Saturday, 17 September 2005

Scoble's posted an interview with Rob Leferts, a program manager at Microsoft, who talks about the new workflow services that will be built into SharePoint in the next version, which is tentatively set to release in the last half of 2006.

There's all sorts of new features that take advantage of the two-way connection between SharePoint 12 and other Office tools, including the Office suite of applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and others.

What does baking workflow into SharePoint in the Office 12 release mean for business people? In a nutshell, it means a set workflow features that just shows up and notifies you that you've got something that needs to be checked on or completed. It also means users can create workflow and leverage it to suit their business needs.

Example: I open Outlook and I get a notification in Outlook that says I have a task pending to complete an employee's performance review, which points me to a SharePoint site where that document lives and is waiting for me to add my two cents. When I am done, I click a button in Word or whatever program I'm in that says I am done, and the workflow takes over and pushes the document on to the next step in the business process and notifies the next person. You can buy that kind of functionality and build it in to existing SharePoint sites if you really want to, but it's a lot of work and it takes lots of time (and therefore money). So, out of the box is a terrific thing. Some of us need that. Badly. 

Automating the processes that business follow in writing documents, managing tasks, and a variety of other things can be well-served by workflow automation, and the fact that they're building it into the entire Office system is not only nice to see happening, it's important to making SharePoint and the Office system in general better accepted and more usable - and therefore a more worthwhile investment.

  • What you have today in SharePoint: Share and save documents, control security, publish and get notified of changes, etc.
  • What you get tomorrow: Build workflow to share the document template, drive it through a process of step by step edits and reviews, get sign-off and then publish (or whatever). Note: Approvals are processed online, it's not an off-line process. You can take a doc off-line and work on it, then connect back to the server to sync it back up to its "home," then push the button to indicate you've completed your workflow task.

Expiration and document lifecycle policies can be created and automated, to ensure content is properly disposed of, flagged, reviewed or whatever. This is a pretty big deal in today's business world, where a document lifecycle process and program is - in some cases - legally mandated.

Lots of great stuff coming from these talented people, and lots of business uses and enhancements to look forward to for those of us that need to help workers better organize information and collaborate.

Again, it's going to be a very, very interesting year.

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Saturday, 17 September 2005 08:28:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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