If companies want to take advantage of the workflow capabilities that are included in SharePoint 2013, but don’t want to train users on SharePoint Designer or coding workflows in Visual Studio, then Datapolis offers a partner add-on utility that might fit the need. Traditionally, SharePoint has included a lot of capabilities to streamline and automate most business processes. Datapolis has extended these capabilities and brought them into the hands of the power user/business user with the “Datapolis Process System”. The product doesn’t require another infrastructure component so it’s easy on your IT group. If you want to try it out, Datapolis offers free-trial versions for download, plus an on-line test site for interested parties that want to tinker with the features immediately. (See the final section of this article for links to these resources.)
What is the Datapolis Process System?
The Datapolis Process System provides a no-code approach to designing, building, and managing workflows for SharePoint 2013. The solution includes the following platform components, accessible via a web browser, which will help any organization:
- Custom Forms Builder (or utilize InfoPath, plus other existing forms available in SharePoint)
- Workflow Designer (drag-and-drop functions to model a business process; similar to Visio)
- Centralized Administration and Management (provides control and tracking of all user actions and workflows)
The Datapolis product integrates nicely within the SharePoint user experience. Users simply need to select the workflow action button with one click from the context menu, within a SharePoint list, ribbon, display form or edit form. To view any assigned workflows, a user can access their "Tasks" page, which shows all the tasks that are assigned to them for processing. For administrators there are also integrated troubleshooting and monitoring capabilities. The history of each workflow instance is presented as a graph with details to view/manage any process bottlenecks and get a stuck workflow back on track. Plus, data from workflow history can be aggregated and analyzed with tools such as Excel, Reporting Services or other external reporting solutions.
Security is also configurable and integrated into SharePoint. Users only have access to those workflow actions they are permitted to use. Each workflow definition within the Datapolis Process System is governed by a set of permissions and easy-to-manage Datapolis roles. The administrator can specify the SharePoint sites on which a workflow definition can be deployed or modified and by which users or teams. Three permission levels – Farm, Site Collection and Web-Level – provide control over critical processes and reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
- Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 / Windows Server 2012
- SharePoint Foundation 2013 / SharePoint Server 2013
- .NET Framework 4.5
- A web browser with Silverlight 4.0 plugin
- Advanced customization capabilities
Datapolis Process System also has some advanced and extensible components made available through their SDK. Workflow savvy developers can create and deploy new custom functions individually or combine them into procedures using the SDK with Visual Studio. Figure 1 shows an example solution within Visual Studio. These custom functions include activities, controls on forms, custom forms and even third-party remote workflow management.
Figure 1: Example of a custom solution within Visual Studio
Reporting represents a useful example for this type of extensibility. Datapolis Process System makes all of the historical data for workflow processing available programmatically so you can turn it into valuable BI reports that showcase all relevant information relating to categories of workflow jobs or user interaction. Figure 2 shows a graphical chart with the duration times for workflow processing under different functions. Really cool stuff.
Figure 2: BI report for workflow processing duration by Process Category
More information available
You can download a free 30-day trial version of the Datapolis Process System after you register in the Datapolis Customer Area. After registering, you can go to the “My Products” section where you will see the product verification key to download or copy. Datapolis offers some tutorials available on the company website. These tutorials will show you how to use the Datapolis Process System to create both simple and advanced workflows.
The online test site that I described earlier is a virtual SharePoint site collection that their engineers designed for customers who want to try out the solution without an in-house test lab. This test site includes five user accounts so that you can design a workflow for different users with different permission levels.
For more information on SharePoint 2013 workflow capabilities and best practices, check out this article from Microsoft: SharePoint 2013 workflow fundamentals.