Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Workflow solutions on Microsoft Platform

Mads Nissen published a posting a while ago about Microsofts strategy for workflow engines in which he suggested that SourceCode the company which delivers K2.Net will be bought by Microsoft and proposed as the alternative for Biztalk Human Workflow Services (HWS). K2.Net is actually a pretty nice tool which integrates very well with ASP.Net, SharePoint and even Biztalk. There are however alternative 3d party vendors for implementing workflow solutions such as Skelta and Teamplate ( For a more elaborate overview, check out SharePoint Tools Galore)

Anyway, it definitely seems that Biztalk HWS is a dead end and there seem to be a fair amount of blog postings about this as well - check out Human Workflow Services (HWS) - just say no and Scott Woodgate seems to agree - read more about it in Choose the right workflow implementation with Biztalk 2004. I don't think that Biztalk is the ideal tool for implementing human-oriented workflow solutions anyway, since it does not provide a nice user interface for information workers to customize their own workflows. Biztalk is more of a developer tool then a tool for end-users (even tech-savy end users...), that's why I don't believe in solutions such as described in the latest issue of .Net magazine Benelux - check out the blogposting of Jan Tielens about it Building Workflow Solutions Article … Where’s the Code?

Hopefully the next workflow solution that Microsoft proposes will integrate easily with all of their different server products (The same product to implement workflow for Content Management Server, CRM Server, SharePoint and for all ASP.Net developed websites for that matter). Moving the workflow engine into the operating system - as Mads Nissen points out - seems a good way to accomplish this. With SharePoint and the Office System Microsoft has released a very solid foundation for building workflow solutions, unfortunately they do not provide a complete end to end solution for human-oriented workflow solutions. Since portals are one of the central building blocks in all process automation involving human-oriented workflow, this seems to be quite a strategic oversight.

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