I've repeatedly stated that there are certain areas of the SharePoint 2007 stack that are not true Enterprise level features. Workflow is one of them and various other bloggers and reports have stated this, my research links are a testimony to this.
I believe Microsoft have confused the SharePoint community by giving two options with SharePoint Designer (SPD) Workflows and Visual Studio (VS) Workflows. Furthermore, the fact that it is not a straightforward exercise to migrate a SPD Workflow to a VS Workflow. Both approaches have their pros and cons and they are both targeted at different audiences. The targeting is based on a marketing approach and aligns to Microsoft's "empowering users" Information Worker philosophy of late.
The danger of empowerment has a clear history of bad outcomes from the days of letting Business Users loose on a Network Share Drive to the more modern dangers of SharePoint Site Creation. One of my own personal gripes at SharePoint is the lack of an OOTB Site Provisioning Workflow tool to keep more control over when Sites can be created in a Business Intranet for example. This very simple Workflow would definitely give more confidence to IT departments to open up control from what is the current pattern of containing it to a select trusted few. There are various links around this topic that I've diigo'd.
This mindset has to change for SharePoint as a Business Platform to become anywhere near as successful as the Consumer Platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Business Sponsors of the SharePoint Platform get quickly caught up in the "buzz words" used such as Collaboration, Workflow, Enterprise Content Management, Business Intelligence, etc. and do not realise that without the correct governance and strategy around these things nothing will ever be successful!
The mess that is inevitable when letting lose an entire company with a tool such as SPD to create and maintain workflows is a scary thought to any IT department. Their fully resourced SharePoint development team that are currently working on a high priority project might as well down tools to support the Business who have suddenly found SPD in their Start Menu and had no training, but decide to run their business processes through it for a couple of weeks and before they know it are pushing their knowledge to their limits and start leaning on IT.
I've re-read a lot of my posts and also the posts of my fellow "Perthonian", non-Metro sexual, colleague Paul Culmsee and we do keep mentioning this word Governance a lot and all that it entails! Microsoft have also kicked off with a few great posts of late and are slowly realising that unless they get a hold on the situation out and help the companies they've sold all these licenses too, SharePoint will soon become a pain in their side and lets face it Microsoft have backed it to the hilt with their product line up as their central hub.
It's one thing to sell a product to an organisation, but I also think it is the responsibility of the vendor/partner to ensure that they are guided in their use of it. This isn't just a gripe at Microsoft either, I've seen this throughout my career with the likes of Interwoven, OpenText, Documentum, BEA etc.
The company I'm currently working for are looking at using its document Business Processes in ARIS to drive how the Intranet Information Architecture is delivered. I've been doing some research and was already aware of two big Partner players in the SharePoint 2007 marketplace: Nintex and K2.
My main concerns with this are how easy it is to develop, but more importantly to maintain and whether it scales. Over the next series of posts I will be accounting my findings and trying to structure this in a way that will be useful for others who find themselves in this situation.