Nintex Blog


Process Automation, Workflow and Content Automation

3 Limitations To Your SharePoint Workflow That Are Holding You Back

Alex Burton
January 11, 2018

As you are no doubt aware, if you use SharePoint workflows, workflow automation can greatly enhance your business processes, both internally and externally with customers and clients. But while a SharePoint workflow is useful and can help you improve your business functions, it is only useful to a point.

It’s a good thing, then, that you can bring in a third-party solution that will make building and executing automated workflows in SharePoint much easier and more sophisticated than it currently is out of the box.

Your Default SharePoint Workflow

SharePoint can streamline your business processes from day one. The platform comes complete with several prebuilt out of the box workflows and the ability to create customized workflows through SharePoint Designer. And these workflows are effective at doing what they are designed to do. The issue is that SharePoint workflows can be limited.

The way we need workflows to operate today often comprises of multiple processes that overlap with each other and involve numerous stakeholders. So, for workflows to be helpful, they need to be more sophisticated than what is provided by SharePoint out of the box. For example, if you are looking to bring various tools and systems together, such as your CRM tool, document templates, an e-signature application, your list of contacts, and your email client, an out of the box SharePoint workflow isn’t enough.

We also need them to be ready to go faster—building a workflow using SharePoint Designer can take a long time, especially if you need to do more than just talk to lists or libraries.

Let’s look at four limitations using out of the box workflows and SharePoint Designer and how, by switching to third-party tools, you can much more easily build and execute flexible and ultra-sophisticated automated workflows.

1.  The Correct Building Blocks to Build Your Process

Not all business processes are created equal. Some require simple commands and responses involving a handful of stakeholders, while others involve multiple teams of people across the organization. Out-of-the-box workflows in SharePoint are fine for the simple stuff, but for the more complex tasks you will need to navigate SharePoint Designer and build a workflow using this tool.

Unfortunately, even this can be limited, and limiting.

This will lead either to an incomplete workflow that doesn’t quite manage to satisfy all the requirements or perhaps a business process that ends up cutting corners so it will fit into a workflow. On top of that, if you are building the workflow in SharePoint Designer you may have to write specific custom coding for the workflow which can be time consuming and expensive.

Nintex solution:

Nintex for SharePoint provides a rich palette of actions to make automation of your processes fast and simple. Whether you need to connect your workflows to tools your employees use every day or something even simpler, Nintex workflows go over and above what SharePoint Designer can provide. No matter how your processes come together, with Nintex they can be automated and maintained without costly development overhead.

2.  One Dimensional, One Directional 

Another issue with building SharePoint workflows out of the box is that they don’t communicate well with multiple platforms. This makes them one-dimensional and can be a flaw if you need a workflow flexible enough to handle multiple aspects of a business project encompassing several tools and platforms.

For example, this would emerge as a problem when attempting to tie your tools and solutions together with workflow automation.

Nintex solution:

Nintex Workflow for SharePoint was designed with cross-product processes in mind and is optimized for processes that span application boundaries. This is good news if you are trying to put in place automated processes that need access to, say, your CRM tool, as well as your electronic signature tool, your document storage platform and third parties.

With Nintex Workflow for SharePoint, you can build the right workflow for your process no matter the complexity.

3.  Democratization of Business Process Development and Maintenance 

Beyond the one-dimensional nature of out of the box workflows, another limitation is that these workflows are challenging and time-consuming to build. This may be okay if you have the dev team with the time to do it. But remember also that these workflows must be maintained. Custom code tends to evolve and so the expense of time and resources doesn’t end once the workflow is up and running.

We’ve already established that out of the box workflows can be one-dimensional, but by using SharePoint Designer, complex business processes can be automated. However, the use of SharePoint Designer requires installation on a user’s desktop or laptop and significant training to ensure it is used correctly (SPD is like a swiss army knife that can do a lot of damage due to limited governance options). This barrier means the use of SPD is typically limited to a small subset of users, significantly restricting the potential to democratize business process automation across the organization.

Nintex solution: 

Nintex provides browser-based process automation and simple yet powerful governance to ensure you can limit capabilities and actions. With very minimal training, users start automating processes across the whole organization without the need to write and maintain custom code.

Bring in the Heavy Hitters

The Nintex Workflow Platform gives SharePoint Server a real boost when it comes to designing and executing top of the range, highly sophisticated automated workflows for any business process. Integrating with Office 365 and many other content systems, you can tackle everything from simple business functions to sophisticated, company-wide procedures.

So, the next time you need to automate a workflow in SharePoint, think about how Nintex can help you do it better.


To find out more about Nintex and how we can help you go beyond the limits of SharePoint Designer workflows, get in touch with us today, or start your free trial.



Alex Burton is VP of Product at Nintex. He has worked in the IT industry for more than 20 years holding various roles spanning professional services, project management and product management. Alex has extensive experience in the Microsoft stack, specifically around SharePoint, Project Server, Dynamics CRM and Azure. Follow him on Twitter: @alexanderb