Process management is often one of the key drivers when an organization decides to purchase SharePoint. Being able to quickly and easily create workflows around existing business processes has sometimes been challenging for developers and power users alike in SharePoint 2007. Many changes have been made to the workflow engine in the SharePoint 2010, making the software a better workflow design tool.
I have seen in many organizations that the workflow design process often starts with a business analyst, or someone who knows the business process but doesn’t have the requisite technical skills to communicate how to implement it.
This is where Visio 2010 comes to the rescue. The stencils are in the templates, and all the actions can be created. When the user has finished in Visio, it is simply a case of exporting the workflow from Visio and opening it with SharePoint Designer 2010. As changes are needed, the workflow can be exported back to Visio for further work, and then imported into SharePoint Designer again.
Power users will start to notice the enhancements when they begin creating the workflows in SharePoint Designer. The software will now give users the ability to create workflows against not only lists and document libraries, but also content types and sites. The capability to attach a workflow to a content type will save a lot of time, especially in larger SharePoint sites.
Actions are another big area of change, and my favorite is the new “Lookup Manager for User” action, which is great when working with approval workflows for expenses and leave requests. Another action that is very useful is “Log to History.” In SharePoint 2007, troubleshooting Designer workflows was very difficult. We can now log to the history list easily, making for an easy way to see where our workflows failed, or paused awaiting a response.
Some of the other actions worth mentioning are “Pause Until Date,” “Do a Calculation,” and “Find Interval Between Dates.” All of these actions in 2010 now have the option to run under an impersonation step, which allows you to execute part of the workflow with the credentials of a user with more rights. This is very useful when needing to work around security permissions in sites.
There are still going to be occasions when SharePoint Designer can’t do everything we need when creating workflows, and this has been addressed in 2010. We now have the ability to export a workflow created in SharePoint Designer and import it into Visual Studio, where a developer can add the required functionality before deploying it to SharePoint. When managing your workflows, you now have the ability to copy the out-of-the-box workflows and tweak them as you see fit; in fact, being able to copy and reuse all workflows will be a great addition.
We are now seeing the gap between SharePoint Designer’s workflow capabilities and those of third-party software providers narrowing, as Microsoft has added a wealth of additional functionality to the power users. This will certainly make the marketplace in the coming months very interesting. SharePoint Designer in 2010 will be very powerful and something to get power users trained on before you deploy or upgrade to the upcoming version.
Joshua Haebets is the Principal SharePoint Consultant at Evolve Information Services in Australia. He can be contacted at Joshua.email@example.com.