2010 Review: Re-Usable Workflows?

New, Reusable List Workflows in SharePoint 2010

There are two new types of workflows that you can create in SharePoint 2010:   Site Workflows and Re-Usable workflows.    The third kind available was also available in SharePoint 2007 (List Workflows).    Like a List Workflow is specific to a single SharePoint list, a Site workflow is associated to a specific SharePoint site.   We’ll cover this more in a future post.

The focus of this post is to look at how you can use a reusable workflow (reusable workflow) in SharePoint 2010.    This is such a cool new feature!  You can create a reusable workflow in the top-level site in the site collection.  Doing this makes the workflow globally reusable.  This means that the workflow can be associated to any list, library, or content type in the entire site collection.  Additionally, you can create reusable workflows in a subsite within the site collection, which makes this workflow available for reuse in that particular subsite.

Re-purposing a Re-usable workflow?  WHOA!!

Reusable workflows can be exported from one site and then uploaded and activated in another site. This, finally, makes it possible to create a workflow in a test environment, then export it to a production environment once it’s been tested and proven.   This is a feature that is common amongst 3rd Party SharePoint workflow products, such as Global 360, K2, MetaStorm, Nintex, and others.

If you need to standardize processes across departments, these reusable workflows can be saved as templates and deployed in sites across the environment, which is a quick and easy way to standardize simple processes.   Because they are generic (not tied to specific lists or sites) you can only use the standard columns provided in most lists and libraries out of the box.

If your reusable workflow requires certain columns to be available in a list or library where it’s being deployed, you can add those columns as association columns (similar to the concept of promoting InfoPath fields to columns).  Once you associate the columns, SharePoint automatically adds the columns to the receiving list or library for you.

So, finally, SharePoint workflows have given us the ability to be published, exported, saved as templates and more.   Now, there’s truly a way to standardize your simple workflow processes across sites, departments, etc.   Great news for workflows in SharePoint 2010!!!

For more information on what you can do with Workflows in SharePoint 2010, check out the Workflow actions in SharePoint Designer 2010:  A quick reference guide on TechNet.

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