Understanding Workflow in SharePoint 2016
As the march to the cloud continues, technologies are changing to accommodate this march; workflow is a prime example. SharePoint recently introduced a workflow platform named SharePoint 2013 Workflow Platform.
If your organization is using SharePoint On-Premises, then the workflow platform is a separate (but free!) product from SharePoint and requires its own download, installation, and configuration. The workflow product is called Workflow Manager, and when it’s configured to work with a SharePoint 2016 farm, it provides the SharePoint 2013 Workflow Platform. Do all of these versions sound confusing?
It is fairly simple: The “new” workflow platform was introduced in SharePoint 2013, so it was called the SharePoint 2013 Workflow Platform. SharePoint 2016 still uses this workflow platform that was introduced in the previous version of SharePoint. To get a better handle on it, see the sidebar, “Understanding the differences between workflow platforms,” just ahead.
If you are using SharePoint Online, you don’t have to worry about the various workflow platforms. Microsoft handles all of that for you. You just need to build your workflows. You can continue to use SharePoint Designer 2013; however, there are also a number of third-party workflow tools available for creating workflows in SharePoint Online. In particular, check out the workflow creation tools made by Nintex and K2.
In addition to the Workflow Manager-based workflow platform is a legacy workflow platform. The legacy workflow platform is the same workflow engine that shipped with SharePoint 2010 so it is called the SharePoint 2010 Workflow Platform. The legacy platform continues to install in the same manner it did in the previous version of SharePoint. That is, when you install SharePoint, you are also installing the legacy workflow platform.
Again, if you use SharePoint Online, though, you don’t need to worry about this. If you use SharePoint On-Premises, then you will need to contact your administrators to get workflow configured (if it is not already).
Confused by the two workflow platforms? Just remember that SharePoint has two workflow platforms: a platform called SharePoint 2013 Workflow and a legacy platform called SharePoint 2010 Workflow. The 2013 platform is made available by a product called Workflow Manager. The 2010 platform installs when you install SharePoint 2016, just like previous editions of SharePoint.
If you install SharePoint 2016, install SharePoint Designer 2013, and go to create a workflow, you only see the SharePoint 2010 Workflow Platform as an option in the platform drop-down list. After you, or your administrator, install Workflow Manager and configure it to work with the SharePoint farm, you then see another option called SharePoint 2013 Workflow Platform. If you don’t see the 2013 platform, then Workflow Manager has not been configured to work with your SharePoint 2016 farm.