SharePoint 2010 Visio Workflows and Nintex

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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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

4 thoughts on “SharePoint 2010 Visio Workflows and Nintex”

  1. I fully agree. Nintex Workflow 2007 has been a giant leap in usability of SharePoint workflows, and I am sure Nintex will be in time to present a solution on top of SharePoint 2010 that won't let Microsoft catch up…

  2. While I agree that Nintex Workflow 2007 and subsequent versions will likely offer a better interface experience over Visio 2010 you seem to be missing one small point. Microsoft doesn't need to beat Nintex at it's own game – merely provide a better interface experience that is tolerable for creating workflows. Remember there is a cost involved in purchasing Nintex. For those customers that have an enterprise setup it is likely they have some sort of Enterprise CAL with Microsoft so the cost for using Visio 2010 will be minimal. Bottomline is all important in this current market and customers may choose to live with Visio rather than incur a cost for Nintex. Just my $0.02, I like Nintex Workflow 2007 and am as curious as anyone else to see what happens when SharePoint 2010 is out in the wild.

  3. Well, for non-special-agreement customers, Visio is still $250 per seat, and manning a 20 people shop with licenses will make for a much more expensive solution.

    I'm not buying the cost factor here, though. The price of software is not the price of the solution. That's why Linux isn't free unless your time is worthless, to quote an old proverb.

    Better software is cheaper for companies who realize that the license cost is just a small part of the package. For those who don't, I'm sure Visio will seem like a marvelous idea.

    .b

  4. Well put. This is not just the case with Nintex; K2, Ascent, Metastorm, etc are well ahead. I have lots of clients ask about this and the reality is that MS provided the framework for ISV to build solutions upon… They will not be able to provide a platform in the short term that will meet the requirements for Business Process Automation. Reporting is huge and it is non-existent when when building a directly on the WF framework.

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