Why is Audit in SharePoint Workflows so hard?

Previously I’d pointed out an article about a problem with SharePoint workflows where the data gets ‘disconnected’ from the user interface after a number of days. Robert Bogue wrote a nice summary of it, explaining why it behaves this way and how to get around it. Anyway, I was catching up on my RSS feeds, and I came across a follow up post that I just had to respond to.

Read his post first; this is just my thoughts. Done? Good.

Robert Bogue makes some good points. I totally agree with him on the second point – Workflow History isn’t an Audit. However, this does sort of highlight the crux of the issue – that there is no Audit. One is mentioned in his previous post, but I’ve never managed to figure out what he meant by that, or to find a decent audit in Workflow that I didn’t have to build myself. And I just keep thinking that this is something that a plug-in tracking service ought to be able to provide…

I guess my ‘What were they thinking!’ isn’t that there is the auto-cleanup, but rather why didn’t Microsoft offer an audit mechanism out of the box. I asked Lawrence Liu about that once at a SUGUK meeting – he said that SharePoint Workflow “wasn’t intended to be an enterprise solution”. Fair enough, if that’s what they want to do (and to leave space for the likes of K2 and Skelta), but then stop advertising SharePoint as having user configurable workflows.

A number of our customers have gone through the logic of:

  1. SharePoint is an Enterprise level system
  2. It has workflow built into it
  3. Therefore we can use workflow to support our enterprise’s processes

They’re pretty disappointed to discover that it lacks pretty basic things like audit. I can’t say I blame them either. But I digress.

Regarding his first point about configuring the timeout – writing an application isn’t a good general option. I’ve no doubt it works, but SharePoint administrators are necessarily programmers. Even if they are, there’s no guarantee that they’re good SharePoint programmers. The setting in the manifest – that I like. Don’t depend on your users being able to code their own solutions. Further, I don’t know how this would apply to SharePoint Designer workflows, though personally I steer clear of them.

So yes, I’d agree with Robert – it’s not a ‘Huge Issue’, but it is a problem.

Why is Audit in SharePoint Workflows so hard?

6 thoughts on “Why is Audit in SharePoint Workflows so hard?

  1. Jonathan says:

    Something I would add – customers seem to think workflow has some kind of deep magic involved in it, and are dismayed to discover that no workflow technology can read minds, see the future, or figure out what to do on it’s own…

  2. Yup Juan, I’m right there with you! Part of the reason that I’ve been pushing K2 BlackPearl around our office is just that – it has some sort of auditing!

  3. SharePoint Workflow Audit solution available for download!!

    I guess this won’t really work if you are using K2! but now you can leverage SharePoint!!

    Go nuts and give me feedback


  4. Atul Malhotra says:

    Hi Juan,

    How you are implementing Auditing for workflows? Can you explain?

    I thought you are sharing code on that link but thats not the case.

    Any help in this case is appreciated.


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