The latest release of SharePoint 2010, Microsoft’s flagship collaboration software, includes built-in support for executing human workflows. Developers can create workflows for this environment using Visual Studio, while information workers can use a new tool called SharePoint Designer 2010.
The easiest way to understand how SharePoint supports human workflow is to walk through a scenario. The figure below shows a slightly simplified illustration of document approval using a SharePoint workflow.
True to its role as collaboration software, Windows SharePoint Services lets users create sites, each of which can contain document libraries and lists. A document library might contain a collection of Word documents, PDF files, or other things, while a list is just a collection of items. Rather than reinvent new concepts, the human workflow capabilities in Windows SharePoint Services build on these basics.
SharePoint 2010 builds on these services to provide more workflow options. Unlike Windows SharePoint Services, which is a standard component of Windows Server 2003, SharePoint 2010 is a separately licensed product. Organizations that choose to use it have more workflow capabilities, including the following:
- The ability to interact with workflows directly from Office 2007 applications. As described earlier, Windows SharePoint Services alone mostly supports interacting with workflows through a browser.
- The ability to define the forms a workflow displays using InfoPath. Workflows built solely on Windows SharePoint Services rely on forms created with ASP.NET.
- A group of customizable pre-defined workflows for document approval and other purposes.
- SharePoint 2013 and Office 2013 clients can access data that is stored outside of SharePoint.
- SharePoint Server 2013 business intelligence applications and tools gives you complete visibility of your business performance
- eDiscovery functionality helps in performing queries across multiple SharePoint farms and Exchange servers
- Identity management for server-to-server authentication and app authentication
- SharePoint Server 2013 offers new, optimized viewing experiences across different mobile platforms
- Records management and compliance features in SharePoint 2013 provide improved ways to help you protect your business
- Social computing and collaboration features for enterprise users to share and collaborate with others in their organization