If you want to give your SharePoint power users the ability to create workflows without (or even with) the use of SharePoint Designer then Nintex Workflow 2007 is the workflow tool to use.
What surprised me was the fact how relatively easy it is to create quite complex workflows using the webbased workflow designer of Nintex. Why is it easy? Well .. I have some experience using Visual Studio workflows, but had some difficulties along the way (Lessons learned with Windows Workflow Foundation). And I have some experience building SPD Workflows (SPD.. nice to have) and I’ve even built some custom actions for SPD (SPD Workflow activity - Creating a document library , SPD Workflow activity - Copying a listItem accros a site).
Most of the time I’ve been using workflows within SharePoint in combination with InfoPath forms. One the biggest issues I’ve had in the past was the whole task-driven way approach where there was no real information about the form you are approving. See my complete rant at (Approval) workflow thingies..
So what does Nintex does? You probably wouldn’t have guessed it but it completely eliminates almost all the issues I had using SPD! ;)
Let me illustrate how easy it is to create a relatively complex workflow using the workflow designer. The workflow itself is about the process that takes place when a new employee is hired within a company :
- HR Department fills in all the details about the new employee
- The manager of the department where the employee will work must verify all the details and has to specify all work-related details (room number, workstation, phone, etc)
- Now the workflow becomes a parallel workflow
- Facility Management gets the form and will arrange everything that the manager has requested
- IT Department gets the form and will arrange everything that the manager has requested
- HR gets a mail every time a particular component is ready
- HR Department archives the form
Within a couple of hours (including testing out several options) I quickly came to the following workflow :
Pretty impressive eh? Aside to that here’s how a task looks like :
So.. within the task, all the information (if you make use of the promotion of the columns in InfoPath) is there. Aside to that, it’s smart enough to paste the &OpenIn=browser if you click on the Item so the form will open in the browser (something that the OTB workflow does not do!).
What else? Well.. the ability to see what the status is of the workflow. In other words, you can visually see what the status is of the workflow :
Another key thing is that customers don’t need developers anymore to create this kind of workflows using Visual Studio or SharePoint Designer but instead the power now lies in the business where people can create their own workflows. Maybe this last statement is a little bit over exaggerated but you get the idea. But maintaining a Nintex workflow is much more easier and better to understand for the end-user then a SPD workflow is.
Maybe consultants, like us, are needed to setup the initial workflow (together with the creation of forms (InfoPath or SharePoint Lists). But then with a simple guidance (check out the excellent tutorials at the Connect site of Nintex) and training, the power users can create/maintain workflows themselves and thus save your IT department a lot of money and time. The time that was once needed to complete a single SPD workflow, which btw is not very DTAP-able (Development, Test, Acceptance, Production) can now be used to complete multiple Nintex workflows which are (in a way (using the Import and Export functionality) DTAP-able). I’m still investigating if there is a way of adding Nintex workflows in a SharePoint solution so it can be part of a real SharePoint solution :)
I haven’t looked in the SDK yet but it is possible to add custom actions as it is for SPD, so don’t worry that your beautifully crafted custom actions are not available anymore when you start using Nintex. You only need to make it available in Nintex, so some extra steps are required (for creating the dialogs, validation, etc).
Well.. I hope you are as enthusiastic as I am about this product right now! Download a trial version over at the Nintex Workflow 2007 page