There is no direct and easy way to copy / move the SharePoint designer workflows from SharePoint 2013 (and below) to the latest version of SharePoint 2016 On-Premise and SharePoint Online manually using built-in mechanisms, as these types of workflows are deprecated in the latest version of SharePoint.
There are two options to handle such cases,
To recreate all the workflows in the latest version of SharePoint 2016 On-Premise and SharePoint Online using the SharePoint Designer for 2013, as this version of SharePoint Designer still supports the latest version of SharePoint.
Steps for connecting SharePoint Designer 2013 to your SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online sites
Open the SharePoint Designer 2013 and click on “Open Site” option as below.
On the prompted window, you need to provide your SharePoint 2016 or SharePoint Online Site URL as below.
After login into your site, you should be able to see the information on the first tab. You can use left navigation “Site Objects” to explore more about your site in SharePoint Designer.
Click on the ‘Workflows’ under ‘Site Objects’ in left pane, here you can create either list workflow (or) site workflow similar to your existing workflow in older version of SharePoint.
However, there are a few limitations with SharePoint Designer Workflow (created using SharePoint Designer for SharePoint 2013) in SharePoint 2016 / SharePoint Online.
- Allows only sequential Workflow.
- Difficult to deploy SharePoint Designer Workflow in different environment like TEST, DEVELOPMENT and PRODUCTION.
- Doesn’t have a built-in Source Control mechanism.
Using Vyapin’s Dockit Migrator product which handles the migration of SharePoint designer workflows from legacy SharePoint versions 2007 / 2010 / 2013 to SharePoint 2016 / 2019 and SharePoint Online (Office 365) with minimal manual work.
Here you don’t have the necessity to recreate each and every workflow one by one and there are no limitations stated in the first method.
Step to be performed manually before commencing the migration (for both techniques)
By default, SharePoint 2013 Workflow platform is not available in the SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online. To get the SharePoint 2013 Workflow, you need to configure Workflow Manager on the latest version of SharePoint as stated in the linked article.
Step to be performed manually after completing the migration (for both techniques)
- Open the SharePoint 2016 / SharePoint Online (where we copied the workflows from older versions SharePoint) in SharePoint Designer for 2013.
- Go to ‘Workflows’ under ‘Site Objects’ in left pane. Here you will find all the copied / migrated workflows.
- Select any one and click ‘Edit Workflow’ under ‘Customization’ and ‘Publish’ the Workflow.
- Repeat this for all the migrated workflows.