SharePoint Visual Studio Workflows for Non-Developers?

UPDATE: The issue mentioned in this post is available at http://www.sharepointvisualstudioworkflows.com/

So, it’s time to do the second part of the USPJ Business Process Management series. This time, I’m going out on a limb, and I’m going to write a Visual Studio Workflow issue for non-developers.

You may wonder why I would write a non-developer issue based on one of the most hard-core developer tools there is. The idea here is to try to gently bridge the gap between advanced end-users and the power of Visual Studio workflow. I’m not going to try to make programmers out of you, but rather to introduce you, as gently as possible, to the world of real workflow power.

How, you say? Well, I’m staying away from the programming stuff as much as possible. I might end up with some short code snippets for illustration, but I’m going to do this using no-code approaches. That way, you will get an easy introduction to working with Visual Studio without having to learn C#, VB.NET, or any of that stuff.

I’ve received a lot of feedback from the readers of Issue 4 on SharePoint Designer Workflows that the content in the other issues is ‘over their heads’. I certainly understand that, the target for the other issues have been somewhat experienced programmers, and not everyone wants to take the leap into learning programming just to utilize more SharePoint features.

However, as I said, I’m going out on a limb here, because this may be a very wrong approach. Targeting non-developers may alienate experienced developers, and introducing developer tools to end users may still be a too big leap.

So, I’m asking you:

If you are an experienced developer (meaning you know the difference between a class and an object), would you be interested in a USPJ issue on no-code workflow development in Visual Studio?

OR

If you are an end user, would you be interested in learning to use Visual Studio to create even more powerful workflows than you can with SharePoint Designer?

Feel free to send your comments to furuknapgmail.com if you do not want to comment here.

.b

UPDATE: The issue mentioned in this post is available at http://www.sharepointvisualstudioworkflows.com/

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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.

25 thoughts on “SharePoint Visual Studio Workflows for Non-Developers?”

  1. Hi there,

    I'm an experienced sharepoint developer and my thoughts are that VS workflow should be left to the experts. I feel that explaining the possibilities of VS workflows to non-coders would be more beneficial than stepping them through an example of a no-code VS workflow. The other thing to remember is that most non-coders will not have access to VS and will therefore not be able to follow along with the article.

    My blog 🙂

  2. I would welcome the proposed article. I am an experienced developer but I don't use Visual Studio as my primary development environment so this would be great to see.

    I also like the idea of anything that brings non-developer power users closer to development. The more people understand what can be done, the easier it is to design great solutions.

  3. Craig,

    I'm primarily interested in hearing if this would be useful to you, not whether you think it would be useful to someone else. I am sure someone else is well capable of making that decision themselves 🙂

    .b

  4. Absolutely! I'm a big fan of the "middle tier" of SharePoint development, either through the UI or with SharePoint Designer. However, if Visual Studio based workflows can meet the business needs better, then I'd be looking at them. (I'm a developer by background, but call me lazy: I'd rather not write code if I don't need to.)

    M.

  5. I would love to see an article like this, it will open the door for people like me who are asp .NET developers, but are not comfortable with the Share Point WF libraries.

  6. Hey Bjørn,

    I'd read that one in a heartbeat. I'm a developer (not hard-core—though I know the difference between a class and an object). I'm with Marc, though: I'd rather not code if I don't have to.

    There are many times, though, that I'd love to scrap an SPD workflow and make it do what I really need it to do, so I'd welcome the opportunity to fire up VS and create a workflow.

    I'd happily do a technical edit on that one for you. 😉

    Blessings,
    Jim Bob

  7. I would definitely be interested. I am an enduser who is "expected" to develop SPWF, which always seem to get an error somewhere and don't always do what I want.

  8. While I'm not a hardcore developer any more, I agree seeing all available options to solve SharePoint workflows would be great…

    I look forward to reading this issue…

    /Gerald

  9. I am in IT but essentialy an end user type as I do not use or know C#, VB.Net, etc. I find SPD very limited. I have access to VS and if that can help me do some things easier without knowing how to code extensively I would be all for it.

    Bob S.

  10. Anonymous,

    VS is available free in Express editions, and there are trials available for the Standard and Pro editions as well.

    The WF designer requires the standard edition, though, and the SharePoint built-in workflow templates requires the Pro edition.

    .b

  11. I am not a programmer, but am expected to at least understand what can be done in Sharepoint and workflows are extremely important. I would love to learn more. This will allow for better business decisions. Thank you!

  12. Yes, I would find this useful. Anything workflow related using VS I would look forward to digesting. Also, I would also be interested in ideas about showing how to create Web Parts, Workflows and Features using VseWss 1.3 (the Visual Studio Add-in)

  13. Anonymous,

    Regarding VseWSS, you know, I'm actually going to write a blog post on that. Check the site later today or follow me @furuknap and I'll explain why I'm not likely going to do the VseWSS-thing.

    .b

  14. Anonymous,

    Oh, I do know a thing or two about Nintex – In fact, I quite literally wrote the book on Nintex:
    http://www.learnnintex.com/

    However, you seem to be missing a rather large portion of the point here; how does Nintex help you learn creating workflows in Visual Studio?

    Second, while I agree that Nintex is a really nice product, if you read my post on tools, you know why I advise people to not use tools for learning. This is a very good example of the house-building ray gun I mention in that post:
    http://furuknap.blogspot.com/2009/08/sharepoint-development-tools-or-not.html

    .b

  15. In the mist of the massive amount of information housed in VS, I would totally enjoy a Non-Developers version to read. I like the 30 thousand foot view first, before the internal view. I am a reverse engineer type of learner, so I like to see a final product before the initial stuff.

  16. I’m not a developer but I do really want to help my company to make our workflows better and faster and et c. That would be really great! Thank you.

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