I've read that you can't associate workflows to SharePoint 2010 external lists but that there are workarounds for doing it.

What do those workarounds involve? Can I do all of it in the Sharepoint interface or Sharepoint Designer or do I have to write code in Visual Studio?

Where could I find a complete working example?

3 Answers 3


From articles I found the only workaround is to create classic SharePoint List and then fill it with external data columns. Since then you have 'normal' list you can attach workflow on it.

Here are my sources:

So you don't need extra coding - only few clicks.

IMO you need to treat this as huge workaround and use it only if you really really need it and maybe not even then.


This looks like alternative (it depends on your requirements):


Just don't do it :)

This is something that is not supported by SharePoint and you have to go outside of SharePoint to create WF's for external lists. For instance; SharePoint doesn't know when data in an external database or webservice is changed. It could be quite tricky and tedious writing this "event-handler" yourself.

Of course you can, but should you? Rethink your application design, perhaps this does not fit into SharePoint at all?

  • +1 I totally agree (even I provided some info on workaround) Sep 15, 2011 at 8:28
  • 1
    Just don't do it :) Maybe I will, maybe I won't :D. We have a lot of applications which now must be integrated for a complex business need. Sharepoint is the glue between all of them. That means lots of external sources :(. I'm kind of new to this Sharepoint stuff so I want to know how I stand when full dev starts. Sep 15, 2011 at 9:07
  • +1 If ppl do not get the desired answer to their wish they continue asking the same question over and over again until they get "correct" one. And it was already asked many times before here Nov 8, 2012 at 12:07

Here is an approach if your back end is SQL Server - Remember that this is just a concept.

It is complicated as the data is not in SharePoint. So, better to keep the external data external.

If it is so important to have workflow associations, then the other option you can consider is writing custom .NET BDC model where you have the control and you can do appropriate operations when the item is created, read, updated or deleted.

Hope that helps.

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