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Tech Insights 6 min read

Dynamics 365: How to create a workflow? (automation)

For starters, what is a workflow ? A workflow is an automated process that gets Dynamics 365 to perform a specific task for you. It allows you to avoid the hassle of having to perform this task manually every time.

You should keep in mind that each workflow process is associated with a single entity. An entity is defined by its ability to function independently from other factors like forms, accounts, contacts, leads, or opportunities. Consider 4 important factors when setting up your first workflow:

  • Define the activation triggers
  • Select the mode of execution, whether in real time or in the background
  • Determine the actions to perform
  • Precise the automation criteria and any exclusions

Where is the Workflow editor located in Dynamics 365?

First, click on Advanced settings

Then, click on the downwards arrow to the right of Settings, and select Processes

Click New to access the workflow editor

Another way to access the Workflow editor in Dynamics 365

Alternatively, you can locate your organization’s workflows by selecting Processes in Default Solution. Then, you must apply a Workflow filter on the displayed processes. This way, you will be able to access all the workflows that are active in your organization.

Developers can design their own workflows following the Developer Guide for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement. The solution you purchase can also include pre-configured workflows that can be modified to best suit the needs of your business.

Workflow properties in Dynamics 365

Process name
The workflow process name doesn’t have to be unique, but you might want to decide upon fixed terminology to help distinguish between your processes if you plan to create and manage a large number of workflows. For instance, you can differentiate between workflow names by using prefixes in order to describe their functionality or the specific department in your company that deals with this type of workflow. This will help you group similar items together, allowing for a better overview of your workflow list.

You should have a single entity corresponding to each workflow process. Once the workflow process has been created, you will no longer be able to edit the entity.

This property defines that the item in question is a workflow process.

Run this Workflow in the background (recommended)
This option appears when you select the workflow as a category. It will determine whether the workflow will run in real time or in background mode. Real-time workflows will be launched immediately (synchronous), while background workflows are asynchronous. The following configuration options will depend on the setting choice you have made.

In background workflows, you can set the workflow up wait conditions that will schedule a specific processing delay. Real-time workflows do not allow for this configuration. If you’re not using wait conditions, you can freely convert between background workflows and real-time workflows at will. To learn more about wait conditions, see Setting Conditions for Workflow Actions.

Additionally, you can also use Type to choose whether you want to create a workflow from scratch or from a template. If you select New Process from an existing template (select from list), you can choose from available workflow processes that were saved as templates in your organization.

After creating or modifying a workflow you will have access to the following additional properties:

Activate as
You can create an advanced starting point for other models by selecting Process template. If you select this option after activating the workflow, it will not be applied but can be selected in the Create Process dialog box when you choose Type: New process from an existing template (selecting from list).

If you have several similar workflow processes that you would like to define without duplicating the same logic, Process templates can come in handy.

Available to Run
This section contains options detailing how the workflow can be executed.

Run this Workflow in the background (recommended)
This check box reflects the option that was selected when you created the workflow. While disabled by default, you can activate this option in the Actions menu by choosing Convert to a real-time workflow or Convert to a background workflow.

As an on-demand process
Selecting this option will allow users to launch this workflow manually. You can find on-demand processes under the flow’s Run Workflow section.

As a child process
Select this option if you want to let users to run this workflow manually. On-demand processes are available under the Execute Workflow section.

Workflow Job Retention
This section allows you to delete a workflow following the completion of its execution.

Automatically delete completed workflow jobs (to save disk space)
Select this option if you want a completed workflow task to be automatically deleted to free up disk space.

Workflow jobs deleted through a batch process soon after completion, but not right away.

User-owned entities have the following options: Organization, Parent: Child Business Units, Business Unit and User. For entities owned by the organization, Organization is the only option.

If scope is Organization, workflow logic can be applied to all records within the organization. Otherwise, the workflow can only be applied to a subset of records within the scope.

The scope’s default value is User. Take care to verify that the scope has an appropriate value before activating the workflow.

Start When
Use this section’s options to specify when a workflow must launch automatically. You can configure the execution of a real-time workflow before certain events. It is a very powerful capability because it allows the workflow to stop an action before it occurs. For more information: Use of real-time workflows. These options are:

  • Record is created
  • Record status changes
  • Record is assigned
  • Record fields change
  • Record is deleted

Remember that any action and condition you define for the workflow are not aware when the workflow will execute. For instance, if you define a workflow to update the record, that action cannot be executed by a real-time workflow until the record is created. A record that does not exist cannot be updated. If you configure a workflow to perform an action that cannot be performed, the action fails and the entire workflow fails as well. Make sure to define your workflow well so that it executes at the correct time in your process.

Execute As
This is the only available option if you unchecked Run this workflow in the background (recommended) when you created a workflow, or if you later convert a background workflow to a real-time workflow.

Security context of workflow processes in Dynamics 365

When a background workflow is configured as an on-demand process and is started by a user using the Run Workflow command, the actions that the workflow can perform are limited to those the user could perform based on the privileges and access levels defined by the security role(s) set for their user account.

When a background workflow starts based on an event the workflow operates in the context of the person who owns it, usually the person who created the workflow.

For real-time workflows you have the Execute As option and you can choose whether the workflow should apply the security context of the owner of the workflow or the user who made changes to the record. If your workflow includes actions which all users would not be able to perform based on security constraints, you should choose to have the workflow run as the owner of the workflow.

Activate a workflow

Workflows can only be edited while they are deactivated. Before a workflow can be used manually or be applied due to events it has to be activated. Before a workflow can be activated it must contain at least one step. For information on configuring steps, see Configuring workflow processes.

A workflow can only be activated or deactivated by the workflow owner or by someone with the Act on Behalf of Another User privilege such as the system administrator. The reason for this is that a malicious user could modify someone’s workflow without them being aware of the change. You can reassign a workflow you own by changing the owner. This field is on the Administration tab. If you are not the system administrator and you need to edit a workflow that is owned by another user, you need them to deactivate it and assign it to you. After you finish editing the workflow, you can assign it back to them so they can activate it.

Real-time workflows require that the user have the Activate Real-time Processes privilege. Because real-time workflows have a greater risk of affecting system performance, only people who can evaluate the potential risk should be given this privilege.

Workflows are saved when they are activated, so it is not necessary to save them before activating them.

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March 11, 2021 by Frédéric Charest VP of Marketing

Data-driven Growth Marketer with a Passion for SEO - Driving Results through Analytics and Optimization