Did You Know: Scheduling Workflows In The Cloud

Scheduled Workflows are now fully available on the Nintex Platform. This capability started out as a feature in Nintex Workflow for SharePoint On-Premises, and we have recently brought this functionality to the cloud — first in Nintex Workflow Cloud, and now in Nintex Workflow for Office 365.

In this blog, I will highlight some of the useful resources and tips to help you make the most of your scheduled workflows while working in the cloud.

Nintex for Office 365 Resources:

Nintex Workflow Cloud Resources:

Why Schedule a Workflow?

As Nintex Enterprise Solution Architect Brad Orluk says in his post Tee Up Your Work: Scheduled Workflows Are Available for Office 365 :

“Scheduled workflows allow workflow designers to configure workflows to execute in the future, once or with a specific frequency. This functionality is incredibly helpful if you are modeling processes that require a number of items to be iterated.

“These might include compliance audits because customer-facing financial services activities tend to have high regulatory compliance requirements to avoid things like civil and criminal penalties. Another example is equipment and safety checks, which are frequently required in manufacturing, food services, construction, and engineering.

“My favorite is determining if portal content is still needed, or if it is stale and can be pushed to a proper long-term repository.”

How Does it Work?

Both Nintex Workflow for Office 365 and Nintex Workflow Cloud utilizes our own service in order to provide workflow scheduling. This means they have similar requirements, limitations, and rules, and provide similar user experiences.

Below I have highlighted some of these mentioned features & behaviors of the Scheduling Service and some of the platform based nuances.

Scheduler Formatting Considerations:

(Nintex Workflow Cloud & Nintex Workflow for Office365)

  • Our Scheduling Service converts all date/time values into UTC absolute time. This means that the schedule will not automatically adjust for Daylight Savings. The Workflow will always run based on the UTC value.
  • Time is stored in the 24-hour format.

Scheduler Boundary Considerations:

(Nintex Workflow Cloud & Nintex Workflow for Office365)

  • If a Workflow Schedule has been fully complete, Nintex will keep the schedule record for up to 90 days.
  • When you disable any schedule for a Workflow, it will be deleted automatically after 90 days via an automated cleanup job.
  • You can not set iteration period to be more than 500 days / 16 months between iterations.

Example: 

  • You can have a workflow that runs once a year for 10 years under one schedule.
  • You cannot have a workflow that runs once every 2 years, however, because the time between each scheduled iteration would be more than 500 days. 

Specific Considerations in Nintex Workflow Cloud:

  • Schedules have to be set up as the initial start event for a Nintex Workflow Cloud workflow.
  • If you want an existing workflow to be changed to a scheduled start event, you must import the workflow as a new design within Nintex Workflow Cloud.

Specific considerations in Nintex for Office 365:

  • Only Site Workflows can be scheduled in SharePoint Online.
  • A maximum 5 schedules per workflow can be created at one time.
  • The time zone of the workflow schedule will be based on your SharePoint site’s default timezone settings.
  • If a scheduled workflow fails or hangs, there is no alert, just like other workflows started on the platform. Enabling such alerts would require changes to the Microsoft platform.
  • If a scheduled workflow fails or hangs, it will act in a manner similar to your experience with Office 365 workflows. Some will retry; others will hang or terminate, depending on the specific error type. New instances will be created according to the schedule you’ve created, regardless of whether previous instances completed, failed or hang.
  • Every time the schedule is edited and saved, the remaining instances will be reset to the edited value.

Example: 

  • A scheduled workflow is set to run 10 times and but it only completes 3 instances of it’s scheduled 10 before changes are requested.
  • A change is made to the schedule but it is still set to run a maximum of 10 times.
  • When I save the edited schedule it will start again at 10 rather than consider any previous instances still pending.
  • The save option (greyed out) will remain unavailable whilst any element of the schedule is unconfigured.
  • Once a schedule has been deleted or removed it cannot be restored. You will need to reconfigure a new schedule.
  • Scheduled Workflows will always run with the system user  “app@sharepoint” so you won’t find the workflow history unless you select “Show all workflows.”

Note: Error Reporting & Dashboards

Workflow errors within the SharePoint Online environment can be challenging to manage.

To help tackle this,  Palesa Sikwane has produced a blog on the Nintex Community on this particular topic:  Setting up Error Alerts on Nintex Workflows on Office 365.This blog post highlights a solution for generating error reports via Nintex Workflow for Office365. When implemented alongside Scheduled Workflows you will be able to produce an error report on a regular basis.

You can also take your scheduled workflow to the next level by implementing Nintex Hawkeye  Workflow Analytics. beacons to help relay the results of your workflow.

Nintex Data Centre Migration Considerations

If you plan or are considering a change in your Nintex Data Center, you should follow the migration steps outlined in these blogs:

If you have scheduled any workflows, we will migrate these schedules as they are. Any remaining occurrences will be triggered as planned.

Example: 

  • If you have a scheduled workflow which was set to run 10 instances.
  • Your scheduled workflow had run 3 instances prior to migration.
  • It would have 7 instances left to run.
  • When we perform the migration we will recognize this and the “remaining” instances will be migrated across and run via the regional data center.

 

Thomas Clark

Thomas Clark is a Nintex Technical Evangelist based in our London office.