Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Recovering Workflow History after 60 days

Or finding where it's been hidden...

Andrew Walman

10/10/2011


​​​​Workflow history is one of two things to SharePoint users. I suspect for the majority, they aren't even aware of it, and don't have any need for it. For a small minority, they are fully aware of it for one important reason – compliance. Workflows are nearly always used as part of a larger business process, and often these business processes require auditing to ensure compliance with whatever industry standard the business operates with. When SharePoint workflows are used, workflow history is usually seized upon by users as being an easy way to audit compliance. After all, it's easy to get at isn't it?

Certainly while the workflow is in progress, and for a couple of months afterwards it is. But what happens when the end of year audit arrives, and the auditor goes to look at the history for a workflow completed 11 months ago? Disaster – it's not there! There must have been many a frantic phone call between panicking compliance officers and frustrated IT staff along the lines of this:

  • [Compliance officer] "My workflow history has been deleted! The auditor is going to fail us! Where has it gone?"
  • [IT support] (probably after Googling "Workflow history deleted") "This is by design. SharePoint deletes workflow history after 60 days"
  • [Compliance officer] "WHAT?! Nobody told me that! Can you recover it?"
  • [IT support] "We can, we'll just need turn off the timer job and then restore the entire SharePoint farm for each month in question."
  • [Compliance officer] "How long will that take?"
  • [IT support] "Hmmm…."

Both parties are at fault here. The compliance officer for writing a feature of SharePoint into the compliance process without knowing how it worked, and IT for not explaining the 60 day "deletion" actually happens. The good news is though, workflow history isn't deleted, all we need to do is make it easier to find.

So Where Is Workflow History after 60 days?

Put simply, it's in the same place as it's always been. There's a hidden list in every SharePoint site with the workflow feature activated called "workflow history" and it's under lists, so pointing your browser at http://[sitename]/[subweb]/lists/workflow%20history/ will show you this list. It's not pretty, and certainly not usable by an end user in its default view, but it is the same content that was available from the item that the original workflow ran on. All that happens after a workflow has been closed for 60 days is that the relationship links between the item (list item or document) and the workflow history are removed from the database by a timer job. The reason this is done is that a workflow can consist of many individual steps, each of which gets recorded in the history list. Maintaining those links in the database for every workflow that ever runs in a site slows performance down. So Microsoft implemented a clean-up job to remove the links, making it appear from the item that the workflow history is gone. It's possible to disable the timer job, but this has to be done at the application level, will kill performance in the long term, and doesn't help you get back the "missing" workflow history.

Making Workflow History Usable Again

Knowing that all Workflow History is available in a list, all we need to do is link it back to the original item using a calculated column and a view. The basic steps are:

  • Create a view of the workflow history list that uses the filtered ID to present the history of a particular workflow in a recognisable format.
  • Create a new calculated column in the list or library that is associated with the workflow.
  • Write a formula in the calculated column that inserts the item/document ID into a link that can be passed to a view of the workflow history list.

Once we've completed these steps, any user who can open the item will be able to see the new link to the workflow history and view that. Now for the nitty gritty:

Create views of the Workflow History List

  1. Open the workflow history list at http://appname/subweb/workflow%20history/
  2. Create a new shared view; you'll need one for each list that has a workflow associated with it – if there's only one, call the new view "audit view", otherwise "workflow name – audit view" or something similar.
  3. You'll need to identify the List or Library ID (GUID) – You can use the full history list for this.
  4. As a minimum, add the following columns to the view:

    Date Occurred

    User ID

    Event Type

    Outcome

    Description

  5. Sort the view by "Date Occurred"
  6. Filter the view by "List ID" (List ID is equal to GUID – include the braces)
  7. Group by "Primary Item ID", then by "Workflow History Parent Instance"
  8. Save the view, try it out – add any other customisations your audit process may need.

At this point the view will return all history for a particular list, in the next steps we'll create a link that opens and filters workflow history for a particular item.

Create the calculated column for a list/library

  1. Within the list that is associated with the workflow, add a new calculated column. Do this for each list from which you need to see the workflow history.
  2. Enter the following formula, replacing appname and subweb with the address of your site, and viewname with the view you just created:
    ​​ =CONCATENATE("http://appname/subweb/Lists/Workflow%20History/viewname.aspx?&FilterField1=Item&FilterValue1=",ID)
    ​​​
  3. Add this column to the default view, or create an "auditor's view" of the list, containing this column and any other pertinent information.
  4. Now users can click on the link created dynamically by this column to return a filtered view of the workflow history, containing audit information on each step in every workflow that ran for this list item.

 
​Edit:​​​ Further to the comments below, to make the link clickable, you'll need to edit the formula as follows, using single quotes in the HTML, and ensure the output is set to number​, not text. e.g:
​​ =CONCATENATE("<a href='http://appname/subweb/Lists/Workflow%20History/viewname.aspx?&FilterField1=Item&FilterValue1=",ID,"'>Link To Document</a>")​

Make the workflow history easier to read

Out of the box, the workflow history contains a lot of GUIDs instead of real names (I suppose this is where deleting all those links made sense to Microsoft). To make it more human legible, you can add further calculated columns to the workflow history list to turn some of those column values back into real names. A good example is the workflow name, which is represented by "workflow association ID"

  1. Add a new calculated column called "Workflow name" to the workflow history list.
  2. Use the following formula:
    =IF([Workflow Association ID]="{GUID of particular workflow}", "Name of particular workflow",IF([Workflow Association ID]="{GUID of another particular workflow}", "Name of another particular workflow"))
    ​​
  3. Now save and add this column to your workflow audit views.

That's all. It's clearly not as straightforward as being able to use the OOTB workflow history from the item, but if it means you can still access the same information anytime without harming the performance of the database, it's definitely worth doing! If you know you're going to need workflow history for multiple sites, it's probably worth adding the views at least to the site template before the sites are created, and you could even add the columns to the default libraries with some placeholder values to aid deployment.


Top Blog Posts From Fuse

 

 

Simple Incoming Email with On Premises SharePoint and Exchangehttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/blog/simple-incoming-email-with-on-premises-sharepoint-and-exchangeSimple Incoming Email with On Premises SharePoint and Exchange
Recovering Workflow History after 60 dayshttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/blog/recovering-workflow-history-after-60-daysRecovering Workflow History after 60 days
SharePoint Web Application - Empty Virtual Directoryhttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/blog/sharepoint-web-application-empty-virtual-directorySharePoint Web Application - Empty Virtual Directory
Dynamic Page Layouts in SharePoint 2013 - Part 1https://www.fusecollaboration.com/blog/dynamic-page-layouts-in-sharepoint-2013-part-1Dynamic Page Layouts in SharePoint 2013 - Part 1
Dynamic Page Layouts in SharePoint 2013 - Part 3https://www.fusecollaboration.com/blog/dynamic-page-layouts-in-sharepoint-2013-part-3Dynamic Page Layouts in SharePoint 2013 - Part 3

Recommended Pages

 

 

Privacy Policyhttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/fuse-home/privacy-policyPrivacy Policy
Skype for Businesshttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/technologies/skype-for-businessSkype for Business
Hosted Skype for Businesshttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/technologies/skype-for-business/hosted-skype-for-businessHosted Skype for Business
All Companies Deserve Great IThttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/all-companies-deserve-great-itAll Companies Deserve Great IT
About Fuse Collaboration Serviceshttps://www.fusecollaboration.com/fuse-home/aboutAbout Fuse Collaboration Services

 About us

Fuse Collaboration Services is a Cloud Solution Provider and Microsoft Gold Partner specialising in delivering SharePoint, Skype for Business, and Azure cloud-based solutions. Based in Northampton, UK.

Microsoft Gold Partner Logo showing 5 competencies

Read more

 Latest Tweets

 Latest Blog

 

 

SharePoint - The Production Hub of Every Efficient Modern Office923<p class="lead">Monty Python's quest for the holy grail took King Arthur up hill and down dale, through woods and across rivers, and past challenges a-plenty.</p><p class="lead">Every business has its own quest for as high a level of productivity as possible, and fortunately you don't have to overcome the Black Knight to reach your ultimate goal.</p><p>But it is a journey worth taking, as according to some research undertaken by Nucleus Research in 2016 nearly 5 percent of GDP in the United States was lost in productivity costs as employees searched for content within their company's systems, with a further 3.6 percent of GDP spent on re-creating content that had already been lost.</p><p>For a company that turns over £10 million per annum this is equivalent to £460,000 of needless productivity costs simply searching through archives and £360,000 of content re-creation costs.</p><p>This has been recognised by some of the world's most outstanding businesses, with 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already using SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration software, to underpin their continued success.</p><p>But you don't have to have turnover in the billions of pounds to reap the benefits of a relatively small investment in SharePoint.</p><p>SharePoint gives you a clear and concise entry point both into your archives and current content, and allows you to share and work on many types of documents within your working groups in real time. No waiting for one person to finish editing before you make amendments, no laborious wading through folders upon folders of content from times past, just simple and easy processes wherever you are in the world and whatever device you are using.</p><p>SharePoint is an integral part of our operations here at Fuse, which means that we know just how to make the most of its impressive capabilities. We also know that there is no such thing as an 'off the shelf' solution to any organisation, and we take the time to work with you to find out exactly what you want and how we can help you achieve it.</p><p>Proactive businesses are successful businesses, so get ahead of the curve with <a href="/_layouts/15/FIXUPREDIRECT.ASPX?WebId=4fc45909-2b6d-48b9-bcf9-a446e9d472d6&amp;TermSetId=c98895cd-d37f-4406-9cff-5480b4f829b6&amp;TermId=5abcf6c4-2a4a-45fa-af70-4468462b3732">SharePoint​​</a>.</p><hr /><div class="well"><p> <strong>Jargon busting</strong><br><em>SharePoint</em>&#58; Microsoft's collaboration software that lets your working groups share documents, information, news and apps in a secure and easily accessible place. SharePoint is available both as a stand-alone product and as part of Office 365, and is the hub of any successful modern office</p><p> <strong>How it works</strong><br>SQL databases (configuration, services and content) deliver content to web clients through both a web browser as well as tightly-integrated Office applications and the Windows operating system</p><p>The base platform provides authentication, workflow, content, search and data processing services</p><p>APIs and service end points allow the platform to be extended through development, while the interface look-and-feel can be customised through common web development tools.​</p></div>​ | Chris Wearmouth | 693A30232E777C6675736563735C632E776561726D6F757468 i:0#.w|fusecs\c.wearmouth04/04/2018 23:00:002018-04-04T23:00:00ZSharePoint reduces time spent searching for and duplicating content24/04/2018 02:36:241286htmlFalseaspx

 Contact us

Our address
12 Brookfield, Duncan Close
Moulton Park, Northampton
NN3 6WL
P: +44(0)1604 797979
Contact Us