dotCMS Workflows Explained

Jason Smith

With today's increasing number of digital touchpoints, companies are under pressure to produce immense volumes of content while remaining compliant with industry regulations. Nearly every company, therefore, needs a CMS that can handle content governance through a flexible workflow and approval process. 

According to Content Marketing Institute, however, 42% of organizations in 2019 lack the right technology to manage content across their organization. Another 42% say they have the technology but aren't using it to its full potential. While dotCMS has straightforward workflow capabilities for managing content, we want to make sure companies take full advantage of its flexibility and extensibility. 

With that in mind, let's look at what workflows are like with dotCMS, how they work specifically, and why they make content editors more efficiently.

What Are dotCMS Workflows?

In a nutshell, workflows let you define a process for moving content from its initial creation to finally being published. Workflows control which users have the ability to edit and publish certain content, and whether the content has been approved for publishing. Each content type is assigned a workflow, and newly created content gets put into a workflow based on this.

Creating complex workflows is straightforward with dotCMS’s NoCode philosophy. This means companies can tailor the workflows they use to meet their specific content governance and compliance needs. It also creates efficiency for the authors and editors who are actually working with content on a daily basis.

How Workflows Work

In dotCMS, a workflow consists of a scheme, steps, and (sub-actions). Let’s look at each of these in detail.



A scheme is the basis for a workflow that's related to a particular content type and contains a series of steps and (sub)actions for users to complete. The dotCMs starter site comes with two predefined workflow schemes: the default scheme and the document management scheme. The default scheme is applied by default to all content types. The document management scheme defines a process for moving documents from creation to published.



A step is the state that content is in and can vary widely from editing to published or archived. Each piece of content can only be at one step in the workflow at a time and only moves on when all the required actions are completed. Steps can also have scheduled actions that are triggered if no user actions have been taken.



An action is an option available to the user at a particular step in the workflow that must be completed before moving on to the next step. Each action has certain user roles and permissions assigned to them, and only authorized users can see the action when working with a specific piece of content. Actions can also have sub-actions such as push publishing, resetting the workflow, and more. These can be further extended using OSGI plugins to fit most business requirements. In addition, each action has a next step associated with it, so the content moves along the workflow when the action is taken by an authorized user.

Streamlining Marketer Workflows

There are many features within the dotCMS platform that facilitate the creation and approval of content for publishing. Workflows not only makes marketers more efficient, but it helps companies maintain a high level of content governance. This is critical for content-controlled industries like financial services, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment manufacturers. Let's look more closely at notifications, bundling, four-eyes, tasks, customization, and integrations.


Using notifications, content managers can keep up to date with where content is in the publishing process. dotCMS has default support for email and SMS notifications, but it's also possible to integrate with other messaging platforms like Slack through APIs. With emails in particular, sub-actions can trigger personalized emails to be sent to specific assignees or send emails to whichever users the content manager chooses.


Content teams can increase their content velocity using bundles. Folders, pages, dynamic plugins, and content can be grouped into bundles and published later using push publishing. Push publishing is the platform's unique method for efficiently publishing and unpublishing groups of content across one or more servers.


The concept of four-eyes means that at least two people are required to complete an action before content can move to the next step in a workflow. Requiring multiple users to approve content gives companies more confidence in their content quality and publishing process.



Many companies will have a variety of complex workflow schemes set up in dotCMS. That's why the platform has a tasks dashboard that gives users an overview of the content actions currently assigned to them. The task dashboard also lets content managers monitor the overall progress of their team's content publishing efforts.


For even greater customization, you can add code to extend workflows further. Velocity scripts can be used to modify existing actions, or entirely new (sub)actions can be created using OSGi plugins. While dotCMS has a multitude of default actions, you have complete flexibility in making actions that fit your specific business requirements.


It's possible to interact with the workflow module using APIs so that external systems can be tightly integrated with the publishing process. Workflows can have specific actions that occur outside of dotCMS, such as the translation of content or publishing content to social media platforms.

For translation workflows specifically, it's possible for an action or sub action to send content that needs to be translated to an external translation service using REST APIs. Once translated, dotCMS can automatically ingest the content and notify the appropriate content managers. From there, content managers can review, approve, and publish the translated content. dotCMS greatly streamlines this previously manual process.

dotCMS Workflows Increase Content Velocity

dotCMS facilities the enforcement of content governance while creating an efficient publishing process. The platform is ready to handle complicated content publishing across a multitude of digital touchpoints with its robust content approval and workflow module.

The highly customizable workflow structure with schemes, steps, and actions ensures companies can create complex, multi-step publishing processes that meet their unique business needs without having to code. The APIs exposed by the workflow module also drives efficiency when working with third-party systems because these systems can be deeply integrated with the publishing processes. With notifications and the tasks dashboard, content managers have the insights they need to keep content publishing deadlines on track. 

All these features lay the foundation for a robust workflow module that increases content velocity for marketing teams while giving companies the assurance that content compliance regulations are being met. Download our Product Brief on Content Approvals & Workflows to learn more.

Jason Smith
Chief User Experience Officer
August 19, 2019

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