Limitations of SharePoint Designer Workflows that any Business user should be aware of

Though SharePoint Designer 2010(SPD) is a great tool for business users for creating custom workflows. Many of our customers used to get into a dead end situation because of the lack of knowledge on its exact limitations. . These limitations may force them to contact development team to look for alternate options. Following are a few of them which we came across during our past engagements.

1. Backward flow for rejected cases

SPD workflows can only move forward direction. Handling rejections in any step is difficult as workflow doesn’t allow user to redo same step. Also SPD workflows are limited to sequential and parallel workflows but not state machine workflows.

2. Delegation of tasks during task owners absence

When an approver is unavailable to perform his task (on leave or on duty travel etc.), there is no direct way to delegate the task to another user in the middle of a workflow.

3. Data  Access Limitations from external sources

SPD workflow can only access content within the same site where they’re running; they cannot access content from other sites, site collections or external feeds, and Web services. Only form level integration via Web Service is supported. SPD actions cannot use Web Services.

4. Limitations of Email Notifications

There is no HTML editing capability in notification e-mail body text. We are bound to write manually all html tags and formatting stuff. Also we cannot set a priority or add a bcc option for a notification email.

Even with all these limitations, it is  highly recommended to start business process automation with out of the box features of SPD workflow. We were able to stick to the no code approach in our recent projects and automated many key business processes successfully. The key point was that we were able to find out workaround methods for the limitations. Quick turnaround time, easy deployment & maintenance are really worth enough to follow this approach ignoring the limitationsif businesses can be slightly flexible.

We may post another blog detailing the various workarounds available for these limitations.

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