As you most likely know, especially if you have a SharePoint 2010 Beta subscription, SharePoint 2010 will support designing workflows in Visio 2010. You may think that this will make third-party workflow design tools, such as Nintex Workflow 2007, less important. I beg to differ.
Mike Fitzmaurice of Nintex just wrote a blog post about this, explaining the reasons why Visio 2010 Workflows is not the end of third-party add-ons.
Now, Mike is a very nice guy, I worked with him while writing the Using Nintex Workflow 2007 issue of USPJ, and after we had a particularly constructive telephone meeting, he even said ‘Thank you’ in Norwegian. That sort of thing leaves an impression. I have a few heroes in the SharePoint world, and Mike is definitely on that list.
However, in this case, he’s too shy. Here’s my perspective.
Third-party developers have been developing products for Windows for years, despite there being free Microsoft alternatives. There’s a reason why there is a plethora of software such as UltraEdit, NotePad++, etc, despite the fact that a text editor ships with Windows. There’s a reason why media players such as Media Player Classic still enjoy widespread adoption, despite Microsoft including Windows Media Player with virtually any piece of software. Browsers continue to flourish, regardless of how much Internet Explorer is now a critical update to Windows.
The reason for this rich and competing product offering is that third-party developers are simply more creative. I’m not saying Microsoft isn’t innovative or creative, but considering they only have a limited number of employees, they can’t imagine everything. Also, when Microsoft releases a product, people start learning the technology and quickly find ways to improve the experience.
A very good example of how this works is Nintex Workflow 2007. Microsoft has designed a rich and massive workflow framework, and Nintex has designed a vastly improved interface to that framework. Even when considering the apparent ease of SharePoint Designer, Nintex WF is years ahead.
Nintex simply is better at doing workflow than Microsoft. In fact, Nintex is so much better at doing workflow than Microsoft, that I perceive the Visio 2010 workflow integration to be an attempt from Microsoft to narrow the gap.
Does this mean that with the release of SharePoint 2010, that Microsoft will catch up? Not by a long shot. I’m not privy to any NDA material, but based on what I have seen from the Visio 2010 beta, Nintex could quite comfortably sit quite still and do quite nothing, and still be quite ahead.
So no, Visio 2010 workflow integration wont be the end of third-party workflow development. Quite the contrary, I suspect Nintex and other developers to put out products that will make your workflow experience a lot better than what you get out-of-the-box.
But that’s just my 2 cents.
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