Update SharePoint List Item – Frequent Workflow (SPD / Visual Studio / Nintex) Errors

If you are using SharePoint workflows to update SharePoint List items, I am 100% sure that you might have seen the errors given in the below table.

If your answer is YES then please go through the root cause for these errors and design your workflows accordingly.

If you come across a workflow error which is not explained below, please post details in a comment to this post. I will revise the table and information based on your inputs.

Status / Event Type Description Outcome Possible Cause(s)
Error The workflow could not update the item, possibly because one or more columns for the item require a different type of information. Unknown error If you try and update the same item (though different fields) multiple times in a workflow, it can cause errors.  Essentially the workflow engine has moved on to the second update while the first is still pending.

The way around this is to use variables throughout your workflow (one for each field being updated subject to any logic), then do one single update of the list item after all of the logic has run its course.

Error Error updating a list item List Item Not Found No item in the list matching the criteria used to find a list item being updated.
Error Error updating a list item Access Denied Permissions of the user who initiated the workflow don’t allow them to modify data in the list item.

Event Type: Error

Error Deleting a list item Access Denied Permissions of the user who initiated the workflow don’t allow the user to delete items from the list.
Error Error updating a list item Unknown Error Attempting to update Approval Status of a list item from a Workflow initiated by a user without approve permissions on the list/library.
Failed on Start (retrying)


(Event Type: Error)

Error updating a list item Unknown Error Incorrect data types.

E.g. Attempting to include illegal characters in the filename of a document by appending the date to the filename.


Attempting to update a list item using the permissions of the user who initiated the workflow, who doesn’t have access to update items in the list.

Error An error has occurred in <Workflow Name>   A previous workflow error has caused the workflow to halt.
Error Error updating a list item Document must be checked out The document or list item being updated is in a list or library with force checkout enabled.

First check out the document before making changes from a workflow, or disable force checkout.

Note: Setting the Approval Status via a Workflow created using SharePoint Designer is not possible when Force Checkout is enabled.



About Joseph Velliah
As a SharePoint Developer my professional interests tend to be technical and SharePoint focused. I run a blog at "SP RIDER" where you can expect to read HOW TOs and scenarios that I run into during my day to day job. I hope my posts will give back a little to the community that is helped me.

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