BPC: SharePoint 2010 Workflow with David Mann

David Mann, acclaimed SharePoint Server MVP and author of Workflow in the 2007 Office System (Apress, 2007), led the first of several SharePoint 2010 workflow sessions at the Best Practices Conference this week. Since I write for Bamboo's Workflow Conductor product, I am all about the workflow sessions this week. The agenda for this session included what's changed for SharePoint workflow in 2010, what's improved, and "gotchas" we still have to watch out for.

David started out by telling us that "fundamentally, not much has changed in 2010 workflow." But that doesn't mean there aren't some great new features in the 2010 versions of Visio, SharePoint Designer, and Visual Studio to support SharePoint 2010 workflows. In case you couldn't be there to furiously take notes, here are some of the things I jotted down that David pointed out as new and noteworthy:

Visio 2010

  • Design workflows in Visio, which designers can then import into SharePoint Designer for final configuration and publishing.
  • See workflow progress in the Workflow Status page with workflow visualization.

SharePoint Designer 2010

  • Improved UI with better SharePoint integration
  • New actions and conditions
  • Impersonation step, which lets parts of your workflow run in the context of the workflow associator
  • Association columns, which make sure columns required by your workflow are added to a list when the workflow is associated to it
  • Support for Site workflows and Reusable workflows
  • Ability to edit SharePoint out-of-the-box workflows

Visual Studio 2010

  • Form SPIs
  • External Data Exchange
  • Pluggable services
  • List-based event receivers
  • (Still using .NET 3.5, though)

Part of the presentation was a great end-to-end demo that included designing a workflow in Visio, importing it into SharePoint Designer for configuration and Publishing, and then importing the WSP template into Visual Studio. I'd never seen this before, and was really impressed with the Visio-to-SPD piece. What a simple and elegant way for business users to clearly communicate their workflow requirements to designers! It might be the missing link in workflow requirements gathering.

It was clear from the beginning that David isn't shy about calling them like he sees 'em, and that made for a very informative session. Some "gotchas" and new features that he mentioned may not be all they are cracked up to be:

  • The ability to import a workflow into Visual Studio probably isn't a viable option. Yes, it works, but as fellow presenter Rob Bogue (also in attendance) shared, a simple "approval" workflow turns into 315 Visual Studio activities.
  • David is "not completely sold" on site workflows yet. It sounds good, but the jury is still out on practical applications.
  • Workflows are not license-agnostic, meaning you can't exchange workflows between SharePoint Foundation and SharePoint Server installations.

Overall, David said he "wasn't a fan" of workflow in 2007, but has changed his mind for 2010. In his words, "Declarative workflows are the way to go."

Congratulations to David Mann and his esteemed partners on the announcement of their new consulting firm, Aptillon, Inc.


Check out ourfull coverage of Best Practices Conference 2010: