To summarize, the SharePoint 2010 Workflow engine will be turned off for all tenants beginning November 2020. This means existing 2010-based workflows will stop functioning.
SharePoint 2013 Workflow engine (Workflow Manager) will continue to work, however, Microsoft has deprecated it, which tells me it will soon meet the same fate as 2010 Workflow. Please note that this only applies to SharePoint Online (Office 365). On-premise versions will continue to support both engines for the time being.
The announcement might excite developers and administrators alike as they know this will lead to more work and opportunity to leverage newer technology. But what does the announcement mean if you are a CIO, CFO, or business owner? For most, I’m sure the immediate reaction is a negative one. On the surface, it sounds like more money will have to be spent to redo something that’s already working. I can empathize with this sentiment; however, I also see an opportunity for businesses to take their process automation to a new level with advanced functionality and potential cost savings.
Quick history lesson:
First, let’s clarify what 2010 and 2013 Workflows are and why they are in Office 365. The 2010 Workflow Engine was introduced with SharePoint 2010. This workflow engine was built into the SharePoint platform using the same resources as other services within SharePoint. You can think of it as being embedded in SharePoint.
SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio was used to create workflows and custom activities for workflows. Most workflows were linear/sequential unless you used Visual Studio to build other methods (state-machine). With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft added a new workflow engine using Workflow Manager which is a .NET-based workflow engine that runs on the Windows Workflow Engine and uses an API for interaction. This was to help centralize workflows in and out of SharePoint but also introduced additional server and resource needs because it is a separate platform that needs to be managed. Both of these options have remained in all versions of SharePoint since their release including on-premise and Office 365.
My perspective: how can companies seize the opportunity?
As great as SharePoint Workflow has been, it's been limiting. For the most part, workflows revolved around creating tasks and notifications to complete an activity and then mark it "complete" further enabling the process to continue. This works just fine as most business processes revolve around tasks that need to be completed however, there are now better methods and new tools that can automate processes.
With RPA, AI, Power Automate, Power BI, Power Apps, Logic Apps, Azure, and hundreds of 3rd party vendors creating tools to automate, integrate and visualize data, it’s a great time to rethink and reimagine business processes and how technology can help automate them.
For example, a workflow that creates a task to notify an employee to open a form and enter data could be replaced by a bot that can reference an ERP or other business application to complete the process without manual intervention. The options are nearly endless and all it takes is some creativity and planning.
Additionally, I'd recommend adopting a Business Process Management (BPM) program. As you plan conversion from SharePoint 2010 or 2013 Workflow to Power Platform, take a little time to document and map processes. You will gain a better understanding of all the processes within operations, how they relate, the impact, and cycle cost. You may also find that similar processes are used in multiple areas of the organization, and automating once can provide benefits to all.
In summary, as older technologies become deprecated or turned off, like this case with Sharepoint 2010 Workflow, I encourage organizational leaders to seize the opportunity to revisit critical business processes and explore what the new technology can offer.
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