Sudden Retirement of Workflow Leaves Users Scrambling. What’s the Best Solution?
Sometimes, no matter how much you love something, there comes a time when you simply have to let it go. Sadly, this is the current fate of SharePoint 2010’s Workflow feature. Based on data released by Microsoft, you’re literally going to have to let those workflows go (or migrate them, more on this to follow), and probably quite soon.
In the song, “The First Cut is the Deepest,” there’s a line, “When it comes to being lucky, he’s cursed,” and if you’re currently using workflows in SharePoint 2010, this unfortunately seems relevant right now. According to Microsoft’s July 6th press release, the important dates are:
- August 1, 2020: Ability to create new tenants in SharePoint 2010 Workflow turned off.
- November 1, 2020: SharePoint 2010 Workflow will be turned off for existing tenants.
What This Means to You
It’s important to get this right, because there is a lot of data flying around about this and some of it isn’t accurate. So let’s start by making it clear.
For those using the Workflow feature of SharePoint 2010 on the Cloud, you can’t add new tenants and, starting November 1st, you won’t have workflows anymore (unless you migrate to something else, which options are covered later in this article).
This means your dozens, hundreds or thousands of workflows will be gone, if you don’t take action to replace either SharePoint 2010 Workflow or (better) SharePoint 2010.
For those using the Workflow feature of SharePoint 2010 On-premises, Microsoft is not going to reach down and shut it off. However, it’s a safe bet there will be limited support for it (and, ultimately, no support). If you have a show-stopping technical problem with the 2010 Workflow feature, you may find yourself trying to deal with it all on your own.
Imagine the havoc that the stoppage of all those workflows will create. In short, as of the date of this article, the situation for on-prem users is not as dire (yet) as it is for those using 2010 on the Cloud, but it’s already precarious. Smart on-prem administrators know they must act now too.
Before we get to why you’re reading this article, let’s just mention a few more facts about what this retirement means. (If you already know these basics, you can skip down to the fireworks beginning with the section “So What Are Your Options?”)
As you know, SharePoint 2010 comes with a few popular built-in workflow “templates”. These include:
- Collect Feedback
- Collect Signatures
- Classic pages publishing Approval
Of course, most organizations using SharePoint have a multitude of custom workflows too. Again, as of 1 November, all these workflows may no longer be available, if you fail to make alternate arrangements. You obviously can’t wait until a month before the 2010 Workflow drop-dead date to start taking action.
You’re going to have to conduct a migration of some kind or another, and rushing large data migrations creates its own world of hurt.
So What Are Your Options?
There are two sets of options: one set for those hell-bent on remaining on SharePoint 2010 until its end-of-life (which is not far off either, by the way), and a second set for those who are in a position to make a more lasting and effective change.
Option Set A (for Those in a Pickle)
If, for whatever reason, you need to remain on SharePoint 2010 a little longer, you do have a few options for temporarily handling your workflows:
- Use SharePoint 2013 Workflow Manager as an add-on to SharePoint 2010,
- Use Microsoft’s online service, Power Automate, or
- Implement a third-party alternative to Power Automate.
Before we delve into why the above-mentioned options are not appealing — and not options at all for some users — let’s summarize the next set of options.
Option Set B (for “Better”)
Unless you have an unusually sticky situation that prevents you from doing so, it’s time to break-up with SharePoint 2010.
Here are these options:
- Migrate to a more recent version of SharePoint On-premises,
- Migrate to the current version of SharePoint Online, or
- Migrate to Microsoft 365 (which includes SharePoint Online).
Before saying more about Option Set B, let’s look at why just shifting the way you handle your workflows (option set A) is a temporary solution at best and not a solution at worst.
Is Switching to SharePoint 2013 Workflow or Power Automate a Viable Option?
The short answer is “maybe in some cases”. For some organizations, this could work for the short-to-medium term. For others, not so.
Microsoft states that SharePoint 2013 workflows will remain supported, which initially appears to be good news, until you read that starting November 1, 2020, even SharePoint 2013 workflows will be turned off by default for new tenants. Microsoft will provide a PowerShell script to let you activate the SharePoint 2013-based workflow engine for new environments, as needed. However, there are still the issues of what will be supported by Microsoft long-term; what will be supported in the Cloud; what will only run on an on-premises server and so on. It starts feeling like round and round we go, blah-blah-blah, until it all begins to sound rather complex and jumbled. Clear as mud, in fact.
Here’s how Microsoft further explains the situation: “SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013 based workflows will continue to be supported with no modification in our previous support posture and continue to be supported for on-premises SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint 2019 platforms until 2026.” Clear? … Um.
Notice that this statement refers explicitly to 2010- and 2013-based “workflows” — just the workflows themselves. This seems to be saying that any workflows you created in the past will be supported but the Workflow feature of 2013 (like 2010) may not be. So what does that mean about your ability to create new workflows, to modify workflows; to manage workflows and to allow new tenants to create workflows?
As for Power Automate, it certainly has its pluses. But there are rumblings in the field [links provided below] that Power Automate doesn’t replace all the features of Workflow 2010. Another issue is that many organizations have workflows that took months or years to develop. Recreating them in Power Automate is not a push-button affair. There is no “auto-convert” utility. This work could end up consuming a ton of developer man-hours which translates into added calendar-months.
What all of this adds up to is: At some point or another, inevitably we all are going to have to leave SharePoint 2010 behind — all of it — and soon after that, 2013 too.
Time to Migrate
If you are going to have to spend a bunch of time and money making changes every time Microsoft retires something, for those organizations that have the resources to do so, doesn’t it make more sense to just migrate to a modern version of SharePoint now?
This places most organizations squarely in the above-mentioned option set B.
If you’re continuing with on-premises servers, then by migrating to SharePoint 2016 or 2019, the workflows would continue to function for you until 2026.
Logic would seem to dictate that if you’re thinking about migrating to the Cloud, you might as well migrate to SharePoint 2019 Server or Microsoft 365 now, instead of having to go through this process yet again someday.
Which version should you migrate to? You can get useful information to help you with this decision in the article “SharePoint 2019 On-Premise Versus Hosted in the Cloud — Which One is Better?”.
Data Migration and Missing Data
Yes, migrations can be a pain in the proverbial you-know-what. And yes, migration often comes with a host of issues, including missing data. The complaints of end-users can be enough to drive even the most steely-eyed, steady-as-a-rock IT guy to distraction. But there are solutions, and what follows is a good example.
One of the most common causes of missing data is broken file links. When you do a data migration, links break. If you want bedrock-solid performance, lightning-fast speed and simplicity, then LinkFixer Advanced is your main squeeze for automatically handling this common problem.
This patented application can be utilized in a multitude of situations. Ultimately, whether you’re migrating from one server to another, from a local server into the Cloud, from a current file system to a CMS (content management system) or even if you’re simply restructuring your file system, LinkFixer Advanced can be used either before, during or after your migration.
More apropos to the topic of this article, it handles one of the most common causes of missing data when migrating from an older version of SharePoint to a newer one.
Even with a search & replace tool, it can require hundreds (or even thousands) of expensive man-hours to address and handle all the broken file links that typically occur during a large-scale migration, all while enduring the wrath of management and the bitter complaining of testy end-users.
So here’s an idea: Don’t go this route. Have this handled for you. Even better, have it handled before you start migrating.
Before you migrate, have LinkFixer Advanced prepare your links using the “Inoculate” feature. Then perform your migration using whatever procedures and applications you prefer. After you’ve completed your project, the “Cure” feature of LinkFixer Advanced will automatically connect all your links, thereby preventing data losses. This is the most convenient and popular way of using LinkFixer Advanced.
Use the “Move and Rename” feature to migrate all your files and folders without link breakage.
Have you already completed a project that resulted in thousands (or millions) of broken links? LinkFixer Advanced has a feature for that too. If you discover, post-migration, that you’ve got missing data, think of LinkFixer Advanced as your number one disaster recovery tool. It works on thousands (even millions) of files in a single processing run.
Relative paths, absolute paths, mapped drives, full UNC paths — it doesn’t matter, LinkFixer Advanced handles it all, plus it’ll work with over 60 different file types, so you know you’re covered.
Although you may be sad to say goodbye to your SharePoint 2010, perhaps it’s time to make room for and embrace a fresh-faced new love in your life! Even our title song supports that theory: “Baby, I’ll try to love again…” Hello there, SharePoint 2019!
For a live demonstration or to test-drive a complimentary trial of LinkFixer Advanced, call 727-442-1822 or visit www.LinkTek.com.
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