Microsoft 365 is continually analyzed and updated to meet the needs of modern business. As more organizations migrate to the cloud, key services are adapted to improve performance and security.

As part of this ongoing evolution, Microsoft will retire SharePoint workflows. The impact of this decision is likely to affect thousands of businesses across Canada, with the end-of-life timeline taking effect in two distinct phases. In order to position yourself effectively, it’s important to adopt new solutions and adapt your operational stance.

Within Microsoft SharePoint, a workflow describes the automated movement of documents or items related to a business process. Workflows are applied to specific documents or items within SharePoint and typically occur through a sequence of actions or tasks.

Businesses adopt a range of SharePoint workflows based on logical decisions, with the following two systems defined by Microsoft during the release of SharePoint Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2013:

  • SharePoint 2010 workflows are hosted and executed in the SharePoint workflow runtime.
  • SharePoint 2013 workflows are hosted in SharePoint but executed independently in the Workflow Manager.

End-of-Life Timelines for SharePoint Workflows

In June 2020, Microsoft updated its support stance for all workflows in Microsoft 365. Due to continued investment in Power Automate as the single universal workflow solution, Microsoft decided to retire SharePoint 2010 workflows and change support structures for SharePoint 2013 workflows. End-of-life timelines for SharePoint workflows have been clearly identified based on the following key dates.

  • On August 1, 2020, SharePoint 2010 workflows were turned off for all newly created tenants.
  • On November 1, 2020, existing tenants will be unable to run or create SharePoint 2010 workflows.
  • Starting in November 2020, SharePoint 2013 workflows will be turned off by default for new tenants. Existing SharePoint 2013 workflows remain supported but deprecated, with services supported until 2026.

Perhaps the most surprising news from Microsoft was the end of SharePoint 2010 workflow creation and support from November 2020. In order to make the transition as seamless as possible, Microsoft will provide a PowerShell script to let customers activate SharePoint 2013-based workflow engines as needed.

According to Microsoft, the following SharePoint 2010 workflows will be affected:

  • Approvals – Routing a document or item for approval
  • Collect Feedback – Routing a document or item for feedback and response
  • Collect Signatures – Routing an Office document or item to collect digital signatures
  • Classic pages publishing Approval – Automate the routing of draft pages for review and approval
  • Three-state – Manage processes with high volume tracking, such as customer support, sales leads, or project tasks

How to Prepare for the Transition

The retirement of SharePoint 2010 workflows will take some preparation, with support provided to customers during the transition period. Despite the end-of-life scenario for many workflow services, Microsoft remains committed to ongoing business process modernization within the Microsoft 365 Power Platform.

In order to prepare for the transition, it’s important to follow a few distinct steps in order to identify critical business systems with a view to making necessary changes:

  1. During the first step, it’s important to identify your current workflows using the SharePoint modernization scanner.
  2. Second, you need to identify how these workflows are being used and whether they can be recreated in Power Automate.
  3. The third step involves carefully recreating your workflows in Power Automate.

In many ways, Power Automate acts as the natural successor to SharePoint workflows, with Microsoft offering the modernization scanner tool to help businesses scan for legacy workflows and plan for Power Automate migration. The Workflow Report generated by the scanner tool involves five distinct steps:

  1. Analysis and collaboration to recreate workflows
  2. Incorporating process improvements
  3. Identifying procedural gaps in Power Automate functionality
  4. Testing and review
  5. Change management program for new workflows

How to Migrate and Modernize Successfully

There are a number of practical steps you can take immediately to start the transition phase and make the migration process as seamless as possible. The following four steps function as a useful workflow migration template:

  1. Pull down the tool, go through the steps, and read the report generated.
  2. Chart a plan of action for migration in order to ensure business continuity.
  3. Adopt an iterative migration strategy based on the level of workflow complexity.
  4. Refine and improve your plan by removing old and inefficient workflows.

While you can do some of this work yourself if you have the right skills and experience, a third-party service can help you to formulate a safe and effective migration strategy for your business. Due to the complex nature of this work, professional consultation and assessment is the best way to ensure a successful migration.

The modernization path away from workflows varies depending on your current SharePoint and Microsoft 365 implementation. For example, if you want to stay on the Microsoft 365 platform, you can incorporate Power Automate, Power Apps, and Azure Logic Apps, either together or in isolation. Alternatively, Nintex Workflow Cloud may be a good path if you’re already using Nintex for Office 365. Other tools and platforms like WEBCON BPS also offer integrated form, database, and workflow engine solutions.

While cloud modernization can seem complex, adopting new solutions is a great opportunity to upgrade and improve your core business functions. If you need help with any aspect of cloud migration, Softlanding is available to lend a helping hand. Our team is available for assessment and collaboration — guiding you through the entire process and managing every step with vision and expertise. Contact us today

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