Now that Infopath is out of support and obsolete we have clients asking what is the most suitable alternative. Here we have an example of Infopath replacement using Nintex at one of our central government agency customers. By combining Sharepoint with Nintex this created an opportunity for new deployment as part of their digital transformation. One example of this was an application providing suitable process and workflow controls to satisfy Freedom of Information requests.
Here we seek answers to whether you can build Nintex solutions that are equivalent or superior to what you could do with InfoPath?
InfoPath started out doing one thing very well. It let us design forms that users filled out as if they were desktop documents with InfoPath forms being used to edit list items. A web-based form could be rendered using SharePoint though problems were experienced as it didn’t offer the same feature set as the desktop runtime. New features kept being added but the required capabilities for a development platform such as deployment, versioning, and documentation were never adequately addressed. It was also standalone not integrated with other tools for workflow and process. It was either not possible or too difficult to make it work with the other tools, so users asked for more and more things to be done by the forms themselves.
In common with many other organisations our client's pre-digital forms were large, with lots of sections, many of which were labelled “for office use only,” and routing slips attached. The agency’s InfoPath deployment had the form responsible at times for data entry, process logic, and routing only some of which InfoPath did well.
Our customer requirements created a trajectory towards consideration for a multi-tier solution, i.e. presentation, logic and data tiers which led directly to recommending Nintex Forms, Workflow and SharePoint lists.
As much logic as possible went into the workflow itself, including what we show to whom at which time, and what we need to get from them. It made it easier to design, improve and understand. Furthermore, individual processes were used with more than one form whilst allowing the process to be modified without changing any forms. This enabled the workflow and the form design to be simpler and easier to understand.
In designing the right way to go digital we broke up the form into its discrete sections making each one of them its own form. In that way we let the initial form start a workflow and have tasks present participants with the other forms as needed. The workflow determines which step-specific forms need to be given to each person at the right time. The workflow gathered the input from the individual input forms. Each participant in the process gets a form that’s easier to use. It contains what’s needed for what’s being asked of them at that moment – and nothing else.
This approach differed from what had been done previously. The InfoPath deployment mirrored a traditional paper form process with too much information being presented when not needed simply because the electronic version was not a redesign of the manual process. For true digital transformation the opportunity to simplify, results with significant benefits of reduced complexity by rationalisation of the form design with all the advantages of error reduction and speed of handling.
In conclusion the key considerations for your move from InfoPath to Sharepoint and Nintex are:
- Simplify the forms to discrete components relevant to each user
- Separate the processes from the forms such that changes can be managed independently
- Enhance the workflow by ensuring relevant information is presented at the correct times
- Utilise the power of Sharepoint to provide data management with Nintex managing forms, workflow and processes.
Author: Stuart Robertson
Tags: Obsolete Technologies