SharePoint classic workflows end of life – what are your options now?

  • Posted on August 3, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Microsoft has just announced SharePoint 2010 workflow retirement. You’d be forgiven for thinking this will leave you in an uncomfortable (even a vulnerable) position.

But you don’t need to fret. Below, I explain why this is an opportunity to relish, not a threat to dread. Let’s start by summarizing the situation and then outline the steps you can take to transform this situation from business burden into business benefit.

What has Microsoft announced?
From August 1, 2020, SharePoint 2010 workflows will disappear for new Microsoft 365 tenants. Existing tenants will have that functionality removed from November 1, 2020. This includes many common workflow use cases like approvals, routing, and the famed SharePoint Designer configured workflows.

SharePoint 2013 workflows will still be available, but this probably won’t be a viable long-term alternative. Much of the core functionality is vanishing and it’s anticipated an end of life date may be imminent here too.

How do you know if you are impacted?
Microsoft’s announcement features a link to an analysis tool which scans your SharePoint Online environment and highlights any non-compatible features and roadblocks that’ll get in the way of an improved SharePoint experience.

The output includes inventories of your SharePoint workflows and assesses compatibility with Power Automate. This provides full visibility into what you have in SharePoint Online already. And you may be shocked at what the tool unearths. One of our customers found over 180,000 workflows, with varying complexity.

Should you be concerned about the volume of workflows?
You may have migrated workflows from on-premises to online. Or workflows might have been configured online by citizen developers to simplify business processes (without IT support and knowledge).

While you may find numerous workflows, many are probably common approvals or simple tasks. Those may convert relatively easily to Power Automate. Many workflows may not even be in use anymore or could even be "test" workflows that can be decommissioned.

It’s not all smooth sailing though. Microsoft’s analysis tool only scans your SharePoint Online environment. Workflows in your SharePoint on-premises can be an impediment for migration to SharePoint Online. The Microsoft SharePoint Migration Assessment Tool can perform discovery in your on-premises environments to find where hurdles exist, and Avanade has an insights tool that can scan both on-premises and SharePoint Online for real-time reporting. By having full visibility in all your SharePoint environments, you’ll have better visibility when it comes to planning migrations and addressing any accompanying governance requirements.

Can Power Automate replace all your SharePoint workflows?
While working with clients to address this challenge, we’ve uncovered some important insights. Moving to Power Automate is the guidance from Microsoft and in many cases this transition can be a relatively straightforward migration. But, for some workflows, this won’t be the best option and for others it might simply not be possible.

That’s why we’ve developed a framework to help steer your decision-making process. Here are the key phases we take our clients through:

  1. Discovery – use scanning tools to understand your workflow inventory in SharePoint Online. Where applicable, do the same for your on-premises SharePoint environment, for those workflows you’ve been planning to move to SharePoint Online.
  2. Change – work with your user-base to prevent new SharePoint workflows from appearing during this period. Employ user communications and SharePoint administration settings to shut down new SharePoint workflows.
  3. Understand – review the workflow requirements that are in scope according to the sites, actions and triggers you need. This will help to inform your decisions, such as whether you convert your site to SharePoint Modern UI, what additional licensing you may require and how your workflows align with Power Automate service limits (or those of alternative solutions).
  4. Rationalize – identify which workflows truly need to be in scope for the remediation. For example, if a workflow hasn't run in more than a year, you probably won’t need to migrate it. Don't simply look at this as an IT development factory approach and opt to churn through all your workflows. More complex workflows will be trickier to migrate, and you’ll also miss out on the opportunity to discard technical debt from unused or abandoned workflows.
  5. Decommission – when you’ve established which workflows won’t be moved, ensure site owners and contributors are aware so these legacy processes can expire gracefully.
  6. Remediation – locate the necessary support to help you handle the likely situation where a specific tool or the process does not have an easy remediation path.
  7. Govern – consider the governance implications around managing new tools, enabling your business to stay current on a new evergreen platform. Grab the opportunity to engage with your business stakeholders and help to enable lines of business to maximize the value from the new modern tools they have at their disposal.

What value can you add to the business during this process?
If you’re thinking about this as an opportunity to innovate, you’ll need to ask yourself (and your stakeholders) for candor. Here are some examples where re-evaluating can help:

  • Consider stakeholders with more complex workflows. Does the workflow in question still meet those business needs or have the requirements changed?
  • Are you simply moving outdated processes to a new technology stack?
  • Would alternative tools or solutions within Microsoft 365 better meet your business needs?

Ultimately, unlocking the value from this opportunity requires a partner with the thought leadership and capability to help you optimize your business processes.

Avanade can help you achieve this through design thinking workshops, modern tools and engineering, change management and governance frameworks for your new technology landscape. We know the full capabilities of Power Platform, so we can guide you through licensing implications and align both business and IT.

Find out more about how to get started and talk to our team today.

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