As you may have noticed, in SharePoint Online, when you publish a workflow on a list or document library, this magical platform creates a status column for your workflow. Wow, fantastic! Oh wait... this is great, isn't it? Well, not exactly.
These columns are created so that when you use the Set Workflow Status action a string of text can be stored that references the instantiated workflow. This is great as it allows me to surface, on the default list view, details about the current progress of the workflow.
So, if that's the case, why wouldn't this workflow status column be helpful? Well, the problem you'll end up running into is that as you build several workflows or have a large number of columns on this list you'll start seeing somewhat undesirable artifacts in the Workflow Designer under Item Properties when you attempt to insert a reference.
What exactly would this undesirable artifact be? Well as you can see below, I have 4 workflows published on my Leave Requests list:
But when I go and configure another action in my workflow, I see the the names of these workflows as Item Properties:
Again, while this isn't a huge issue when you only have a single workflow or a minimal number of columns, it certainly will become much more annoying once you do. So unless you are paying close attention, you may not notice the difference between a workflow status column and real item metadata.
The solution is to simply, when configuring your workflow settings, prefix your workflow name with a standardized naming convention such as 'WF' or 'zWF':
Now these columns will show up at the bottom of the Item Properties and will be hard to mistake for useful metadata:
Some type of naming convention can be considered a best practice when designing workflows. So if you're not already doing this, please start. I hope this saves you some aggravation!
Be sure to check out the other Back to Basic's blog posts: