Sunday, 13 September 2015

SharePoint 2013 Workflow options - notes

Overview:  There are a lot of workflow options and each of the solutions lend themselves favorably to different circumstances.  In this post I look at the more common options around workflow for SharePoint.  The 3 options I'm exploring are: K2 blackperl, Nintex and SP2013 WorkFlow Manager.  Also note that existing SP2010 workflow still exists and is an option if your business has workflows on the platform already or you have this skill set available.  There are other products but these are the main stream options.

So each of these products has their place and suit different organisations.  This post is my opinion and I am not a workflow expert and show my thoughts on when I would favor 1 of the approaches.

Licencing:  Workflow Manager does not have the licencing costs.  Nintex has a server and CAL licencing model and K2 has a server licencing model.

Skills:  what are your existing in-house skills.  If you already have K2 or Nintex expertise it makes these products far more attractive.

Size:  How big is your organisation, how complex are the workflows, how many workflows and how often do they change shall influence the workflow option to select.

SharePoint 2013 Workflow Manager
SharePoint 2013 introduces an new standalone workflow engine based on Windows Workflow Manager 1.0 using .NET 4.5.  In the SP 2013 world, Office Web Apps (OWA) and Workflow Manager runs as a service separate from SharePoint 2013.
  • SharePoint Designer 2013
  • Ideal for simple or medium complexity workflow processes
  • Limited to a pre-defined set of activities and actions
  • Relatively quick and easy to configure
  • Custom workflow development through Visual Studio
  • Can implement state-machine workflows
  • Supports custom actions/activities
  • Supports debugging
  • Ideal for modelling complex processes
  • Requires a developer
  • Workflow Manager
  • High Density and Multi-Tenancy
  • Elastic Scale
  • Fully Declarative Authoring
  • REST and Service Bus Messaging

  • On-premise and cloud workflows – but cloud workflows do not allow custom actions
  • Nintex uses the SharePoint workflow engine
  • Easy to create Nintex workflows (good tooling) but not so easy to upgrade and maintain if complex – they require a proper dev environment if workflows require changing
  • Tight coupling with SharePoint – so upgrades need to be planned. Some workflows have broken after upgrade.
  • Can create custom activities but these are limited to constraints imposed by Nintex design surface
  • More suited to State machine workflows using reusable custom modules and user defined actions.
  • Nintex uses its own database which you will need intimate knowledge of when it comes to performance issues.

K2 – technology agnostic – best suited if SharePoint is only a part of your technology snapshot, some folks consider K2 a BPM product.
  • Off box WF hosting:  Allows for increasing the number of blackperl servers and no resource overlap, flexible licencing model as it is server based
  • Well tried and tested workflow engine
  • Good reporting and troubleshooting
  • Excellent SOA layer (SmartObjects) with multiple products.  This is more an EA feature as it can be a great way to create an SOA.  Allows API to connect to custom SQL, CRM, SAP, Web Services.
  • Proven advanced tooling, good visual tooling (not as good as Nintex IMHO)
  • Cost is relatively high, support costs are extensive, need to pay for dev and pre-prod licence
  • Not based on the latest MS workflow engine
  • Not easy for end users to build WF (despite marketing noise)
  • Setup and monitoring is specialised and will require advanced K2 expertise
    Difficult to back out of product
  • Tooling requires training and breaking out of OOTB features requires a high level of expertise and dependency on K2
  • Support tended to be patchy with technical knowledge
Updated: 2017-11-03.  Possible Extranet facing blackpearl Infrastructure design
K2 is a good product if you need to build an SOA layer for integration, are prepared to install correctly (cost) and maintain.  You shall need dedicated workflow people to create the workflows.  So in the right circumstances it has it’s place.

Updated 11 December 2019:
Microsoft Power Automation (formerly Microsoft Flow) is the default workflow option when working with the Microsoft Power Platform (Power Apps, Power Automation and Power BI).  O365, SPO and D365 can also use Microsoft Power Automation.  Azures Logic Apps is also a good option especially if your application is C#/Azure based and not within one of the SaaS Azure offerings.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Content Type Hub and MMS Notes

This topic has been well covered and this post merely calls out items I feel are worth knowing.


You can configure more than 1 MMS assigned to a Web Application. 
You can have multiple CTHub that your sites can subscribe to.  Think it is up to 4.

After publishing, new SC will get the CT's pretty quick whereas the updates to existing CT in the downstream SC take some time to permeate out.  Timer job on the subscriber Web Application goes thru SC and gets the latest CT (it will over write any local changes).  No Granular push out (check with JJ).

Terminology for MMS (Term Group, Term Sets and Terms):