Multiple Ways To Create Workflows In SharePoint


SharePoint is being widely used in Intranet as well as Extranet applications. Since SharePoint is also part of the Office 365 suite, the boundaries between the Intranet and the Extranet are fading away.

SharePoint is being effectively used as a platform for collaboration. Many of the business processes involve the use of approvals and information flow. SharePoint effectively addresses these requirements with Workflows.

Workflows are an integral part of SharePoint since its release and Microsoft has continuously supported more complex scenarios and functionalities support to workflow over time. Workflows are available to SharePoint as out of the box offerings. Over time workflows were supported by SharePoint Designer, and third Party workflow tools.

In this article, we will go over the multiple options we have to create, configure and use the workflows in SharePoint (It may be an on-premise or Online version of SharePoint).

Option 1- Out of the box Alerts

All of the lists and libraries in SharePoint support Alerts. Alerts are the kind of events that get generated on a specific action in the list of a library (for e.g. An item added/updated/deleted in the list). All the subscribers to the Alert get notified about the action.

In scenarios where you need a simple approval or notification process, you can use the Alerts effectively to get it done.


An Alert can be easily set up as below,


Option 2 - Content Approval Process

Content Approval is also an out of box offering of SharePoint. We can set up content approval on any list or library so that on the creation of an item in list/document in the library it goes to approval and will be visible to all users upon approval. It is a one-way approval process.


Content Author can then submit the information to SharePoint and then Content Approver will either approves or rejects it.


Option 3 - Out of box SharePoint workflows

SharePoint supports the below out of the box workflows to easily set up on any list or library

  • Approval Workflow
  • Collect Feedback Workflow
  • Collect Signatures Workflow
  • Disposition Approval Workflow
  • Three-state Workflow


These workflows offer limited functionalities. However, it works for most of the simple approval processes which require approval from certain users or groups.

Option 4 - SharePoint Designer (SPD) workflows

SharePoint designer offers more levels of flexibility to create our custom workflows using predefined activities. We can also extend and write our own activities for SharePoint Designer workflows.

SharePoint designer is available free of cost from Microsoft. The only limitation with SPD workflows is about their porting from one site to another.


Option 5 - Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow (MS Flow) is the recent addition to the tools available for workflow. MS Flow has a much wider scope, which means, we can connect to other system events using MS Flow.

MS Flow is cloud-based and it integrates with SharePoint and many other Apps. MS Flow is slowly replacing the SharePoint Designer based workflows. MS Flow can also be configured in SharePoint On-premise environment.

MS Flow is Trigger and Action based. This means, it can be configured to run the actions based on some trigger condition (for e.g. when a new item is created in a SharePoint list)


Option 6 - Third Party Apps

There are various third party applications or tools available in the market which seamlessly integrate with SharePoint.

A few commonly used third-party Apps/Tools are:

  • Nintex (
  • K2 (
  • AgilePoint (


Workflows are powerful to help create business approvals and processes. Based on the needs and supporting scenarios we can develop those using any of the above out of the box or tool-based approach.

I hope this helps.