Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The workflow could not update the item, possibly because one or more columns for the items require a different type of information

I recently encountered a problem when working with SharePoint Designer building a workflow to update the list item with some changed values.  Following my normal good practise of using a ‘Reusable Workflow’ and publishing this to the site I started to get the following problems.


The workflow was published and added to the Document Library which appeared to be working correctly.  The updates were updated but after a few times of running errors occurred and the workflow failed.  These were reported as:

"The workflow could not update the item, possibly because one or more columns for the items require a different type of information"


After investigating why this was happening including checking my field names and types as well as building on a separate test environment and replicating the problem the resolution came about with building the workflow in a different way.

The failed workflow step we were using was ‘Update List Item’ option and this is when the error occurred.  I was updating a number of fields in my current item as once which seemed the logical way to do this.  But changing this to separating out the update steps and using the ‘Set Field in Current Item’ for each update resolved the error.

This may seem obvious but the logic says ‘Update List Item’ should work although it seems to put a lock that causes further updates to fail whereas ‘Set Field in Current Item’ works in a more sequential way preventing problems.


  1. hi,
    in my case both are giving same error message. surprised why it is acting so. I am creating a reusable workflow that is binded to a content type that will come by publishing infopath form.

    if you have any idea, plz let me know.


  2. did you ever find a solution to the issue you where having Raj? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Hi,
    I faced the same issue. Interestingly, though I had the UPDATE LIST ITEM option there, it is in a IF CONDITION and that condition never gets executed. So, rest of the workflow is with out the UPDATE LIST ITEM option and has all SET items.

    Do you still see any issue ? I checked the LIST ITEM HISTORY before a change that caused the error and after the error / change. I could hardly see any difference, except a field value which I updated.

    Any clue ? This error never came in the past and never were the workflow / list settings modified in the recent past.

    Sri Harsha

  4. I've been facing the same problem for months. I have a custom list with a workflow attached to it with the start option "Start workflow automatically when an item is changed". In this workflow, i check to see if the field has been set to a certain value and if so, I use the Set field in current item to update the item. I get this error randomly. When I terminate the workflow and restart it, it runs through fine.

    I've tried the following things, with little luck:
    1. Stopped the SharePoint Timer service on the servers in the farm that do not serve as the WFEs
    2. Under Job Definitions in Central Admin, I've updated the Workflow job's recurring schedule to run every 1 minute
    3. Placed a 1 minute delay on the workflow before I use the Set field action, because of possible locking

    It is still randomly occuring, because I set it up to alert me by email on errors in the Workflow History list.

    Any other ideas?

  5. any one has got solution? please let me know. I am facing issue similar to Raj. for both Update item list and Set items.

  6. @Raghu and WHC,
    this looks like environment issue. I am not getting this error message now. However, you can try this work around. in the workflow, put a delay activity as the starting step. and delay for 1000 milliseconds. I hope this will solve the issue.


  7. Hi,

    I was facing the same issue and i tried both "Update List Item" and "Set Field Value" options , but it was giving the same error, then i put all the step inside Impersonation Step and it worked for me.