The following article explains what a three-state work flow is and how a three-state workflow works. A Three-state workflow can track the status of a list item through three phases. The workflow can be used to track issues, items, such as customer support issues, sales leads and project tasks. For example, the three states for a project task could be, Not Started, In Progress, and Finished.

How Does a Three-State Workflow Work.

The Three-state workflow tracks the status of an issue, item or task through three states. Within each transitional  state, the workflow can assign a task to a SharePoint user and can send that person an e-mail alert about the task. When the task is completed, the workflow will update the status of the item and will begin processing the next steps. The Three-state workflow, by default, works with the Issue Tracking list template.  However, a Three-state workflow can be used with any Custom List configured to contain Choice columns with three or more choice values. The values in this Choice column serve as the states that the workflow tracks.


A list can have more than one choice column create. Each choice column can have more than three choice values. However, a Three-state workflow can only be configured to use one of the choice columns and only three of the choice values. When you add a Three-state workflow to list or library, you must select a choice column and three of the choice values provide by the column.


When a Three-state workflow has been created and started, the workflow can create a task for the designated SharePoint user. When a team member receives a task, he or she will perform the work designated to them and complete the task. This may include tasks that occur outside of the customized list, SharePoint site or Organization where the issue-tracking list is located. For example, if a team member receives a workflow task to develop step by step instructions and must present the in a knowledge base, he or she will research the proper content and construct the article. When the task has been completed, the team member marks his or her workflow task as completed. From here, the workflow will update the status of the task, in the issue-tracking or customized list, from such choices as Active, CompletePending  Review. The workflow can then create a second task for this users supervisor to review the created knowledge base article. After the supervisor reviews and approves the article. The supervisor can then mark their workflow task as complete. The Workflow will then updates the status of the task from Pending Review toComplete.

Note:  A workflow participant, or SharePoint user, can complete a workflow task in two ways. A user can edit the workflow task to mark it as one choice value, or change the status of the workflow item in the list based on assigned permission. If a user manually updates the status of the workflow, the workflow task is completed. If the user edits the workflow task to mark it as complete, the status of the workflow item will then be updated to complete.