Workflows and workflow extensions in SharePoint

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Workflows have always been one of the key features of SharePoint. Even a simple approach that any routine or repeating work needs to be automated, leads us to create workflows. Needless to mention the enterprise-level automation tasks, such as sites provisioning, approvals, users’ onboarding workflows, etc.

2010 workflow platform in SharePoint

SharePoint 2010 incorporated a powerful workflow platform, which enabled administrators and power users to cover a wide range of automation tasks. The 2010 workflow platform is popular even today and, which is important, is still available in SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2016.

The set of out-of-the-box actions available in SharePoint Designer for the 2010 platform is very limited; however, there are software products from third-party vendors that significantly increase the capabilities of this workflow engine.

One of the largest and well-known products on the market of that kind is HarePoint Workflow Extensions. This product provides over 320 custom actions for SharePoint designer that are available along with the standard actions therefore they can be utilized in the same fashion – the combination of these two factors made HarePoint Workflow Extensions so popular.

The 2010 workflow platform, however, has certain known weak points. The most important of them are:

  • Technically, the 2010 workflow platform runs as a part of SharePoint engine. This leads to scalability and reliability issues: too many heavy workflows running at the same time can affect the performance of SharePoint servers.
  • Workflows monitoring and management is complicated. Practically, there is no centralized location from where the workflow instances can be monitored, tracked and managed.
  • One of the common automation tasks involves cycling through multiple items. Nevertheless, there are no capabilities to create loops in the 2010 platform workflows.

2013 workflow platform in SharePoint

When SharePoint 2013 has been released, a new 2013 workflow platform has been introduced. It successfully managed to cover the known weak points of the 2010 workflow platform, as well as introduce some new features and capabilities:

  • The 2013 workflow platform uses the engine that is technically isolated from the SharePoint farm. This is the biggest advantage of the new platform, which means a completely different level of scalability and reliability. In particular, it is now possible to create high-density multi-tenant workflow environments.
  • Workflows tracking and monitoring has been significantly improved. The 2013 workflow platform introduces the Workflow Manager. Specifically, users can query and configure workflow settings using new PowerShell cmdlets.
  • A concept of workflow stages makes the workflows to be similar to state-machine workflows. A related set of actions can now be visually organized; the program flow is now easier to control.
  • Loops are now available, in the forms of “Loop N Times” and “Loop with Condition”.

HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013

One major drawback still remains even on the 2013 workflow platform – it is the extremely limited set of out-of-the-box actions, despite there have been several useful actions added.

HarePoint hadn’t missed an opportunity to apply its expertise in workflow extensions and created a parallel product for HarePoint Workflow Extensions – HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013 that works on the 2013 workflow platform.

The new product is based on a completely similar design as the previous one – it adds custom actions to SharePoint Designer, which ensures the absolutely identical user experience. That is, if you are familiar with the older HarePoint Workflow Extensions product, you can start creating workflows on a new 2013 workflow platform immediately after deployment; no learning needed.

As of writing this article, HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013 offers around 200 custom actions, each described in a comprehensive Product Guide along with examples. More actions will be added in the nearest future.

Similarly to the older HarePoint Workflow Extensions, the custom actions in the new product can be used in combination with the out-of-the-box actions both in new and existing workflows.

The architecture of the new product is scalable allowing various deployment scenarios, thus supporting Scalability and Multi-tenancy as the key advantages of the 2013 workflow platform.

Product deployment is fully automated and requires only minimum configuration steps even in large environments. This makes it possible to get started with HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013 within less than 20 minutes. Traditionally, HarePoint offers 30 days of a fully functional trial and as well as full range pre-sales support.

Conclusion

The new HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013 product successfully complements all the advantages of the 2013 workflow platform and moves the automation capabilities in SharePoint far beyond the out-of-the-box limits.

The rich experience of HarePoint company in workflow extensions, combined with ease of deployment and reasonable pricing, makes the new HarePoint Workflow Manager Extensions for SharePoint 2016 / 2013 a must-have solution in your SharePoint environment.

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