What does Microsoft’s recent announcement that InfoPath is being retired mean for the future of forms and workflow in SharePoint? We think it’s a good thing.
For a while now, our guidance to clients has been to consider alternatives to InfoPath, such as Nintex. With this announcement, Microsoft has indirectly confirmed our guidance. Even though their announcement may be vague, it’s safe to say that if you are planning your forms and workflow solution now, we recommend Nintex without hesitation.
What were the challenges in our experiences with InfoPath?
- InfoPath was supposed to make it easy for Business Users to create their own forms. However, in practice it was difficult for Business Users to edit and deploy InfoPath forms, save for the simplest of tasks. For example, business users had to know XML to create a form with any complexity.
- Deployment was a pain for any forms that were slightly complex (and thus needed code-behind). Updating existing forms was also tricky, as you could easily break existing saved forms.
- Playing with the front-end was finicky – you had to get the rules and fields right, or you could get some very cryptic error messages.
- We encountered performance issues on forms with many fields and rules.
- We could not re-use components or style guides across forms – there was a lot of copy/paste.
- Mobile device rendering was not the most pleasant experience – if it happened to work, great!
- Integrations to third-party services was not as simple as it first seemed. There was no OOTB way to easily connect to Twitter, Yammer, CRM, Biztalk, etc. All connections had to be manually set up. Even connecting to UserProfileServices needed some technical know-how.
Why do we recommend Nintex?
- Nintex is built natively on SharePoint and leverages the existing SharePoint infrastructure and Workflow engine. There is no additional infrastructure needed.
- It can be deployed with no downtime.
- When a workflow is kicked off, it loads in the definition, which means that as you publish your workflow changes the next instance of the workflow will use it.
- It is designed to be used by Business Users – no code is required to build any workflows.
- It comes OOTB with workflow actions that give you the ability to update social sites like Yammer and Twitter.
- There is mobile support, with offline access.
- It works in the cloud with Office 365.
- It supports multiple integration points, including CRM and Biztalk.
- If you licensed InfoPath but never used it, ask yourself: do you need a forms solution? If you do, you could use InfoPath, but isn’t the better way to make an investment in a product that is not on death row?
- If you built out existing workflows on InfoPath, there is no rush to convert them as InfoPath 2013 client will be supported until April 2023 and the InfoPath Forms Services on SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 will also be supported until April 2023.
- SharePoint Conference 2014 confirmed that Microsoft has no solid plan on what is next; continuing with InfoPath is an unknown.
- Does Nintex provide an option to migrate from InfoPath?
- Currently, there is no direct migration path. What we’re hearing from Nintex is to use this as an opportunity to rethink your current forms and workflows. Do they make sense? Do you need them all? Can you improve them? Are there any missing? How can you leverage the features of Nintex (such as mobile views or it being easier to use by business users)?
- If you are just getting started, SharePoint Conference showed some “built-in” alternatives to InfoPath, such as editing list forms or using Access. Would these solutions work for you? If not, Nintex may be your best option.
 Office Blog Announcement on InfoPath: http://blogs.office.com/2014/01/31/update-on-infopath-and-sharepoint-forms/