Setting up advanced workflow

The functionality described below is not included in the standard SilverStripe 3 installation and requires the 'Advanced Workflow' add-on to be installed. For more details, visit

In this section:

  • Understand workflow
  • Set up Workflow Groups (Security Admin)
  • Set up a simple Review and Approve workflow

What is a Workflow?

In its most basic sense, a workflow means that new content or changes to existing content need to go through an approval process before they're able to be published to the live website.

This works by limiting access to certain parts of the workflow process to certain users or groups of users set up in the SilverStripe CMS Security admin.

The CMS can have an unlimited number of workflows created and running within it, but only one workflow can be attached to a page at any one time.

Workflow Terminology

  • Workflow Definition: Description of all the "actions" and "transitions" that make up a single workflow process to publish a page. Definitions are applied to pages within the CMS and are managed through the "Workflows" section of the CMS.
  • Workflow Instance: When a user wants to publish a page, instead of selecting the 'publish' button, they instead start a workflow, or more specifically, an instance of the "Workflow Definition" applied to that page. This "Instance" contains all the relevant data (e.g. user choices, comments, etc) for the running workflow on that page's content.
  • Workflow Action: A workflow can have many actions. Actions describe a single process occurring at each workflow step. Each piece of workflow logic is encapsulated in an action, such as assigning users, publishing a page, or sending notifications.
  • Workflow Transition: A transition is a 'pathway' between two actions, and defines how a workflow should proceed from one action to another. You can chain transitions, or have the user choose between different ones (e.g. "approve" vs. "reject")

Each Workflow Definition comprises a number of definable ‘Actions’ such as "Publish" and "Reject" and each action may have any number of "Transitions" leading out from it that connect one action to another.

Users and groups can have individual permissions assigned to them on Workflow Transitions, which gives workflow administrators fine-grained control over the content-actions allowed to be performed. For each transition the current CMS user has permission to enact, a button will appear on the content items assigned to the current user. The current user can then use this button to initiate the transition.

Setting up a simple CMS workflow in SilverStripe 3

Since workflows can vary greatly across websites, there's no default workflow.

You will need to configure the workflow in the ‘workflows’ admin interface. Here, we'll create a simple ‘Review and Approve’ workflow with the following features:

  1. Content Authors make a change and request approval from Content Publishers.
  2. An email is sent to the Content Publishers for Approval.
  3. Content Publishers can view and then reject or approve the change.
  4. An email is then sent to Content Authors to notify them of the rejection or that the content is to be published.

Flow diagram of advanced workflow objective

Step 1. Set up user groups

CMS Administrators must first set up user groups to be configured in the Workflow, see for setting up users and groups in the Secuirty admin.

For this example workflow we have the following user groups set up:

  1. Content Authors -- The users creating and maintaining content on the website. These users will change content and apply for approval.
  2. Content Publishers -- The users who will review and approve any content changes on the website before they are published to the live web site.

You must ensure the above user groups have the following permissions checked:

Workflow permissions

Once your user groups are set, you can apply Workflow actions to these user groups.

Note: Any user with ‘full administrative rights’ set will see all Workflow action buttons in the CMS, plus they will have the ability to Publish and Draft content regardless of whether or not a workflow is configured_ _on a page.

Step 2. Create a Workflow Definition

There is no default workflow in SilverStripe 3 since actual workflows vary greatly across web sites and hence one must be created. Once you have your workflow users created, you can proceed to create a workflow.

SilverStripe 3 workflow provides a simple review and approve template which can be selected when creating a Workflow Definition. You will, however, need to fill out all settings in order to use the workflow template.

  1. To create a Workflow Definition, select the Workflows admin in the Left Hand Menu to show the Workflow administration.

Workflow CMS section

  1. Click on ‘Add Workflow Definition’ to bring up the Workflow form.

Add Workflow Definition

Enter: Title The title for your workflow.

Description A summary of your workflow.

Choose from Template (optional) SilverStripe 3 Workflow allows SilverStripe developers to create templates for workflows, which can be selected here.

  1. Click ‘Save’

Note: You must save your workflow definition before you can add workflow actions.

Step 3. Adding Workflow Actions

Once you have saved your Workflow Definition you can now add Workflow Actions to it.

Workflow Actions are ‘triggers’ for the next process in a workflow such as notifications or publishing content.

The following example will configure a simple Review and Approve workflow. First, create all your actions to match your desired workflow process and then create the transitions from each action.

From the ‘Create an action” drop down, select the following actions:

  1. Assign Users To Workflow Action: Title this “Apply for Approval”. This creates a Workflow Button on a page, which then assigns the workflow process to configured users.
  2. Notify Users Workflow Action: Title this “Notify Publishers”. This action configures the notification emails sent when an action is triggered.
  3. Simple Approval Workflow Action: Title this “Approval”. This provides the decision point and two buttons to Publish or Reject the current content change.
  4. Publish Item Workflow Action: Title this “Publish”. This provides a button to register approval to proceed with publishing the content.
  5. Assign Users To Workflow Action: Title this “Assign Initiator Publish”. This action selects the Content Authors to be notified by email that their content is to published.
  6. Notify Users Workflow Action: Title this “Notify Initiator Publish”. This action emails the above “initiator” to Publish the content they have changed.
  7. Cancel Workflow Action: Tile this “Reject Changes”. This provides a button to register rejection of changes.
  8. Assign Users To Workflow Action: Title this “Assign Initiator Cancel”. This actions selects the Content Authors who are to Reject the changes.
  9. Notify Users Workflow Action: Title this “Notify Initiator Cancel”. This actions emails the above “initiator” to not publish what is changed.

Next, add your transitions as in the below example, by clicking “Add Transition” on each action, setting a title and a "next Action":

Flow diagram of advanced workflow objective

As you can see in the above workflow, the “Approval” action is the decision point at which one of the two transitions to either Publish or Reject actions is selected.

Once either action button is pressed, the workflow is assigned back to the original initiator, and an email notification is triggered (email is configured in the “Notify Initiator Cancel” or “Notify Initiator Publish” action).

Step 4. Assigning Users to the Workflow

When you have all the Workflow Actions and Transitions created you must assign the workflow to users in two areas.

The first is the workflow process itself, that is, which users will be restricted to the workflow.

This is set via the Workflow Definition ‘Restrict to Users’ or ‘Restrict to Groups’ fields. In this example, we apply the workflow restrictions to Content Authors who wish to make content changes. Select "Content Authors" from the drop down.

Restrict to Users

Next, you must assign the correct users to each action. For example when a Content Author triggers the workflow, it is the Content Publishers who must then receive and action the next step in the workflow process.

First select the “Edit” button on the "Apply for approval" action.

For this workflow action, select the Content Publishers Security group. These users will now receive the email notifications of content changes in the workflow once the “Apply for Approval” button is clicked by Content Authors.

Next, select the "Notify Publishers" action and fill out the "Notification Email". You can use several placeholders to create your email template. Set the from email, address, and subject fields. See the "Formatting Help" drop down for help.

Notify Publishers

Repeat these steps for the other actions (assign and notify) but this time setting the user to the "Initiator".

You can further restrict certain actions and transitions to specific users if desired using the “User” check boxes and the “restricted users” tabs on transition forms.

Step 5. Assign Workflows to a Page

Now that you have a Workflow, it must be assigned to a page.

  1. Select the page you wish a workflow to be applied to
  2. Select the ‘Settings’ tab
  3. Select the ‘Workflow’ tab
  4. Select the desired workflow from the ‘Applied Workflow’ drop down

Apply workflow