SharePoint 2013 Workflow: Check if list item exists

For a customer we are building a complex approval process on Office 365 with SharePoint 2013 workflows. During the process we need to check if an list item (in an other list) existed. There is no default action that lets you do this. You can however us the set variable and if statement action to figure out if the item you are looking for exists or not. This is a useful trick to know when working with SharePoint 2013 workflows.


  1. Create a SharePoint 2013 workflow.
  2. Create a  variable called ContractItemID, here we will try to store the ID of the list item we are trying to find.
  3. Set the variable to 0 (zero).
  4. Then we need to try and set the ContractItemID variable with the ContractID of the item we are searching. This can be from the same list or a different list.
  5. I am trying to find the ID of a list item with a specific Contract Number.
  6. If the workflow finds an ID the ID will be stored in the variable, if no item is found then the ContractItemID value will remain 0 (zero)
  7. Use an if statement to determine if the list item exists.


SharePoint Timer Job: Workflow Auto Cleanup Job

One of our customers uses workflows to review and approve important project documents. The project board members receive workflow tasks to approval for example the mandate and the project initiation documentation (PID). The customer uses a view to see if the approval workflow is running, complete or not used. After weeks of using the workflow the customer stated that all the workflow information of completed workflows is missing. This is a problem because the customer needs to be able to provide an audit trail of the approval process for important project document.

The cause of the seaming missing workflow information is the SharePoint timer job Workflow Auto Cleanup Job. The job is responsible for deleting related workflow tasks and the workflows status used in views. The job removes tasks that still exist 60 days after the workflow is completed or cancelled. This is done to prevent the task list to become too large and impact performance. The actual workflow information will not be removed and can still be accessed through the workflow history.

Because the required audit trail information is not lost we did not change anything to the timer job, to make sure no potential performance issues where introduced.
We introduced the following solution to overcome the default cleanup behavior.

  1. We added a step in the workflow that filled in an extra column, the column contains the information if the workflow has run or not.
  2. The column was removed from the edit page to make sure only the workflow changed the value of the column.
  3. We taught the customer how to use the workflow history, to gain easy access to the audit trail.

Disable the timer job (not recommended)
It is possible to disable the timer job. However, this is not recommended. Disabling the timer job creates a potential impact to performance.