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Email Approvals inside of Workflow Projects

Created: 27 Sep 2012 • Updated: 05 Oct 2012 | 9 comments
This issue has been solved. See solution.

Hey guys how are you handling Email approvals? I have a project in place that sends out response links and handles approvals, it works fine and dandy unless someone is at home or off network and has to vpn just to access the link. I was thinking inside of the dialog workflow component I would be able to allow multiple responses and put a wait on external event component that would monitor an inbox then be able to push the workflow along but that doesn't seem to be case. Any insight to how you guys are doing these sorts of things would be greatly appreciated.

Workflow 7.1 sp2

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gunnelsrm's picture

Are you saying users that are logged in using VPN can't use the link to approve a workflow request?

reecardo's picture

I think the opposite... users need to be on VPN to access the link provided. User just wants to proivde multiple links (a VPN and a non-VPN)

dfrancis's picture

It sounds like the OP is talking about the situation where someone happens to hit webmail from home or on a mobile device so they aren't on VPN.  Unless the Workflow server is in the DMZ (or they're on VPN), the approval link obviously won't work.

This is something I'm interested in knowing as well, as we're a fairly mobile company so being able to approve/reject via a disconnected mobile device would be handy.


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JoeVan's picture

We ran into the same desire.  What I ended up doing was creating a separate workflow that was an email listener which takes care of the approvals.  This allows me to add a few HTML buttons to the approval request.  Approvers can click approve or deny which results in the generation of an email response.  The email monitoring workflow monitors a designated mailbox and takes care of progressing the original workflow based on data in the subject line of the email.  Took some time and experimentation to get it working right but it works great!

Joe VanHollebeke
Systems Engineer

b3tts32's picture

Yeah I'm looking at approval options on the go pretty much without the need to be connected to our network.

JoeVan - I'd be interested in a bit more info about your project if you don't mind. How were you able to progrerss the workflow project from the monitor project? I can't seem to find the wait component that I need inside of the dialog workflow model. 

JoeVan's picture

The Email to approvers contains some mailto href links with a specifically formated subject.  The approver adds comments to the body and hits send.  The email monitoring workflow parses that subject to take action and also records the comments in the body. 

I created a separate SQL table for approval tracking.  When the email comes in, I write an entry to that table.  This is important for troubleshooting, as an audit trail, and to automate the process

I then used a HttpGetComponent to trigger the original workflow process.  The approval step on the original workflow checks for an entry in the approval table and based on this either automatically takes action or if no entry exists, displays the approval form.

See attachment for further details.

Important hint:  Had to enable anonymous authentication on my original workflow to get this to work right.  See this post for more details:

MDR workflow email approval Screenshots.docx 384.77 KB

Joe VanHollebeke
Systems Engineer

b3tts32's picture

Ok great I'm thinking I will probably go in that direction then. So just a fewe more quick questions.. was the email from the screenshot coming from your event notification in your dialog workflow component? Also for the http get.. did you have to expose the same dialog workflow as a web service? I'm not surer if I'm over thinking this thing or not.

On another note, I believe I made some progress with the External Dialog Step component but ran into a snag. It seems as if I can use this component inside of the multiple response dialog to call my monitoring email project and then follow the necessary output path. When publishing the workflow I never get the webservice that should be made available from the component. There is more detailed info in this forum. Anybody know if this component still has the bug?

All that being said, JoeVan's solution should probably work for me I just need to go in and adjust some things and ask a few more questions.

JoeVan's picture

The email to the approver is part of the Start Process Event Configuration for the "Approval" Dialog Workflow Component.  Wow, thats a mouthful.   All emails to the users come from my primary workflow.  The monitoring workflow (which was included in screenshot) is simply a utility for doing what I described.  I do have a few email components in there but they are primarily for debugging and notifying the administrator.  I chose not to notify the user if an invalid email approval was received for security reasons. 

You may be over thinking it a bit.  I did not create a web service.  My monitoring workflow hits the internal link to the same approval form users would otherwise get.  The URL I hit from the GetHTTP component is:


[ResultTaskID] is pulled from part of the email subject which you can see in the screen shot.

Joe VanHollebeke
Systems Engineer

b3tts32's picture

Yeah I was definitely over thinking it, I was under the impression that I had to expose a webservice in order to call the url with the taskID you listed in order to start the workflow at the specific point. 

All is well now and my workflow is progressing from email which is an amazing thing and opens the door to many other different possibilities going forward. Thanks again for your help!