Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Revisting Workflows in Sharepoint - Part 1

There are quite a few stuff which remains to be talked about workflows in Sharepoint, the ones we did not cover in the earlier posts (filter the blog posts by the WWF tag). Lets revisit some of these in this post.

We now know that workflows act as a facilitator for automating system (including human) interactions and let you define the business process. WWF being the framework provided by Microsoft for building these workflows using the concept of Activities. Note that WWF itself could be hosted in many possible environments, ranging from a .NET console application to a service.

In case of MOSS, the WWF is hosted within the MOSS environment. MOSS also appears to have replaced the following core WWF services within WWF to its needs - transaction, persistence, notification, roles, messaging. While using WWF workflows in MOSS, the idea is to link the workflow template which we created using WWF with either a list/document type or content type as the first step. Once this is done, instances of these items (documents/list/content type) could trigger off a workflow instance (based off a workflow template).

You could configure MOSS to create a new workflow instance when either of the following happens:
a.) Automatically, say whenever an item is added to the library
b.) Manually start the workflow against an item instance
c.) Or start the workflow by writing code.

In MOSS terms, the flow of work is notified to the user by using 'tasks'. User tasks gets shown up in their tasks list and also against the item's task list. You would usually configure to sent email notifications to the user simultaneously when the task is created. Completing one task might create further tasks for different users in normal scenarios.

OOTB Workflows and Office Support

Out of the box, MOSS provides workflows (Signature collection, feedback collection, translation management etc) which could be used with minimal configuration. Do note that WSS does not provide these OOTB workflows, though it should not be difficult to create one.

The name change from sharepoint server to MOSS and the related integration with Office 2007 based systems are quite extensive. You can now create MOSS workflows against new documents in MS Word, synchronise MOSS tasks against outlook tasks such that most/all of the workflow related actions can be accomplished from within the office 2007 systems, without ever visiting MOSS portals. Do note that to exploit Office 2007 systems, you would need to make sure that the interacting pages in MOSS are created in InfoPath.

In the next post while we revist more into workflows in MOSS, lets have a developer perspective.

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