get started right away.
When you're comfortable creating workflows, you may also wish to begin sharing your workflows as customized templates for others throughout your organization to use.
You can only create workflows that involve folders you own, co-own, or edit.
File event options
Here, you are starting the workflow by specifying the type of event that happens to or with a file or batch of files.
For example, this workflow may begin when a file is uploaded, copied, or moved. It may begin when a file is locked or unlocked. It may begin when a watermark is added, or when a security classification is applied. And so on.
Your next choice is to specify where this event is to take place -- that is, in which folder the file resides or to which it will be moved or copied. To do this, click the Select a folder box and follow the prompts to specify the folder you want.
(If you select Classification Applied as your event, before you select a folder Relay prompts you to select the type of classification to apply. More on classifications in Box.)
Folder event options
Here, you are starting the workflow by specifying the type of event that happens to or with a folder.
For example, this workflow may begin when a new folder is created, or when an existing folder is copied, moved, or deleted, or when a collaborator added. And as with a file event, you must specify where this event is to take place -- that is, the folder in which this triggered folder resides, or to which it will be moved or copied. To do this, click the Select a folder box and follow the prompts to specify the folder you want.
File with metadata options
In this case, when you select file with metadata, your workflow begins when a metadata template you specify is applied to a file.
If you do not enable metadata in your organization, Relay cannot complete any workflows that employ metadata in any way. Typically metadata is enabled in most organizations. If you aren't certain whether metadata is enabled, contact your Box Administrator.
You can also add one or more pairs of metadata attributes and values to further filter the content that initiates the workflow. In that way you can be highly granular with the type of file around which you want to build your workflow -- for example, a contract from a specific vendor that exceeds a specific budget amount.
To do this, after you select the metadata template, click Add a condition. The Select an attribute menu displays. Click the Select an attribute down arrow to display a drop-down list of all the possible metadata values you can specify.
In the below example, you're limiting the workflow to files with the Background Check Alert metadata template applied and whose start date is July 21.
As with file and folder events, your next choice is to specify in which folder this event is to take place. To do this, click the Select a folder box and follow the prompts to specify the folder you want.
Task event options
Here, you are starting or continuing the workflow when the assignee has completed a general task...
... or has approved or rejected an approval task.
Manual start options
Here, the workflow does not kick off automatically, with no intervention on your part. Instead, you partially pre-configure a workflow, directly from a document or set of documents that already exist in a Box folder. Another individual -- the workflow starter -- selects one or more files, completes the incomplete steps of the workflow (such as designating task assignees), and only then manually initiates the workflow.
A manual workflow is especially useful when task assignees vary -- for example, when a contract must be reviewed by different sets of corporate executives who are assigned by different department heads. More details on manual start workflows.
File Request options
File Request is a separate feature, available to every paid Box Business Plan account (or higher). Basically, File Request enables you to create a Web form in seconds that anyone can use to upload content to Box. When you specify File Request as a workflow trigger, the workflow launches automatically each time someone completes your File Request form and uses it to submit content to the Box folder you’ve designated.
This is especially useful when gathering content from someone is the first step in a workflow. For example, Finance teams can use File Request to solicit vendor invoices and have Relay route those invoices through an approval process. More details on using a File Request to kick off a workflow.
Scheduled event options
Here you can create a Relay workflow and schedule it to begin at a later date, and at regular occurrences (daily, weekly, monthly, and so on) so you only need to activate it once.
Among the reasons you may wish to do this:
- Month-end close process – review and approval of financial statements at the end of each month to close the books
- R&D capitalization check – engineering confirmation that quarterly resource allocations are correct for capitalization purposes
- Business review – department leads update quarterly objectives in a shared PowerPoint deck
- Compliance check – once a year employees across an organization confirm they’ve read the employee handbook
Your next choice is to specify a start date, a repeat frequency (daily, one or more times a week, monthly, annually), and an end date (at a designated time, after a certain number of occurrences, or never, if there is no end date). Click each box to display a drop-down menu from which you can then click your desired options.
The next step, regardless of what trigger you have chosen, is to specify an outcome. The choices in selecting an outcome vary somewhat.
- With file events the process of specifying an outcome is essentially the same as that of selecting a trigger, and is self-explanatory.
- With folder events the process of specifying an outcome is also essentially the same as that of selecting a trigger, with one exception:
- If you select Apply Classification as the folder outcome, you then must also click the Select a classification drop-down arrow and click the security classification you want (collaborators only, company employees only, short-term sharing, and so on).
- Optionally, if you want the classification policy you select to take precedence over all other security classifications that may be in place on that folder's files and subfolders, check Overwrite all existing classifications with this value.
The process for creating metadata and task outcomes differs from creating metadata and task events. These are explained below.
Metadata outcome options
As a result of a trigger event, you can:
- specify the file or folder to which you want to apply a metadata template, then specify the metadata template you want to apply.
- add or update metadata attributes in that template
Here’s an example:
- You apply a “press release” metadata template to a newly-created press release.
- One of the attributes in this template is “Status.”
- You create a workflow such that, as the press release is developed, its status changes with each step, from “in progress” to “in review” to “approved.”
You can specify and apply multiple attributes within the same template, but you cannot apply an attribute across multiple templates. To apply metadata values across multiple templates, you must create a separate outcome for each template.
To apply a metadata template as an outcome and specify an attribute to change:
- Under What is the next action? click Add Metadata.
- Under What file do you want to apply metadata to? click the down arrow and select the file.
- This adds the template to the file you’ve just specified.
- Under What metadata would you like to apply? click anywhere in the box to display a list of the metadata templates.
- Click the template you want.
- To add a new metadata attribute-value pair, click Add a Value. Then click Select an attribute. From the list of attributes that displays, locate the attribute you want to update, and then click the down arrow next to it to select a value.
Repeat the above steps and add discrete metadata outcomes to change the metadata attribute value to appropriately reflect the status of the workflow. For example, in the press release workflow, select the Status attribute and add a discrete value for in review when the release forwards to a reviewer, and when the release is ready to be published create an outcome with a status attribute of approved.
Get more information on creating a metadata structure for your enterprise.
Task outcome options
As the result of a trigger event, you can assign a task. For example, when a vendor uploads a contract proposal to the folder you specify, you can configure Relay to assign a task on that file to a specific individual for review or approval. You can also re-route the workflow if someone rejects the task they've been assigned. Regardless, when a task is approved or completed, Relay automatically moves the workflow forward.
Any one of the four triggers can result in a task outcome.
To create a task outcome
- In the Outcome box, click Assign a Task.
- Decide what type of task this is. If this you want the assignee merely to accept or reject the task -- for example, approving or rejecting a budget -- under What type of task would you like to assign? click Approval Task. For any other activities -- for example, copy editing a blog or filling out an invoice -- click General Task.
- Under What are the task details? click the Assignee(s) box and begin typing the name or email address of the assignee. Relay displays a list of possible assignees. Click the assignee you want.
- You can assign a task to the person who first initiated this workflow. This person displays in the list of possible assignees as the Workflow Starter. This is useful when you create a workflow that could be initiated by any number of people -- for example, when any one person from a group of loan underwriters submits a loan application for review and approval. (In one specific circumstance the workflow starter may not be the person who initiates the workflow. For details, see the note at the bottom of this article.)
- You can assign a task to multiple individuals.
- If you do assign a task to multiple individuals, every assignee must complete the task before Relay advances the workflow. If instead you want the workflow to move forward when just one assignee completes the task, check Only one assignee is required to complete this task.
- In the Message box, enter a specific description of the task.
- Optionally, enter the number of days or hours you want to allow the individual to complete this task.
- In the Assign the task to a file box, specify on which file the task is to be assigned.
If a task assignee rejects the task, by default Relay ends the workflow. You have three options:
- Do nothing and preserve the End the flow default.
- Send Relay back to an earlier task outcome, essentially rerunning the workflow from that point forward.
- Assign a general task.
- You can assign this general task to the workflow starter, if you wish.
To send Relay back to an earlier task outcome
- Click Go to Outcome [outcome step #].
- You must select a previous task outcome (either general or approval). For example, if someone rejects a task you cannot select a file copy or metadata update action.
- You cannot select a task outcome later in the workflow.
To assign a general task
- Click Assign a general task.
- This can help you establish a review cycle. For example, if the vice president rejects a contract, you can route the contract back to the original sales rep. The sales rep can modify the terms of the contract accordingly and the workflow eventually makes its way back to the VP for approval.
- You can only assign a general task -- not an approval task.
- Choose what happens after this general task completes. Either:
- continue the process from a previous task outcome; or
- continue the process from the task outcome for which you've configured the rejection route.
As with other events, Relay logs and tracks rejected tasks. It tracks steps that have been repeated due to a rejection as separate successive events.
Use notification outcomes to apprise stakeholders of key developments in workflow progress -- for example, when a process has ended or a file has been rejected. Relay sends an automatic message to the people you designate, via the Box Web app and email. If you're the workflow creator, you can customize the message Box sends, to ensure clarity or suggest another action for the message recipients.
When a file upload triggers the workflow AND when the person uploading the file does so via a Box File Request link, then Relay assigns the role of workflow starter to the person who created the File Request link – not the person who actually used the link to upload a file.
In all other cases – including when a file is uploaded directly into a folder either via drag-and-drop or by selecting from File Explorer or Finder – the workflow starter is the person whose action kicks off the workflow.
- If you have multiple outcomes and multiple tasks assigned, the list of workflow steps may become a little harder to track, Use the collapsible workflow summary view, in the lefthand navigation, for a quick but comprehensive visual overview of the workflow you're creating.
- When a rejected task prompts Relay to rerun some workflow steps, any file copy actions it repeats could result in orphaned files and affect your version control. For that reason, consider moving files, rather than copying them.