Home » no-code » SharePoint 2013 Workflows Resemble State Machine Workflows — to the Benefit of Stakeholders

SharePoint 2013 Workflows Resemble State Machine Workflows — to the Benefit of Stakeholders

Computer software, regardless of whether it’s hard coded, or produced with no code methods, must be useful if it is to deliver on a value proposition. Workflows in SharePoint 2013 are better equipped to be truly useful as the result of a closer resemblance to state machine workflows.

“Useful”, of course, is an abstraction requiring further definition. Perhaps it will be helpful if I provide an illustration of a process, I believe most readers will judge to be something less than “useful”.

Chris Beckett includes this illustration in one of the video tutorials in SharePoint-Videos.com’s set, SharePoint 2013: Workflows:

“Let’s say we have an approval workflow, I upload a document, and I ask my boss to review it, and approve it, before I send it to a customer, or something. So, in 2010 workflow I would upload a document to a document library, the workflow would start, I would assign a task to my manager, my manager would review the document, maybe he would enter in some comments, he wants some revisions before he’s willing to approve it. The workflow would have to end, because it could only move its logic in one direction.” (quoted from the audio track of Chris Beckett’s tutorial).

Clearly the workflow behind this illustration fails to deliver on the expectation of a no code method of managing an approval process for enterprise document management (EDM) from start to finish. The problem is the “in between state” constituted by the manager’s request for revision. Beckett attributes this problem to the sequential logic architecture of SharePoint 2010 workflows.

This isn’t to say SharePoint 2010 workflows aren’t worth the effort. In fact, they are very popular, and very widely used across SharePoint implementations. But, as Beckett goes onto explain in this video, this is the case as the result of ” . . . all kinds of custom logic that would allow us to check to see whether the workflow had already run previously, whether it need us to skip over some of our logic in order to kind of resume where it had left off . . . ” (ibid).

In contrast, as Chris presents in this video, SharePoint 2013 workflows incorporate a different logic architecture, one more closely resembling the architecture of what he refers to as “state machine workflows”. These “state-centric” no code solutions are capable of supporting the more common type of approval process, within larger organizations, meaning processes requiring multiple parties to sign off on requests.

For some organizations, it may make more sense to implement the SharePoint 2013 workflow method, regardless of whether or not they already have made a major commitment to SharePoint 2010 no code workflow solutions, or not.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved