Whenever I get into conversations about forms in SharePoint (or anywhere else for that matter), the conversation almost always turns immediately for workflow. It seems to greatly surprise a lot of people when I say that sometimes workflow is irrelevant for forms. I’d say that 80%+ of SharePoint forms have no workflow at all. (I think it’s a higher percentage, but I know many of you live and die by workflow.)
I think forms and workflow are too often intertwined as concepts, making the forms discussion overly complex.
IMO, forms are for collecting or editing data. Workflows are for managing that data. By keeping those two concepts discrete, we can have excellent forms that just do what forms should do.
Conflating the two will probably delay the possibility of a robust new form tool for SharePoint. We know that something is coming to replace InfoPath, but we don’t know what it is yet.
We learned early in 2014 that InfoPath is dead. In actuality, it’s not dead; it’s only entered its twilight years. We have until 2023 before it isn’t “supported” anymore, and it will probably be useful for many people even after that. (I won’t make any snarky comments about “supported” software.)
I made up the 80% number above based on my own experience. It really depends on type of SharePoint installation you’re working in. My work is more toward the KM and Intranet side of things, and it’s very rare that I end up implementing a workflow. Knowledge workers can be trusted to do their work in the right way to create value, and it’s rarely a sequential or predictable thing. The few cases where workflows matter – time sheet submission, time off requests, article posting, etc. – the workflows tend to be very simple.
So much of this depends on the culture of the organization, too. If it’s an open and trusting culture, workflows come up infrequently. If it’s more of a command and control culture, they want workflows for everything. That is until you ask them to describe the repeatable process and they realize that there really isn’t one. Either they have to define a real process (lots of hard work) or they keep doing things the way they have – in a slightly disorganized way that still works.
My point is that assuming that there’s always a coupling of forms and workflow means that everything gets more complicated fast. I like the fact that forms and workflow are separate but connectable in SharePoint now. It means I can plug in a workflow if and when I need it; the forms engine isn’t too cluttered by the workflow artifacts.
What is your experience on this? Are forms and workflow always intertwined or are they really two separate ideas? I’ve created a little poll below to capture your feelings on this. Add your voice into the mix and I will try not to use the statistics inappropriately, as do may others.