SharePoint Designer 2010 Workflows


Tech Trek Log – 2010.03.16

Another product in the family of SharePoint 2010 upgrades are the improvements made to SharePoint Designer. Although, there are numerous changes to the upcoming release, I’ll focus into areas specific to workflow development. With a price point of freeware licensing model, who wouldn’t want consider such an option when building business process workflows for your organization?

I’ve highlighted some of the key improvements below to assist you when evaluating the product:

Reusable workflows
This is long-time coming, previously workflows are list-specific and it is cumbersome to reuse them across different sites. With this update, it allows SharePoint to compete with other 3rd party tools that can save existing workflows and publish them across lists or libraries and other site collections.

Visual-based design using Visio template
This capability is not entirely new in the market as evidenced in my earlier post about Business Process Workflows. Although, it is a welcome addition to have a familiar tool like Visio allowing business users to visually design workflows. This lessens the learning curve from other similar tools that I have previously evaluated. One caveat is that it only allows import/export into SharePoint Designer which may make it difficult when updating workflows.

User interface updates
The addition of contextual ribbon, breadcrumb navigation, and tabbed interface now makes it more easier to author workflows. Gone is the wizards-based approach when designing a workflow. Also, most configuration options are now available within SharePoint Designer.

Improved workflow designer
I’ve saved this for last since I think this area is the most noteworthy because it makes the design process much easier. I was not a fan of the earlier 2007 release especially in comparison to the other drag-and-drop tools that competes with Microsoft. Note, it is still the familiar tool of constructing conditional logic and linear stepping approach but the revamped user interface makes this update a point into the right direction.

As I have previously mentioned, this market space is gaining momentum and it’s only a matter of time before companies will realize its full potential. Note, I haven’t even mentioned how it is much easier right now to connect into external data systems using Business Connectivity Services (BCS) provided by SharePoint.

Let’s wait and see how much of the hype will turn into reality with the launch in May, 2010.

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