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Office 365 SharePoint Workflows

How to do Workflows in SharePoint: Part 2 – Parallel Actions

In this continuing series, I look at how to handle parallel actions if your workflow calls for doing more than one action at the same time.

This is part 2 in a blog series of basic workflow design using SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Flow. See How to do Workflows in SharePoint: Part 1 – Conditional Starts for the first entry in this series.

Sometimes you want a workflow to do more than one thing at the same time. It is not an uncommon business case to require simultaneous activities, especially if the workflow needs to do different things with different groups of people (e.g. getting separate streams of approvals between Supply Chain and HR). 

SharePoint Designer (SPD) and Microsoft Flow will always conduct workflow steps in sequence. If you require that certain things get done simultaneously, both applications can provide the controls to do it.

SharePoint Designer 

Use a SharePoint 2013 workflow on the library or list. Parallel blocks are not available for SharePoint 2010 workflows.

  1. Insert a Parallel Block (inside a Stage). You can do this from the Insert section of the Ribbon (or by right-clicking).
  2. Write the logic you need in each block (there is a slight indent into the parallel actions).
  3. That’s it! Consider using Steps inside Parallel Blocks to organize your parallel actions into manageable blocks (and to see your actions visually separated from one another!)

Nested Parallel Blocks (Waiting for one of multiple things to happen)

Parallel Blocks can also be used for Conditional Starts in waiting for a field to change in order to proceed a workflow. This is handy if you want to wait for certain values in a field before doing the next step (e.g. approval statuses).

  1. Add a Parallel Block to your workflow.
  2. Add as many nested Parallel Blocks inside the parent Parallel Block as you need.
  3. For the parent Parallel Block, right-click on it and click Advanced Properties.
  4. Set the “CompletionCondition” to a new boolean variable. By default, the new variable will continue further if the variable equals “true”.
  5. In each nested Parallel Block, add a “Set Variable” status so that the new variable equals true.
  6. That’s it!

What you will get is the workflow “waiting” for one of the nested Parallel Blocks to be true before proceeding. This is very handy if only certain conditions have to be met, and not working within the limitations of the operators provided (e.g. equals, not equals).

Microsoft Flow

On a workflow that already has a trigger and an action, hover your mouse about the connector line and click the + button. You can add a parallel branch. When the new parallel branch is created, it will be create adjacent to the main workflow stream. Add all of the actions you need within this branch. When you want the parallel actions to end, just at a new step at the after both branches are complete (it will auto-join).

  1. On a workflow that already has a trigger and an action, hover your mouse about the connector line and click the + button. You can add a parallel branch (1).
  2. When the new parallel branch is created, it will be create the new branch adjacent to the first workflow stream. Add all of the actions you need within this branch in sequence as required (2).
  3. When you want the parallel actions to end, just add a New Step. It will conjoin the two (or multiple parallel blocks) together (3). This is not the same thing as “adding a step” under a current Parallel branch; two different function!

Which one is easier? Microsoft Flow, for the simple fact that it is visually easier to look at when doing branch design (this just doesn’t look as appealing in text-based logic, but to each their own). Of course with that said, you can always view and edit your workflow in Visio (click the View button and pick “Visual Designer”).

In the next entry in this series, we look at basic steps to scheduling workflows (a bit more advanced, depending on which tool you are using!).

Please visit my blog Ion All the Things for helpful information about SharePoint and Office 365.

2 replies on “How to do Workflows in SharePoint: Part 2 – Parallel Actions”

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