Office 365 SharePoint Workflows

How to do Workflows in SharePoint: Part 3 – Scheduling a Workflow

Sometimes you just need some clockwork with your workflows. Here’s how to use SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Flow to schedule your business processes.

This is part 3 in a blog series of basic workflow design using SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Flow. See How to do Workflows in SharePoint: Part 2 – Parallel Actions for the previous entry in this series.

Sometimes its necessary to run a workflow on a continual basis. For example, to check for updates or changes to items in a library, or to do a monthly tally of list items with conditional statuses.

SharePoint Designer

Unfortunately there is no “silver bullet” easy answer to do this – kind of like if a video game only had a hard setting. In SPD there is no overt trigger action or condition for a scheduling scenario. However, crafting a workflow is definitely possible, and it depends on your use cases and objectives for your business process.

Let’s say you want create a workflow that runs every day at 2:00 A.M. (starting tomorrow). The workflow will update a title with a new value .

  1. Create a SharePoint 2013 workflow on the library or list.
  2. Insert a Stage to kick-start the workflow at 2:00 A.M. (use the Pause Until action).
  3. Insert a Stage called “Field Update”, and have a variable continually update with every loop (e.g. variable +1). Then have the Title set to this variable value.
  4. Insert a Stage at the end of the workflow and call it “Timed Loop” or something similar (it’s best practice to name your workflow stages with descriptive titles as accurately as possible).
  5. Insert a Pause for Duration action and have it set to 24 hours.
An example of a scheduled workflow using SharePoint Designer. Thank the heavens for Stage management, otherwise this would be a dozy!

This is a simple example of how one could have a scheduled workflow built with SharePoint Designer. However, it’s not a silver bullet. This workflow needs to be started manually (once), and it will also never technically “end” as it keeps looping for infinity (Loop steps can be used if it only need to loop X number of times, or given certain conditions). I like to think of this as a proverbial MacGyver job, and really only used if SPD is either required or your workflow jam.

Microsoft Flow

Comparatively speaking, building schedule jobs in Microsoft Flow is like taking a warp zone to the end of the game. It’s fantastically easy.

  1. After creating a new Flow, chose the Recurrence trigger as the first item. Set up the recurrence interval, and set the Start time (you’ll have to know the format for your start time, which could be a bit easier, but c’est la vie).
  2. Attach your normal workflow steps.
Use the Recurrence trigger to set a scheduled Flow. Much easier!

Which one is easier: No doubt Microsoft Flow is easier to use for scheduling actions on SharePoint lists. However, there are third-party options for workflows that make the setup of scheduled workflows much easier, such as Nintex Workflows or even work it in with Windows Task Scheduler. But without investing in third-party applications, Microsoft Flow is the clear winner. Happy Scheduled Flowing!

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

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