What is new in SharePoint2013 Workflow
In SharePoint 2013, Microsoft provides a new way for creating workflows while the existing SharePoint 2010 Workflow platform has been carried forward to SharePoint 2013. SharePoint 2013 workflows are powered by Windows Workflow Foundation 4, which was substantially redesigned from earlier versions. These changes bring a major advancement to workflow and make SharePoint workflows to handle much more complex scenarios.
Let’s first look at the high-level architecture of the workflow infrastructure. As you can see from the SharePoint2013 Architecture diagram below, SharePoint 2010 workflow execution was hosted in SharePoint itself, this has been retained in SharePoint 2013 to allow for backward compatibility while Windows Azure Workflow is external to SharePoint and communicates using common protocols over the Windows Azure service bus, mediated by OAuth. Windows Azure Workflow also can be installed on a separate server. This new workflow infrastructure combined with Windows Workflow Foundation 4 provides SharePoint2013 workflow with more capabilities, such as Service Bus messaging, elastic scalability, and managed service reliability.
Next, let’s look at what is new in SharePoint 2013 workflow and how these changes will make it more appealing than SharePoint 2010 workflow.
1. Declarative authoring in both SharePoint Designer and Visual Studio
Workflow authoring is declarative only in SharePoint2013 Workflow. It simplified the way workflows are created and also provides a consistent experience for creating workflow in SharePoint designer and Visual Studio. Workflows are no longer compiled into managed assemblies and deployed to an assembly cache. Instead, XAML files define your workflows and frame their execution. You can see screenshot below on how you create the same workflow in Visual Studio and SharePoint Designer.
SPD Declarative workflow Authoring
Visual Studio Declarative workflow Authoring
Another great feature inside SharePoint Designer is called visual designer for workflow. This feature is enabled when you have installed Visio 2013. It provides a new way to design workflow alongside the traditional text-based workflow designer as shown below.
SPD Visual Designer view
2.Workflow stages to tackle more complex workflow scenarios
This is the major improvement made by Microsoft in SharePoint 2013 workflow as it allows you to create declarative state machine workflow using SharePoint. In SharePoint 2010, you can only create sequential workflow using SharePoint Designer. If you like to create state-machine workflow, you need to get a developer involved as it can only be created inside Visual Studio. Sequential workflow can only handle simple workflow as it executes in a predefined order, on the other hand, state machine workflow can model more complex workflow as it is event driven. Depending on different state, certain actions will take place.
3. New workflow actions and data type to enhance workflow capability
SharePoint 2013 adds several new SharePoint actions to extend the workflow capability. I will highlight some of the significant ones and for a complete list of the actions in SharePoint2013, you can check the MSDN.
- Call HTTP web service: This action enable no-code web service calls from inside a workflow. Organisation can utilize this action to have a better management of integrating external processing with workflow. As business analyst can model the actual business process inside workflow while developer can expose the external processing logic via web services.
- Loop: The ability to loop through a collection is missing in SharePoint2010 and having this capability will align SharePoint processing logic with what is expected from a workflow engine.
- Dynamic value / Dictionary type: These terms refer to the same data type, dynamic value is used in Visual Studio while dictionary type is used in SharePoint Designer. This new data type used in conjunction with HTTP web service request make it much easier to consume web services from within the workflow.
- Start SharePoint2010 workflow.
There is full interoperability in SharePoint 2013 with SharePoint 2010 workflows, which is enabled by using the Workflow interop bridge.
4. Cloud ready
There is 100 percent parity in SharePoint 2013 between on-premises and Office 365 -based workflows as shown in the picture below; therefore you can easily move an on-premises workflow to the cloud. Office 365 has already got the Windows Azure Workflow installed and configured properly. You do not have to do anything if you’d like to take advantage of the new workflow capability in the Office 365.
As you can see, Microsoft made a big investment in SharePoint2013 workflow and these changes make the SharePoint2013 workflow more robust, easier to build and provide more capabilities to help you to streamline your business processes. We are looking forward to helping your business take advantage of these new capabilities.