Workflows are a popular way to perform automated work in SharePoint. Any type of automation you require from SharePoint, whether it be approving items or notifications with email, a workflow is the most common way to get it done. SharePoint 2016 comes with extra out-of-box workflows that can be associated and configured with lists and libraries using just the browser. Custom workflows can be created with software applications such as SharePoint Designer 2013 or Visual Studio.
SharePoint Designer is a powerful and fairly easy-to-use tool for creating custom workflows and does not require any formal developer skills. Visual Studio, although extremely powerful in creating custom workflows, requires developer skills to use.
SharePoint 2016 supports two different processing engines for workflows. There is the SharePoint 2010 workflow engine that runs in-process on SharePoint servers and is supported mainly for backwards compatibility with earlier versions. The second workflow engine runs outside the SharePoint processes in a separate Workflow Manager process. Workflow Manager has to be installed and configured separate from the SharePoint installation and then connected to SharePoint. These newer workflows are referred to as "SharePoint 2013 Workflows". When using SharePoint Designer 2013, if the Workflow Manager has been provisioned, you will see two choices when creating a new workflow that represent the two different engines.
The walk-throughs and exercises in this course will focus on using SharePoint Designer 2013 to create SharePoint 2013 Workflows. Microsoft did not create a 2016 version of SharePoint Designer but they fully support using SharePoint Designer 2013 to work with SharePoint 2016.
Creating custom workflows is a deep topic with lots of options. The intent of this chapter is to introduce the basics and is not intended as a thorough deep dive into the subject.