Introduction to SharePoint workflow (2022)

Workflows help people to collaborate on documents and to manage project tasks by implementing business processes on documents and items in a SharePoint site. Workflows help organizations to adhere to consistent business processes, and they also improve organizational efficiency and productivity by managing the tasks and steps involved in business processes. This enables the people who perform these tasks to concentrate on performing the work rather than managing the workflow.

Note:SharePoint 2010 workflows have been retired since August 1, 2020 for new tenants and removed from existing tenants on November 1, 2020.If you’re using SharePoint 2010 workflows, we recommend migrating to Power Automate or other supported solutions. For more info, see SharePoint 2010 workflow retirement.

In this article

  • What are workflows?

  • The two SharePoint workflow platforms

  • Built-in workflows

  • Support for custom workflows

  • Steps involved in using workflows

What are workflows?

Workflow is sometimes described as a series of tasks that produce an outcome. In the context of SharePoint Products and Technologies, workflow is defined more narrowly as the automated movement of documents or items through a sequence of actions or tasks that are related to a business process. Workflows can be used to consistently manage common business processes within an organization by enabling the organization to attach business logic to documents or items in a SharePoint list or library. Business logic is basically a set of instructions that specifies and controls the actions that happen to a document or item.

Workflows can streamline the cost and time required to coordinate common business processes, such as project approval or document review, by managing and tracking the human tasks involved with these processes. For example, in a SharePoint site, you can add a workflow to a document library that routes a document to a group of people for approval. When the document author starts this workflow on a document in that library, the workflow creates document approval tasks, assigns these tasks to the workflow participants, and then sends e-mail alerts to the participants with task instructions and a link to the document to be approved. While the workflow is in progress, the workflow owner (in this case, the document author) or the workflow participants can check the Workflow Status page to see which participants have completed their workflow tasks. When the workflow participants complete their workflow tasks, the workflow ends, and the workflow owner is automatically notified that the workflow has completed.

The actions in the Approval workflow in the previous example follow the process shown in the following illustration.

Introduction to SharePoint workflow (1)

Workflows not only support existing human work processes but also extend the ways in which people can collaborate and work with documents, lists, and libraries. Site users can start and participate in workflows by using customizable forms that are accessible from the document or item in a SharePoint list or library. Additionally, the workflow functionality in SharePoint Products is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office 2013 so that the following workflow tasks can be performed in both products:

(Video) SharePoint Workflow Introduction

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The three types of SharePoint workflow platforms

The SharePoint 2010 workflow platform has been carried forward to Office 365 and SharePoint Server 2013, and so all of your workflows that were built on this platform continue to work. This platform is based on Windows Workflow Foundation 3.5 (WF3.5).

The SharePoint 2013 workflow platform is based on Windows Workflow Foundation 4 (WF) and is substantially redesigned. Perhaps the most prominent feature of this new workflow platform is the use of Microsoft Azure as the workflow execution host. The workflow execution engine now lives outside of Office 365 and SharePoint Server 2013, in Microsoft Azure.

In SharePoint Online, Microsoft Flow is now available. This is our newest workflow engine, access at: https://flow.microsoft.com . To learn more about using MS Flow, visit: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/flow . To troubleshoot MS Flow, visit,https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/flow/fix-flow-failures & https://us.flow.microsoft.com/en-us/support/

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Built-in workflows

A SharePoint site includes several built-in workflows that address common business scenarios:

  • Approval This workflow routes a document or item to a group of people for approval. By default, the Approval workflow is associated with the Document content type, and thus it is automatically available in document libraries.

    (Video) Creating a Simple Workflow in SharePoint

  • Collect Feedback This workflow routes a document or item to a group of people for feedback. Reviewers can provide feedback, which is then compiled and sent to the person who initiated the workflow. By default, the Collect Feedback workflow is associated with the Document content type, and thus it is automatically available in document libraries.

  • Collect SignaturesThis workflow routes a Microsoft Office document to a group of people to collect their digital signatures. This workflow must be started in an Office 2013 program. Participants must complete their signature tasks by adding their digital signature to the document in the relevant Office program. By default, the Collect Signatures workflow is associated with the Document content type, and thus it is automatically available in document libraries. However, the Collect Signatures workflow appears for a document in the document library only if that document contains one or more Microsoft Office Signature Lines.

  • Publishing Approval This workflow is similar to the Approval workflow in that it automates the routing of content to subject matter experts and stakeholders for review and approval. What makes the publishing approval workflow unique is that it’s designed specifically for publishing sites where the publishing of new and updated web pages is tightly controlled.

  • Three-state This workflow can be used to manage business processes that require organizations to track a high volume of issues or items, such as customer support issues, sales leads, or project tasks.

Each of the above workflows can be customized for your organization in several ways. For example, when you add a workflow to a list, library, or content type to make it available for use on documents or items, you can customize the tasks lists and history lists where information about the workflow is stored.

When a site user starts a workflow on a document or item, the user may have the option to further customize the workflow by specifying the list of participants, a due date, and task instructions.

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Support for custom workflows

Although the built-in workflows can be customized somewhat to meet different needs, your organization may choose to design and develop workflows that are unique to the business processes in the organization. Workflows can be as simple or complex as the business processes require. Developers can create workflows that are started by people who use a site, or they can create workflows that start automatically based on an event, such as when a list item is created or changed. If your organization has developed and deployed custom workflows, these workflows may be available in addition to or instead of the built-in workflows already described.

There are two ways in which custom workflows can be created:

  • Power users can design no-code workflows for use in a specific list or library by using Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2013 and Office Visio 2013 SharePoint Designer 2013 workflows are created from a list of available workflow activities, and the person who creates the workflow can deploy the workflows directly to the list or library where they will be used. SharePoint Designer 2013 also works hand-in-hand with Visio 2013 to provide a visual workflow development experience to build diagrams by using shapes and connectors. You can also import workflows from Visio 2013 into SharePoint Designer 2013, and vice versa.

  • Professional software developers can create workflows by using Visual Studio 2012 or later These workflows contain custom code and workflow activities. After a professional developer creates custom workflows, a server administrator can deploy them across multiple sites.

    (Video) Basic SharePoint Workflow

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Steps involved in using workflows

There are several steps involved in using a workflow on a document or list item. Each step can be completed by individuals in different roles. For example, a site administrator can make a workflow available for use in a document library, a content creator can start a workflow or modify a workflow in progress, and a third person (for example, a document reviewer or an approver) can complete the workflow task.

Adding a workflow to a list, library, or content type

Before a workflow can be used, it must be added to a list, library, or content type to make it available for documents or items in a specific location. You must have the Manage Lists permission to add a workflow to a list, library, or content type. In most cases, the site administrators or individuals who manage specific lists or libraries perform this task.

The availability of a workflow within a site varies, depending on where it is added:

  • If you add a workflow directly to a list or library, it is available only for items in that list or library.

  • If you add a workflow to a list content type (an instance of a site content type that was added to a specific list or library), it is available only for items of that content type in the specific list or library with which that content type is associated.

  • If you add a workflow to a site content type, that workflow is available for any items of that content type in every list and library to which an instance of that site content type was added.

  • If you want a workflow to be widely available across lists or libraries in a site, you can create a site workflow.

When you add a workflow to a list, library, or content type, you can customize the workflow for its specific location by specifying various options:

  • The name for this instance of the workflow

  • The tasks list where workflow-related tasks are stored

    (Video) How to use Microsoft SharePoint

  • The history list that records all of the events that are related to the workflow

  • The way that you want the workflow to be started

  • Additional options that are specific to the individual workflow, for example, how tasks are routed to participants, what circumstances complete the workflow, and what actions occur after the workflow is completed.

When you add a workflow to a list, library, or content type, you make it available for documents or items in a specific location; you do not start the actual workflow.

Starting a workflow on a document or item

After a workflow is added to a list, library, or content type and thereby made available for use, you can start this workflow on a document or item (if the workflow is configured to allow it to be started manually). To start a workflow, you select the workflow that you want from the list of workflows available for the document or item. If necessary, you may also need to fill out a form with the information that the workflow requires. Depending on how the workflow was designed and configured, you might have the option to further customize the workflow when you start it on a document or item by customizing such options as participants, due date, and task instructions.

Modifying a workflow in progress

After a workflow is started on an item, you may need to make changes to how the workflow behaves. For example, after a workflow starts, the person who started the workflow might need to add additional participants. Or a workflow participant might need to reassign his or her task to another person or request a change to the document or item that is the focus of the workflow. You can modify some of the built-in workflows while the workflow is in progress. If your organization has developed and deployed custom workflows, it is possible that changes to workflows in progress are allowed.

Completing workflow tasks

Any workflow event that requires human interaction is represented by a workflow task. When a workflow assigns a task to a workflow participant, the task recipient can either complete that task or request changes to the workflow itself by editing the workflow task form. Workflow participants can complete workflow tasks on the SharePoint site or directly within an Office 2013 program. When a workflow participant completes a workflow task or requests a change to the workflow, the workflow moves to the next relevant step.

Tracking the status of workflows

Workflow owners and participants can follow the progress of a workflow by checking the status page that is associated with the workflow. The status page includes status information about outstanding workflow tasks. It also includes history information that is relevant to the workflow.

Reporting tools can provide an aggregate analysis of workflow history. Organizations can use this analysis to locate bottlenecks in processes or to determine whether a group is meeting the performance targets for a given business process. Several predefined Microsoft Office Excel reports can be used with any workflow. Additionally, workflow history information is available as a SharePoint list data source that can be used and analyzed in other programs or custom business process monitoring solutions.

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See Also

Overview of workflows included with SharePoint

(Video) Creating Automated Workflows in Microsoft SharePoint Online with Power Automate - Office 365

Workflows in SharePoint 2013

Workflow development in SharePoint Designer 2013 and Visio 2013

Getting started with SharePoint Server 2013 workflow

FAQs

What are three types of SharePoint workflows? ›

There are five commonly used Workflows that can be set up within SharePoint: Approval Workflows, Status Workflows, Notification Workflows, Automation Workflows, and Custom Workflows.

Are SharePoint workflows going away? ›

As more organizations migrate to the cloud, key services are adapted to improve performance and security. As part of this ongoing evolution, Microsoft will retire SharePoint workflows.

What is SharePoint workflow used for? ›

SharePoint workflows are pre-programmed mini-applications that streamline and automate a wide variety of business processes. Workflows can range from collecting signatures, feedback, or approvals for a plan or document, to tracking the current status of a routine procedure.

What is the difference between flow and workflow in SharePoint? ›

SharePoint Designer workflows also only work within a single site. Microsoft Flow can go between sites, site collections and even different tenants and farms. Microsoft Flow is much more extendable in terms of business automation.

What are the 8 stages of workflow? ›

The 8 Steps of a Streamlined Post Production Workflow
  • Step 1: Receipt of Raw Footage. ...
  • Step 2: Storage and Organization of Raw Footage. ...
  • Step 3: Build the Rough Cut. ...
  • Step 4: Receive Notes and Refine The Rough Cut Into a Final "Locked" Cut. ...
  • Step 5: Visual Effects (VFX) ...
  • Step 6: Sound Effects/Mixing.
28 Sept 2021

What are the 3 basic components of workflow? ›

Every workflow is composed of three common elements: a trigger, the work (or a series of tasks), and the result. Below, we walk through each of these elements to help you understand and recognize them in your own flow.

What replaced SharePoint workflows? ›

Microsoft removed SharePoint Server 2010 workflow services from existing tenants on November 1, 2020. We recommend that you move your classic SharePoint Server workflows to Power Automate flows.

Is Microsoft shutting down SharePoint? ›

Therefore, we've made the difficult decision to discontinue the SharePoint Online Public Website feature so that we can focus our efforts and investments on delivering capabilities in Microsoft 365 that will bring more value to our customers.

What will replace SharePoint? ›

7 Microsoft SharePoint alternatives to consider
  • Confluence. ...
  • Huddle. ...
  • Glasscubes. ...
  • Google Workspace. ...
  • Samepage. ...
  • 6. Box. ...
  • Basecamp.
12 Jul 2022

Why is workflow so important? ›

Workflows can help streamline and automate repeatable business tasks, minimizing room for errors and increasing overall efficiency. This, in turn, dramatically improves your business. Managers can make quicker, smarter decisions and employees are empowered to collaborate in a more productive and agile way.

What is a workflow in simple words? ›

Workflow is the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task. Each step in a workflow has a specific step before it and a specific step after it, with the exception of the first and last steps. In a linear workflow, an outside event usually initiates the first step.

What is the purpose of workflows? ›

The aim of workflow management is to streamline the components of various office systems by eliminating unnecessary tasks (and the costs associated with the performance of those tasks) and automating the remaining tasks in a process.

What are the 3 types of flows? ›

The three movements were human capital flow, trade flow and capital or investment flow. They exploited and looted the Indian society and adversely affected the lives of people. Complete Answer: There were three major flows in the international economic change.

How do you automate a workflow in SharePoint? ›

7 Ways to Automate Workflows Using SharePoint
  1. Use Alerts in SharePoint to Improve Processes. ...
  2. Use the Content Approval Feature in SharePoint to Improve Workflows. ...
  3. Use Built-In SharePoint Workflows. ...
  4. Build Workflows Using SharePoint Designer. ...
  5. Use Visual Studio to Build Workflows. ...
  6. Use Microsoft Flow to Build Workflows.
7 Aug 2019

How do I test a SharePoint workflow? ›

To test the SharePoint workflow template

Choose the F5 key to build and run the solution. The SharePoint site appears. In the navigation pane in SharePoint, choose the Shared Documents link. In the Shared Documents page, choose the Documents link on the Library Tools tab, and then choose the Upload Document button.

What are the two types of workflows? ›

Workflows can be divided into three primary types, based on their complexity. These are sequential, state machine, and rules-driven.

What are the four types of workflow? ›

These include sequential workflows, state machine workflows, and rules-driven workflows. A sequential workflow is linear and progressive, like a flow chart. This workflow goes from one task or process to another and does not step back in the sequence.

What are the four types of workflow actions? ›

There are four different Rule Actions allowed in Workflow Rules:
  • Create a Task.
  • Send an Email Alert.
  • Send an Outbound Message.
  • Update a Record.
2 Jan 2020

What is the hardest part of workflow? ›

There are four big challenges that you need to overcome in order to have an efficient workflow:
  1. Reconciling multiple data sources. ...
  2. Keeping transparency, accountability and the audit trail. ...
  3. Moving away from the tick-list methodology. ...
  4. Drilling down into the data.
4 Oct 2017

What 4 things does effective workflow include? ›

4 Tips for Creating an Effective Workflow Model
  • Start By Brainstorming. ...
  • Challenge the Results of Your Brainstorming. ...
  • Determine if Some Processes Can Take Place in Parallel. ...
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities Clearly.
9 Nov 2018

Is SharePoint still relevant in 2021? ›

The year 2021 is going to be a huge year for SharePoint developers because investing in smart software solutions that simplify processes and enable a steady, seacure, and easy flow of relevant information has become imperative to the growth and success of all businesses.

Is workflow deprecated? ›

There is no such official news related to deprecation of workflows and would not even come for atleast 2-3 years for sure. Workflow is integral part of CRM custom Business Logic which cannot go/deprecate just right away.

Can you create a workflow without SharePoint designer? ›

Yes, you can always create a workflow without having SharePoint designer. But without SharePoint designer, you are restricted to use default available templates of Workflows.

Does SharePoint have a future? ›

But the future of SharePoint is limited. The product is bundled into Office 365 and is therefore both cheap and convenient as an enterprise commitment. But the days of large-scale SharePoint build-outs for collaboration and content management are probably over.

Why do people still use SharePoint? ›

It gives companies a way to automate business processes, track progress, and securely share information across departments (or even externally). Depending on a business, companies can use SharePoint as a document management system, collaboration software, intranet or extranet.

Is SharePoint out of date? ›

SharePoint Server 2010: Ended in April 2021. SharePoint Server 2013: Will end in April 2023. SharePoint Server 2016: Will end in July 2026.

Why is SharePoint better than Excel? ›

The combination of permissions, forms, targeting, and data validation which can be applied to different parts of a SharePoint list, along with the ability to collate one source of truth, means that, overall, you can manage data integrity better via a SharePoint list than an Excel spreadsheet.

What is the old SharePoint called? ›

SharePoint evolved from projects codenamed "Office Server" and "Tahoe" during the Office XP development cycle. "Office Server" evolved out of the FrontPage and Office Server Extensions and "Team Pages".

Why is SharePoint better than a server? ›

Unlike legacy on-premises file servers, Microsoft SharePoint saves the version history of your files, meaning the old version is easily accessible should you need, providing comprehensive backup, document control and data loss prevention (DLP).

What is an example of a workflow? ›

Here's a simple example of a workflow where multiple people are involved: A freelancer creates an invoice and sends it to their client. The client sends the invoice to their finance department. The finance department approves the invoice and processes the payment.

What is a good workflow? ›

A good workflow is one that provides deep insights into business processes. A well-planned and designed workflow streamlines business processes by eliminating redundancies and duplication. Improved visibility, communication, and control over the business process are some of the other advantages of process workflows.

What are the expected benefits of workflow? ›

Here are 7 benefits workflow automation can bring you.
  • Reduced errors. Operating with zero errors is impossible. ...
  • Improved connectivity. ...
  • Increased productivity. ...
  • Redundant manual tasks eliminated. ...
  • Multiple tasks juggled easily. ...
  • Increased trust, transparency, and control. ...
  • Improved work culture.

How do you start a workflow for beginners? ›

Steps to Create a Workflow Online:
  1. Identify your resources.
  2. List out the tasks that should be accomplished.
  3. Find out who is accountable for each step and assign roles.
  4. Create a workflow diagram to visualize the process.
  5. Test the workflow you created.
  6. Train your team on the new workflow.
  7. Deploy the new workflow.

What are the steps of work flow? ›

Workflows move data (tasks) through a series of steps from initiation to completion.
...
The planning stage:
  1. Ideation and information gathering.
  2. Request intake.
  3. Prioritization and resourcing. ...
  4. Development and review.
  5. Progress tracking. ...
  6. Approval.
  7. Reporting.
26 Aug 2022

What is the difference between process and workflow? ›

A workflow consists of repeatable activities necessary to complete a task. A process refers to all of the elements necessary to accomplish a larger organizational goal. The general consensus is that workflows account for granular details up to small-scale objectives while processes refer to more comprehensive outcomes.

What is another word for workflow? ›

What is another word for workflow?
methodstrategy
processoperation
planprotocol
procedureproceeding
programUSroutine
237 more rows

What are the types of workflows? ›

Workflows can be divided into three primary types, based on their complexity. These are sequential, state machine, and rules-driven.

What are the four types of workflow actions? ›

There are four different Rule Actions allowed in Workflow Rules:
  • Create a Task.
  • Send an Email Alert.
  • Send an Outbound Message.
  • Update a Record.
2 Jan 2020

What is workflow and its types? ›

Workflows can be sorted into categories based on their structure and complexity. There are three main types of workflows: sequential workflows, state machine workflows, and rules-driven workflows.

Why do we need workflow? ›

Workflows can help streamline and automate repeatable business tasks, minimizing room for errors and increasing overall efficiency. This, in turn, dramatically improves your business. Managers can make quicker, smarter decisions and employees are empowered to collaborate in a more productive and agile way.

What is a workflow in simple words? ›

Workflow is the series of activities that are necessary to complete a task. Each step in a workflow has a specific step before it and a specific step after it, with the exception of the first and last steps. In a linear workflow, an outside event usually initiates the first step.

What is the purpose of workflow? ›

The aim of workflow management is to streamline the components of various office systems by eliminating unnecessary tasks (and the costs associated with the performance of those tasks) and automating the remaining tasks in a process.

What are the steps of workflow? ›

Workflows move data (tasks) through a series of steps from initiation to completion.
...
The planning stage:
  1. Ideation and information gathering.
  2. Request intake.
  3. Prioritization and resourcing. ...
  4. Development and review.
  5. Progress tracking. ...
  6. Approval.
  7. Reporting.
26 Aug 2022

What is the difference between process and workflow? ›

A workflow consists of repeatable activities necessary to complete a task. A process refers to all of the elements necessary to accomplish a larger organizational goal. The general consensus is that workflows account for granular details up to small-scale objectives while processes refer to more comprehensive outcomes.

What are workflow stages? ›

Workflow stages are the building blocks of a workflow. You need to create at least one stage before you can create a workflow. Each workflow stage contains sets of actions; those that are executing when entering the stage and those executed when exiting the stage.

What is a good workflow? ›

A good workflow is one that provides deep insights into business processes. A well-planned and designed workflow streamlines business processes by eliminating redundancies and duplication. Improved visibility, communication, and control over the business process are some of the other advantages of process workflows.

What is another word for workflow? ›

What is another word for workflow?
methodstrategy
processoperation
planprotocol
procedureproceeding
programUSroutine
237 more rows

What is workflow format? ›

A workflow diagram visualizes the actions and steps needed to complete a project or process. At their simplest level, workflow diagrams are flowcharts created using boxes and diamonds to represent actions and steps in the process. Then, every step is connected with an arrow to represent the flow from beginning to end.

How do you start a workflow for beginners? ›

Steps to Create a Workflow Online:
  1. Identify your resources.
  2. List out the tasks that should be accomplished.
  3. Find out who is accountable for each step and assign roles.
  4. Create a workflow diagram to visualize the process.
  5. Test the workflow you created.
  6. Train your team on the new workflow.
  7. Deploy the new workflow.

What 4 things does effective workflow include? ›

4 Tips for Creating an Effective Workflow Model
  • Start By Brainstorming. ...
  • Challenge the Results of Your Brainstorming. ...
  • Determine if Some Processes Can Take Place in Parallel. ...
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities Clearly.
9 Nov 2018

Videos

1. SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflows
(Sharepoint Journey)
2. Introduction to SharePoint WorkFlow (Basic Level) - NIFTIT
(NIFTIT USA)
3. Introduction to SharePoint Online (2016)
(ClipTraining)
4. Creating a simple Microsoft Flow workflow for a SharePoint list
(Cloud Design Box)
5. Sharepoint Tutorial | Introduction to SharePoint Workflow
(Mr X)
6. Introduction to Approval Workflows in SharePoint 2010
(dataBridge LLC)

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