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SharePoint Works Best as a Worflow Platform for Applications

In SharePoint-Videos’ set of video training content on SharePoint 2013 Worflows, SharePoint 2013: Workflows, Chris Beckett distinguishes between two types of workflow requirements:

  1. workflows for applications
  2. and workflows for Enterprise Systems Integration.

Chris recommends using SharePoint as a platform for building workflows for applications. Stakeholders after a substantial return on their investment in SharePoint for building workflows, will need to come up with an answer to this same question.

Perhaps it will be helpful to provide some definition to Chris’ use of the term “application workflows”. Any need to automate the steps in the human tasks related to office automation is best served by application workflows.

SharePoint is very well suited to this type of implementation. The “people/collaboration” features of the platform are numerous, which provides workflow designers a lot of options as far as connecting steps in a process.

But, in contrast, “application workflows” are usually built to automate the interconnection of software components of a large system. The need driving this type of workflow development, as Chris notes in the third video tutorial in our set, is something like “[t]ransform[ing] data between well-defined message schemas”, or “structured data exchange” or to manage “well-known exception flows” (all quotes are from the third video tutorial in our set).

As Chris explained in the second video of this set, Microsoft’s BizTalk Server is actually a better choice to meet a need for enterprise workflow development.

So what does all of the above have to do with SharePoint stakeholders, and their need to present a reasonable business case for SharePoint? My hope in publishing this post is to illustrate the urgency of vetting any/all technical assumptions underpinning the SharePoint implementation business case proposal. Opting to use SharePoint as a development platform for workflows better suited to BizTalk server would amount to a big mistake. On the other hand, implementing SharePoint, albeit without newsfeeds, team sites, etc, would handicap any effort to successfully use the platform to support application workflows.

Please contact us should you have any questions about Application Workflows and how they are distinguished from Enterprise Workflows.

Ira Michael Blonder

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