Conditionally Starting a Workflow with the Nintex Workflow Filter Action

For quite some time now, it has been possible to start workflows conditionally with Nintex Workflow. Standard options for starting a workflow are manual start, run when items are created, and run when items are edited. For the latter two, it’s possible to set conditions for the triggers, which is to say “only run when these conditions are satisfied”. This is a great feature, and works in most cases, but I’ve run across cases when it is problematic.

In some cases, if the list item is encountering multiple, simultaneous edits, the underlying SharePoint engine may back off, and place the workflow into a “Starting” state for a period of time (usually until the next timer job run). This also may be OK, but in other cases, this lag may be unacceptable. Another problem is that “these conditions” are restricted to the values available on the item that the workflow is running on. There’s no way to interrogate system values, time values, database values, etc. It may be necessary to perform a few actions before deciding not to run further.

Whenever I’ve encountered these conditions, I swap out the conditional start capability for a filter action. I can’t say that I much like the name of the action (it’s not very descriptive), but it’s quite useful. In essence, what it does is to evaluate a condition, and if the condition fails, the workflow is ended. It’s almost like it never ran at all, which is the effect that we’re trying to achieve.

If I’m just trying to get past the stuck on “Starting” problem, I’ll add a filter action (found in the logic and flow section) to the beginning of the workflow.

Configuring it is straightforward. Simply enter your conditions in the same manner as you would a “Run If” action. You can leverage all of your Nintex workflow design elements – variables, list lookups, context items, constants or user profiles.

In the above a simple item value is interrogated. If its value is greater than zero, the workflow continues, otherwise, it ends. That’s it.

Another nice feature of the filter action is that it can be placed anywhere in the workflow, not just at the beginning, which allows you to conditionally run only part of the workflow. In many cases there are also other ways to accomplish this, but this is quick and easy.

If the standard conditional start options work for you, then by all means continue to use them. However, if you start to run into concurrency problems, or your requirements grow in complexity, you might want to have a look at the filter action. It has worked well for me every time. 


  1. I have been struggling with this. I will try it and let you know if it resolve my issues. Basically my workflows runs very fast for new items but when they kick-off because of an edit condition they remain on Starting for like 5 minutes and this has caused many issues for me.

  2. Hi John, how do you then configure your up? Do you just say set it to yes for modified so that it always runs when an item is updated and your filter take care of the logic?

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