Note: Today’s blog post comes from Vadim Tabakman, Technical Evangelist for Nintex with over 8 years of experience in SharePoint and Nintex technologies. He understands how SharePoint, business process automation and forms can join forces successfully in numerous industries and business scenarios to drive business adoption and succeed in SharePoint projects. Vadim brings an excellent technical perspective to the discussion of how to use SharePoint workflow and forms to solve business needs.
As businesses grow, the need for the automation of business processes grows with it. With that need, the inevitable discussion of hardware support and scalability comes up. Can your current hardware and software environment support your ever growing need? How much of an investment will you need to make, in order to accomplish your automation needs and will there be future investments or upgrades needed as requirements grow even more?
Those are the types of questions that come up and Microsoft and Nintex have expanded their product offerings to help answer those questions.
Firstly, living in a SharePoint world, companies need to consider the investment required for the different types of SharePoint servers. You have Web Front End servers, Application server, Index servers and Database servers. Over time, the user base grows and adoption grows with it. This results in additional servers required in the on-prem environment to cater for that growth.
In comes the world of the cloud and Office 365. Office 365 takes away the worry of growth and scalability as it is hosted on Azure and that handles all of that for you. But really, what is SharePoint without Nintex Workflow and Forms? Nintex Workflow and Forms have been available in the Office 365 SharePoint Store since the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in 2013 and are fundamental tools for companies to help with automating business processes and driving user adoption.
As you consider moving to an Office 365 environment for your business needs, there are many factors to considers. Do you want to move part of your environment from on-premises SharePoint or do you want to go all-in with an Office 365 environment?
Hybrid – Moving from on premises to Office 365
Moving an entire on-prem SharePoint environment to Office 365 can be an enormous undertaking with potential risks involved. Some companies choose to move parts of the business to the cloud and control the move in parts over time. In that regard, Nintex Workflow has 23 actions (at the time of this post) that you can use from an on-prem environment, to talk to your Office 365 environment.
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Office 365 add user to security group
Office 365 assign license
Office 365 check in license
Office 365 check out items
Office 365 Create List Item or Document Set
Office 365 create site
Office 365 create user
Office 365 delete items
Office 365 delete site
Office 365 discard check out
Office 365 download file
Office 365 new blog post
Office 365 query list
Office 365 remove user from security
Office 365 reset password
Office 365 retrieve license plans
Office 365 send document set to repository
Office 365 send document to repository
Office 365 update item permissions
Office 365 update items
Office 365 upload file
Office 365 user access management
Office 365 wait for check out status change
With these actions and the other 227 actions, the business processes you can build are almost limitless. From onboarding and leave requests, to sales processes and contract management, anyone can build out their processes with Nintex Workflow. Whether they be SharePoint administrators, IT staff or business users. The drag and drop interface in both the on premises and Office 365 versions of Nintex Workflow makes for an intuitive design canvas that requires little training to start building out business processes.
One of the more common practices in the piecemeal approach to moving from on prem to Office 365, is to have some workflows that run on prem, then upload resulting documents to the Office 365 environment. This may happen over time, up to the point that Office 365 adoption is so high in the company, that the entire process moves there. Nintex Workflow make it easier to build out both processes, on prem and in Office 365 with similar user interfaces.
Strictly Office 365
If you are strictly an Office 365 shop, then adding the Nintex Workflow and Forms apps to your site takes almost no time and the sheer number of actions available to you will make the automation of business processes extremely easy.
Not only do you have the actions mentioned above in the Hybrid scenario, but also all the other actions that make up the Nintex Workflow environment.
Automating the onboarding process is usually one of the first business processes that gets built, so that there is instant ROI. A Nintex Form is used to initiate the process, where a form is filled in and submitted that starts a Human Resource type workflow. This type of process helps to organize HR to begin the multiple interview process, before approval requests are sent out. The next part of the process is the creation of the accounts in Office 365 and the assignment of licenses. All this aides in streamlining business processes and minimizing human intervention so that employees can focus on more important parts of the business.
Since you’re in the cloud, what other line-of-business systems can you talk to? Nintex Workflow provides the ability to talk important line-of-business systems, such as DocuSign, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SalesForce, SQL Server, OneDrive (and other cloud storage providers) and social media outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Driving Adoption with a Better User Experience
Traversing most web sites on a mobile device browser can sometimes be excruciating. SharePoint, although having major improvements of late for supporting the mobile form factors, is still going to cause you some grief. When it comes to filling in forms, other restrictions become visible.
How do I access my forms if I have a team of employees who are out on-site and don’t have online access but still need to complete forms and submit them?
When my employees are filling in forms, rarely do they simply fill in a form and submit it. They use the forms over a period of time as they gather information, and then need to take photos and annotate them. This could be a process that takes 20 minutes, and hour or potentially days. Browser based forms have too many limitations here.
The Nintex Mobile app is perfect in these types of scenarios. It allows you to access your forms, even though you are offline and also allows you to save drafts and modify image attachments. Let’s not forget tracking where a form was actually submitted with geolocation tags. This is not to track your employees. It’s to track where forms are submitted, so that you can take that information and map it to find best routes to send people/teams to resolve the issues. Think of a group that goes around looking for graffiti that needs to be cleaned up. You can capture where it’s all found, build out best/fastest routes so that your teams can be more efficient.
Total Economic Impact
As with all software investments, you want to see how it will impact your company from a financial standpoint. Here is a link to the Total Economic Impact report that was put together by Forrester and it sheds a light on how Nintex Workflow and Forms can be an advantageous investment.
Nintex is the world-leading workflow software company, used by thousands of public and private organizations in 90 countries and serviced by a global network of more than 1,000 high-quality partners and service providers. Nintex delivers innovative software, mobile and cloud services that empower businesses to automate processes quickly and easily. For more information, please visit us online at www.nintex.com or follow Nintex on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.