SharePoint Online – The workflow could not update the item error

While using OOTB workflows with SharePoint Online you might face the below error.

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

This might occur because of the default workflow template being corrupt. The real reason is unknown though and the following steps will enable you to fix the above error.

  • Browse to the affected SharePoint site.
  • Click Site Actions, and then click Site Settings.
  • If the affected site is a sub-site instead of a top-level site, in the Site Collection Administration section, click Go to Top Level Site Settings.
  • Click Site Collection Features.
  • Deactivate the Workflow feature.
  • In SharePoint Designer, open the root of the site collection.
  • Go to Workflows.
  • Remove the Workflow in question (for example, Approval – SharePoint 2010).
  • In SharePoint, in Site Collection Features, reactivate the Workflow feature.
  • Confirm that the workflows are functioning as expected.

A declarative workflow does not start automatically after you install Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Service Pack 1

If you are using the WSS 3.0 SP 1 there is a known issue of a declarative workflow not starting automatically under following conditions

1. The Windows SharePoint Services Web application runs under a user’s domain account.
2. The user logs in by using this domain account.
3. The site displays the user name as System Account.

Refer the Microsoft Support Article for more info and resolution
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947284