There are several products on the market that help us when designing and implementing workflows on SharePoint. Historically, Microsoft provided a SharePoint flow engine since version 2007. The product provides a series of out-of-the-box approval flows and it is also possible to design them using SharePoint Designer. As time has passed, Microsoft has been improving this tool, but it still has its limitations: available actions (many things can be done, but not many others) and graphical interface.
All this has been taken advantage of by some suppliers that offer their own solutions to design workflows. Among them, we will focus on this article in Nintex and K2. But neither is we going to forget Microsoft so fast. In its jump to the cloud, it offers a service for the realization of workflows not only linked to SharePoint / Office 365, but also allows linking actions between different systems: Microsoft Flow. It is even possible to use it in OnPremise environments, but we will need a Gateway and can only connect to the data sources that are available.
K2, manufacturer of which we have spoken on other occasions, offers a series of products for the design of workflows and associated forms: K2 Blackpearl and K2 SmartForms. Through these tools, it is possible for a user with a minimum of training to be able to design a workflow and its corresponding forms. In addition, if greater complexity is required in the business logic or in the information architecture, another series of tools, more oriented to the IT team, are offered that allow extending the product to achieve these objectives:
- K2 Designer
- K2 Studio
- Visual studio
Another point that we find very interesting is that it is independent of SharePoint and its workflow engine, that is, it is possible to generate workflows and interact with them through the tool itself. However, it can also be integrated into this platform through its extension “K2 for SharePoint”. In this way, you can replace the native forms of SharePoint lists and libraries with those of K2, which greatly improves the user experience.
Nintex Workflow, together with Nintex Forms, is one of the most used in the market for the design and implementation of workflows. Unlike K2, Nintex is fully integrated into SharePoint, that is, its interface is embedded within this solution. This means that it is necessary to have SharePoint to use Nintex. However, its actions allow interacting with other systems (databases, Active Directory, Exchange, Web Services …), and not only with the elements of SharePoint.
The strength of Nintex Workflow is the simplicity of its designer, being very intuitive to implement workflows. Something similar happens with Nintex Forms, which allows you to replace the default forms of SharePoint lists and libraries with custom ones.
In addition, Nintex has a version for Office 365 that improves the functionality offered by Microsoft Flow by having its own engine and actions. It also improves its interface when using the classic Nintex flow designer.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, on its way to the cloud Microsoft has decided to take a step forward in terms of workflows and created this service that allows cross-sectional workflows, that is, that can interact with many of the services that you have in Office 365 and Azure and, in addition, with other external systems such as Facebook, Twitter, Trello … And the possible connectors do not stop growing! In this sense, it has improved a lot since we talked about it in Prakash Software.
For example, it is possible to generate a flow that is executed when an account that is of our interest generates a tweet, it is checked if it has more than 100 followers and, in that case, it is added as a possible lead to the MailChimp service. As you can see, it has not even interacted with other Microsoft services.
In addition, as we have advanced previously, it is possible to use as connectors some of the systems available “in house”. To do this, a gateway must be installed to authenticate against these systems and be able to interact with them from the cloud service. As of today they are the following:
- SQL Server
Regarding the designer, although it greatly improves SharePoint Designer, it is still poor compared to Nintex or K2.34