Tuesday, June 05, 2007

TechEd: Workflow with Microsoft

It seems to me that there is widespread confusion about when to use WF custom apps, SPD workflow, Biztalk or when to look at third party products such as Captiva, K2.NET, Agilepoint, or Skelta BPM.


Anonymous said...

It is very confusing, my company is a Microsoft Partner and a Skelta Partner. I attended the BPMI conference in Redmond to finally understand the positioning. I am in the Skelta Booth at Booth #529 and I can explain the positioning if you would like to stop by.
Jack Hodys
Andrews Crosby & Associates

Anonymous said...

Microsoft BizTalk Server is a business orchestration engine that effectively integrates applications within your organization and your internal systems with systems used by trading partners. EAI across disparate systems and B2B services are key requirements served by BizTalk. For example, with BizTalk Server, you could orchestrate a business process that automatically creates a Sales Order on your supplier’s ERP system when a Purchase Order is created in your ERP. Typically large enterprises with multiple business units and multiple trading partners would require BizTalk Server to integrate their business processes with systems of their trading partners. The document “Understanding BizTalk” published at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/biztalk/2006/understanding.mspx provides more information on BizTalk.

Even if you do implement BizTalk for application integration and B2B, chances are that you would still need BPM and workflow functionality for applications that are built around people-centric processes. For example, an employee self-service application would require it to apply organization policies for leave, hiring, training, assessment and such HR processes. Since such processes are frequently modified, you would need a workflow framework that lets you change processes without re-coding the application. This is where BPM Workflow solutions like Skelta BPM.NET and Captaris come in. Skelta BPM.NET for instance, provides a graphical, visual process modeler for you to design your processes. The process sits outside your application, and you can easily change the process. Simple process changes such as an increase in limits for expense approvals can be made by your business users themselves.

With SharePoint Designer, you could define simple workflows to process documents created or modified in SharePoint. As in a two-level approval process of new Purchase Requisitions. But SPD may not fulfill your requirements for more complex processes. Even a leave approval process that needs to work with your HR application may be difficult to achieve through SPD. If you need more advanced workflows on SharePoint, BPM software like Skelta is a good option - it work seamlessly with SharePoint and other Microsoft products.

If your workflow requirements are limited or required only in one function, you could opt for custom workflow applications. But they tend to be expensive in terms of development time and costs and are unlikely to provide you the scalability or features that a true BPM solution provides. BPM workflow frameworks like Skelta allow you to focus on your domain strengths and leave the process abstraction layer out of the core application.


Ben M Abler said...

Thanks for the commentary!

I think the Skelta folks have discovered by blog. :-)