SP24– My Workflow Rockstar Session

220-SharePoint24_3_757B2D40.pngOn April 17th, I presented Seven Pro Tips to Become a Workflow Rock Star at the live 24 hour conference called SP24.  This conference is now planning an encore performance called “SP24 Rewound”, which will take place on May 14-15, in reverse order from the original.

Also, note that the PDF of the presentation is there in the session resources tab when you scroll down.  You have to actually register for my session in order to gain access to this, though.  When you’re looking at the whole session agenda (link above), there’s a register button next to each class.  Once you do that, you’ll get an email with info about the session resources.

There were plenty of questions last time I presented this, so I figure I’d give you the answers here:

  • Jen Jacobsen:  Laura – do you have a blog post on creating the new hire dashboard?
    I’ll be presenting this solution on May 14th at SharePoint Power Hour at 11 Central.
  • maridee oday:  (regarding my demo of creating a task using “Create list item” action instead of “Start Task Process”) if you used the task creation as designed through SP designer instead of creating a list, would the workflow automation work better in O365 version of SP?
    No, this works the same in workflows in SharePoint 2013 on premises and Office 365.
  • Timo Pitkäranta:  @laura/kkhipple Q1: if customer has done a workflow by themselves and they want their to develop the process further by us (because OOTB workflow does not meet their needs), how to do that? start from beginning?
    Yes, you’d have to create a new workflow using SharePoint Designer, because an OOTB workflow can’t be customized any further than what you already get in the user interface (checkboxes, etc.)Q2: when to do custom workflow instead of e.g. information management policy or timer job/custom code?
    When an out-of-box workflow doesn’t have an action to do something specific that you need to be able to do in that workflow… then do custom dev or buy a 3rd party product.
  • Fred Y:  What is the impact of adding too many logs on workflow history?
    Your workflow history list can get extremely large, because it doesn’t automatically keep itself cleaned up.  You’ll notice that tasks associated with a workflow (using the task actions) will automatically disappear after 60 days by default.  In the past I’ve had to use PowerShell on the server to clean up the workflow history list because it got too large.  Here’s a related blog post that I wrote: SharePoint Workflow History Issue
  • Natalia Tsymbalenko:  Question. How can I do custom action for SP Worfklow on SPOnline?
    I’m not a dev, so I looked online and this is what I found: http://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/questions/73626/how-to-develop-a-sharepoint-designer-workflow-action-for-use-in-sharepoint-2013
  • Damien Frost:  I experience a problem with ‘recurrence’ step of Information Management Policy fails to trigger workflows after the first run. Is this something anyone else as run into (Office 365 only)
    This doesn’t surprise me, but I’ve only seen it happen sporadically.  I’ve also noticed that Information Management Policies won’t trigger SP 2013 workflows, only 2010 ones, which is unfortunate.
  • Elena Schott:  Recommendations for HTML editor that’s under $100? (Company won’t buy it but I would)
    SharePoint Designer 2010 is free and will let you do this.  Also, you can go into any rich text field or wiki page in SharePoint (like the body of an announcement in an announcements list) and you have WSYIWYG and you can then click the “Edit Source” button (in the Format Text tab of the ribbon) to see the code behind what you just did visually in the body of the announcement or page you’re on.
  • Geetha Sivasailam:  Questions: SPD 2013 provides the ability to copy/paste activities within the same workflow or from 1 workflow to another. But doing that has crashed SPD for me. Have you experienced that?Is that a known issue?
    No, doing copy and paste has never caused mine to crash.  Not sure if it’s a known bug.  Here’s Microsoft’s blog post about copy and paste: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sharepointdesigner/archive/2012/08/10/copy-and-paste-support-in-sharepoint-designer-2013.aspx
  • Natalia Tsymbalenko:  @Laura, what about APPROVING VIA EMAIL NOT GOING TO SP?
    There is no out-of-box functionality that does this, but I know that some of the 3rd party workflow products have it built in.  Also, I had someone tell me once that they figured out a way to do it, so that the user received the approval email with a hyperlink in it.  That hyperlink created a new email TO the email address of a email-enabled library.  Then that library had a workflow on it that sent info back to the original list that they were actually approving.  They had to do something special in PowerShell on the server, to make it so that the email arriving in the library would actually trigger the workflow (because it doesn’t do this out-of-box).  Email-enabled libraries are not available in Office 365.
  • Elaine Rafferty:  what is the web address for the SharePoint power hour?
    Here is the playlist of all of our past ones.
    Here is where you can
    see upcoming events and even add them to your calendar.
  • Geetha Sivasailam:  Question: SPD workflows have 50 variable limit. What’s the best way to handle this limitation?
    Click on Local Variables in the ribbon and delete any that you are not using.  Also, you can reuse them if necessary and possible with your logic.  For example, when I create an item using “create list item” action, I can name name something like “ListItem” and use that same variable name for each list item I create.
  • Brian Call:  That alert will not go off if a workflow edits an item correct?
    Unfortunately, that’s true with 2013 workflows.  If a workflow edits an item, this will not trigger the workflow on the item that the workflow edited.  This is a huge negative to me.
  • R0b3r70:  from time to time, some workflows seem to be stuck in progress and doesn’t complete or error or anything. what can you do with such WFs?
    This is one of the reasons that I don’t like the task process designer.  I don’t like to leave workflows running in progress.
  • Brian Call:  @Laura do you ever worry about the number of workflows running at once?
    Yes, I don’t like to have a bunch of workflows running in progress on a bunch of items… just waiting.  As far as scalability, at least now in 2013, you can have a whole server dedicated to workflow, and even a whole workflow farm.
  • Ricky Singh:  So, if we need to send reminders for due date like 2 days before, that can be done using Information Management Policy?
    Here’s an old blog post I wrote on the topic: Workflow- Reminder Before Due Date – MOSS vs. WSS
  • Fred Y:  Is there a page where we can see what active workflows are running?
    Not really at the site level, but for each list/library, you can create a view where you can see the column that has the same name as your workflow, and filter/sort that.
  • Svetlana Avramova:  On Office 365 Microsoft removed the Alert me on a View. Do you have any information about this, and are they going to put it back there, or we need to build more workflows.
    They did not remove it from Office 365.  That demo where I just showed it was in Office 365.  Here’s my blog post on the subject.  And oldie but goody. Alerts Based on Views 


7 Pro Tips

In addition, here are my 7 pro tips and some resource links to go along with them.

  1. Use Logging
    mentioned in: Workflow actions quick reference (SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform)
  2. Pretty email formatting
    This is the only one I could find. It says 2010 but applies to both 2010, 2013, O365: http://sharepointjim.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/how-to-create-rich-html-email-message-in-sharepoint-designer-2010-workflow/
  3. Understand troubleshooting
    Couldn’t find any good web resources specifically about troubleshooting, but there’s this great Workflow Resource Center by Microsoft.
  4. Create workflow error notifications
    This part is based on my blog post Get Notified of Workflow Errors which doesn’t appear to apply to 2013 because it doesn’t look like errors get stored in the same place now.  220-wlEmoticon-sadsmile_2_757B2D40.png
  5. Use a custom history list
    This tip is a very specific one that I came up with, there are definitely not any MS resources about it.  This is described in my session, though.
  6. Use variables
    This resource is for SP 2007, but it is the most thorough MS resource I could find, that explains what variables are.
  7. Understand Information Management Policies
    Introduction to Information Management Policies

I’ll see you all at my session on May 14th, and this session is recorded and will be available on YouTube afterwards.


  • Laura,

    While the only tip I hadn’t already figured out on my own was #4, it’s nice to have some validation that I’ve been doing things (mostly) right. A lot of the workflows I’ve written involve multiple different messages with slightly different contents, so I actually combined #6 and #2 to simplify things. As an example, I created an event publicity request system and built a variable to store the “Event Details” so that they can be incorporated into every message that gets sent without re-typing them constantly (this was originally my means of bypassing the “can’t copy & paste in workflow emails” restriction).


  • Danny Engelman

    Re: 50 variable limitation

    Clean Up your variables is the first step, if you still need over 50 variables then SPD Dictionaries (action: Build Dictionary) count as one variable but can hold multiple items.

  • Hey Everyone. Hope all is well. Does anyone know anything about SharePoint printing? My company has put me in charge of a project that incorporates SharePoint printing. Can anyone shed some light on this topic?

  • Hurley,
    SharePoint printing? SharePoint is in the browser, so you usually just print from whatever browser you’re in. If it’s contact, tasks, or calendars you want to print, you can connect those to Outlook, and print from there, where there are better formatting options.


  • WF Stuck or in Progress

    I see they asked you the question of what to do is the WF gets stuck of in Progress, and you acknowledge it happens but offer no way of fixing?
    I personally am having sporadic sticking where all people have approved their step, yet it does not progress.

  • Pingback: SharePoint Saturday Honolulu – Wrap Up | @WonderLaura

  • I’m watching this today April 17th, coincidentally the same day it was recorded, and after 5 minutes i realize something weird…it was recorded 4/17/2014 and this is 2019!!! oh boy…

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