SPFest Chicago 2013: MCM Brian Culver Gives us the Lowdown on Workflow in SharePoint 2013

Workflows should enable people, according to MCM Brian Culver in his session titled Build Scalable SharePoint 2013 Staged Workflows to Run Locally and in the Cloud. In his session, Brian gave us a rundown of all the new workflow-related features in SharePoint 2013. The most notable new feature is the introduction of the Workflow Manager – a separate entity OUTSIDE of SharePoint. This new system uses REST Services to connect Workflow Manager to SharePoint. Worth noting is that the new builds incorporate .NET 4.X and are extremely scalable. With the new version of SharePoint Designer, we find integration with the latest Visio, which allows users to build workflows visually in Visio and then port them into SharePoint. What’s more is that if you export out of SharePoint, it remembers the workflow’s properties, there allowing that workflow to be put back in and function right away.

Workflows in SharePoint 2013 may have fewer actions than in SharePoint 2010, however, don’t despair quite yet – there are some new ones. The two best, according to Brian, are loops and Call HTTP Web Service. These two actions allow a workflow to constantly update information, as well as pull content from an external website. To get around missing out on 2010 actions you may want to use, it is possible to trigger a 2010 workflow from a 2013 workflow. While this approach is much more complicated, it is a viable workaround. A down side to the 2013 workflows is that they don’t break down quite as easily as 2010 workflows. In 2013, you start with a stage and build actions and a path on it and then add more stages as needed. This allows you to build workflows with that broken down mentality while in the end creating a single workflow. Another thing worth noting about Workflow Manager is that when you go to install it, Brian recommends that you do NOT select the “recommended” settings. In his experience, he has not been able to install the Manager successfully at all unless he sets it up himself (which all accounts isn’t very difficult to do).

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