The Back Yard​

Thoughts, tips & tricks
from the Lemonheads

End of the Road for Microsoft’s Humble Workflow

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that support for SharePoint 2010 workflows would soon be coming to an end.

The retirement of this workflow service is part of the continuous evolution of the Microsoft 365 (M365) platform. It is a necessary step to ensure consistent, performant cloud experiences.

Microsoft Support documentation states that M365 customers can expect changes from:

  • August 1, 2020 – SharePoint 2010 workflows turned off for all newly created tenants
  • November 1, 2020 – SharePoint 2010 workflow services removed from existing tenants

‏‏‎ ‎

For organisations that have existing SharePoint 2010 workflows, this is important news and requires immediate action to minimise disruption come November. Microsoft recommends migrating all business-critical 2010 workflows to Power Automate, the modern automation engine for M365.

It is important to note that this announcement only applies to cloud customers, i.e. SharePoint Online. Organisations that manage their own on-premises SharePoint Server 2016 or 2019 instances will have their 2010/13 workflows supported by Microsoft up till 2026.

New M365 Tenants

SharePoint 2010 workflows disabled on newly created M365 tenants

All M365 Tenants

SharePoint 2010 workflows disabled across all M365 tenants

SharePoint Server

SharePoint 2010 workflows no longer supported for On-Premises tenants

The retirement notice will also not impact organisations that leverage third-party automation engines such as Nintex and K2. It is, however, worth reviewing these workflows to ensure they have no dependency or trigger on SharePoint 2010 workflows.

Organisations that currently use SharePoint 2013 workflows have a little more breathing room. SharePoint 2013 workflows will be disabled for newly created tenants after November 1, 2020. Currently, no end-of-life date has been announced for this service. We can however expect SharePoint 2013 workflows to be fully retired at some point in the near future. A move to Power Automate is also recommended for these workflows. However, the need is not as pressing as it is with SharePoint 2010 workflows.

Is your organisation affected?

As the name suggests, SharePoint 2010 workflows have ten years of history in the workplace, helping to automate business processes. With little over three months until the workflow engine is turned off for good, IT departments have a colossal task ahead to review, prioritise and republish what could be a decade’s worth of workflows across their tenants.

It’s not just the custom workflows developed to automate a specific business task; this also includes the mix of built-in workflows that any ‘power user’ could apply to lists, libraries or sites they owned.

There are five different SharePoint 2010 built-in workflows that allowed power users to easily automate:

  1. Approvals
  2. Collecting feedback
  3. Collecting signatures
  4. Classic pages publishing approvals
  5. Three-state issue tracking

The pre-built workflows were zero-code solutions that brought instant automation to everyday business problems. The ease by which these workflows could be provisioned suggests that there is potential that individuals, teams or departments may have unknowingly grown dependent on these process flows for their daily operations. It is hard to know just how far SharePoint 2010 workflows could have spread in your organisation over the last ten years; thankfully, there is a solution that can help work this out.

What should you do?

Plan your work and work your plan. Having a systematic approach will help you remain level-headed while responding quickly to the issues in priority order. With a short timeframe ahead, it may not be practical to rebuild all existing workflows. Therefore, your goal instead should be to minimise business disruption where possible. In real terms, aim to have an answer for all business-critical SharePoint 2010 cloud workflows before November 1, 2020.

Use the following points as a checklist to help with your planning.

1. Review environments
  • Make a list of all the SharePoint tenants used by the business
  • Review the mix of cloud and on-premises tenants
  • Break down the number and type of workflows per tenant
  • Compile a single list of all SharePoint 2010 & 2013 workflows in your tenants

2. Analyse and plan
  • Investigate each item on the list to understand which workflows are business-critical
    • Speak to the owner of the list, library, site or workflow to validate its use case
    • Review the associated list, library or site to gauge currency of content
    • Review the Workflow History and Tasks lists to gauge the frequency of runs
  • Assign the narrowed list of business critical workflows to one of the following groups:
    • Group 1: SharePoint 2010 workflows on SharePoint Online
    • Group 2: SharePoint 2013 workflows on SharePoint Online
    • Group 3: SharePoint 2010 workflows on SharePoint Server
    • Group 4: SharePoint 2013 workflows on SharePoint Server
  • Work with internal stakeholders to prioritise the workflows in each group
  • Determine a suitable automation platform to rebuild the business-critical workflows

3. Take action
  • Build, test and deploy each workflow in priority order
    • Group 1 workflows must be addressed before November 1, 2020
    • Group 2 workflows can be addressed after November 1, 2020 (sooner is better)
    • Group 3 & 4 workflows must be addressed before 2026
  • Decide whether to rebuild or retire all remaining non-business critical workflows

Don’t be disheartened if your investigation reveals more workflows than initially anticipated. The most important thing is to just get started and address the highest priority workflows first.


Microsoft Power Automate

As part of your preparation, you will need to decide on a new automation platform to move over to. You may already have access to Power Automate as part of your organisation’s M365 licensing, or a third-party automation engine like Nintex or K2. Determine the suitability of the platform you already have access to, and your internal ability to rebuild the priority workflows in time.

Power Automate is well-integrated with M365 and can be used to transform and serve data throughout your tenant. For easy connectivity to external business applications, there are a number of free and premium connectors that can be leveraged as needed. For more demanding, enterprise-grade workflows a ‘per-flow plan’ exists to ensure maximum availability for large volumes of users. It is worth noting that the platform has limitations around impersonation steps, permission assignments and flow request thresholds; however, there are workarounds to address these issues in more complex workflows. Power Automate, in combination with Power Apps, is Microsoft’s recommended platform and the natural transition off platforms with retirement dates ahead.

Final thoughts

The timing of this announcement is unfortunate for organisations already stretched thin due to COVID-19. Rebuilding workflows is the last thing IT departments want to be doing in a time like this. However, the deadline from Microsoft is firm, and unfortunately, there is no way around it. The most important thing to do right now is take action quickly to minimise disruption to your business before November 1, 2020.

We are happy to help if you have questions. Feel free to reach out if you would like to know more about how your organisation could transition to Power Automate before SharePoint 2010 workflows are decommissioned for good.