As I wandered through the developer lab at Sphere, I saw a sign talking about Workflow processes in Portal 6. With a company name like Workflow Studios, you can imagine we’ve had a few people ask us about Workflow tools over the years. I’m quite familiar with the 3 premier tools in this space including Lotus Workflow, which I’ve sold and taught classes on, ProcessIt!, my personal favorite and one we resell, and Percussion PowerFlow, which has a lot of fans and is a good tool, but whose architecture I fundamentally oppose.
So I was curious to see how Workflow was being approached in Portal 6. There are many similarities to Lotus Workflow. The developer I talked to used terms like “binder” and roles, and then admitted he had been part of the Lotus Workflow team. This led to a discussion over the enterprise capabilities (and therefore complexity which limits end-user acceptance) of the product. Fortunately, as these features are a “technical preview” in Portal 6, it is not yet full-blown, and therefore still approachable by the average business user. I’d like to see it stay that way as, for all it’s capabilities, Lotus Workflow adoption was challenged by that complexity. So, at this point, there are no BPEL capabilities, and users setup workflows from an end-user portlet with simple role capabilities.
The product uses Process Server under the hoods, which leads to some licensing issues. Since Process Server is bloody expensive, the team wasn’t too keen on Workflow being available at the lower end of Portal technologies (ala Express or Extend). As such, it is only available in the Enable flavor (the only thing more expensive than Process Server in the portfolio). At that end of things, you’re more often talking about Enterprise accounts who may already be likely to be involved in Business Process Integration tools and full blown MQ/Process Server implementations. It will be curious to see where this version of Workflow finds its market. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.