Once again, I'm sure that I'm behind the curve on this topic for most folks -- I've been head down in several system implementations, and haven't been paying attention to much of the news on Office 12. So when I caught John Durant's blurb on SharePoint's plans to offer workflow capability, i got very excited. I went straight over to Channel 9 to watch Rob Lefferts discuss the SharePoint plans. You can also view an overview by Scott Woodgate here.
People near to me will testify that this kind of capability has been on my short list for years. As one of the product managers to construct E2open's Collaboration Manager platform back in 2001 (I led deployments at companies such as Seagate and Hitachi), and I spent a few years in the PLM space. We developed a SharePoint-like system for document control, design collaboration, and simple workflow long before SharePoint was a reality.
And in some ways, we built functionality that was superior to SharePoint. Yes, I'm biased, but we built a fantastic solution, working closely with several PLM vendors (our initial solution was built off of a MatrixOne engine). For example, we had the concept of a master document. You could create a document in one location, and instead of having multiple versions of that document across various folders/projects, you could upload a copy of that document. Access rights were at the doc level, not the folder level. Make a change to the master doc, and it would automatically update all copies -- whether or not you, as the master doc owner, even had access to the other folders/projects in which copies of your doc existed. Very slick feature. HUGE value. I wish SharePoint would catch up.
From InfoTech Research Group, a brief descriptionof what is coming:
As part of its buildup to the 2006 launch of Office 12, Microsoft has introduced a combination workflow engine, programming model, and developers' toolset known collectively as the Windows Workflow Foundation.
Microsoft has announced that enhanced workflow capabilities will form the core of both Windows Vista and Office 12. Developers using Microsoft's Visual Studio will be able to use the new WinFX programming model to workflow-enable their applications. In addition to Office 12, the target environments for this new development methodology include BizTalk Server, SharePoint, and the Microsoft Dynamics range of enterprise applications.