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Some Differences Between the Workflow Feature of SharePoint Server 2010 and Its SharePoint Server 2013 Counterpart

In a video tutorial titled What’s New in 2013 Workflow and Types of Applications, Chris Beckett presents results from a survey conducted by Global 360m which showed 67.24% of organizations implementing SharePoint intending to build Document workflows on the platform. An additional 55.91% planned to build business process management workflows. Chris Beckett notes these percentages show why workflows are a bigger driver for enterprise SharePoint implementations than content management requirements.

The video presents two broad scopes for workflow development:

  1. Application — meaning workflows built to automate task completion and
  2. Enterprise — meaning workflows designed to connect dissimilar systems together to complete processes

As Chris Beckett points out, workflows built to automate taskes (“Application”) are well suited for SharePoint. But workflows built for enterprise system integration are not. The latter will be better handled by a platform like Microsoft’s BizTalk Server. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind there is no reason why both scopes cannot be bolted together with a workflow.

Focusing on SharePoint, workflows are usually developed either for content management requirements, or to automate processes. Out of the box, SharePoint 2013 ships with a number of workflows built for content management requirements. There are no out of the box workflows included with SharePoint Server 2013 to automate processes. Chris Beckett explains process automation workflows are usually built for specific systems, so it would be very difficult to build customizable workflow templates for process automation purposes.

This video also presents some of the history of workflows on the SharePoint platform. The first integration of a workflow engine into SharePoint architecture occurred with SharePoint 2007. SharePoint Server 2010 architecture also included a Workflow Runtime Host.

As Chris Beckett notes, with SharePoint Server 2013, a workflow engine is no longer included in the server architecture. Workflow has been pulled out and is now a “separate, deployable technology called “The Workflow Manager”.

Chris Beckett notes “The Workflow Manager” “can either be run side by side with SharePoint servers” on the same hardware, or on its own hardware in a farm configuration. He observes Microsoft has taken this route to open opportunities to incorporate workflow capabilities into other server platforms, besides SharePoint. One of the platforms Chris conjectures may shortly start using The Workflow Manager is Cynamics CRM.

The method of communicating between SharePoint Server 2013 and The Workflow Manager, is SharePoint Web Services via the App model.

But organizations can opt to continue to use older workflows built for SharePoint Server 2010. The Workflow Runtime is still included with SharePoint Server 2013. But he also points out there are no upgrade paths available to converter older workflows to work with The Workflow Manager.

Ira Michael Blonder

© Rehmani Consulting, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved