SharePoint components - business processes without development, InfoPath, SharePoint Designer or workflows. SharePoint Services, SharePoint Foundation & SharePoint Server 2010-2016.

November 2016
Current page:
 

The Power of Conditions

By: Vladi Gubler | Comments [0] | Category: Development | 11/28/2016

Hi,

When you use Ultimate Forms, conditions are everywhere. Many components use conditions to determine when an alert needs to be sent, when an action needs to run or what columns to show on a form. Conditions are a great way of pinpointing the exact cases when the component should run, giving you precise control over your solution.

Here are some of the fantastic features that make conditions in Ultimate Forms so useful:

Validation

We will check the value you enter in a condition and make sure it's valid both in terms of syntax and expected data type. For example, when you miss a bracket, your syntax is invalid. And when you try to compare a number field to a date value, there is a data type mismatch. Note that you can compare text columns to any value, it will simply be automatically converted to text. Yes/no columns should be compared to the textual representation of yes/no in your language (for instance, yes, yeah, sure, approved, true, 1 and so on), signature columns behave just as yes/no. Using our Value Builder you don't need to memorize anything, both column names and functions are available for you to just double-click and use.

Functions

You can compare column values to typed-in values or to values of other columns, but the real power comes with the use of functions. Functions allow you to manipulate values and even perform calculations, based on your own logic. For example, use $Year to return the year part of a date or use $Extract to return a part of text according to a pattern. There is a wide selction of functions available. You can even combine multiple functions together!

After Change Conditions

Sometimes it's worth knowing not only what is the current value of a column, but also what was the previous value. For example, you only want to send alert about a request being approved when the approval status changes to Approved. The item might get updated again in the future, while still approved, but we don't want to send any more alerts. That's when you use our "after change" condition property to make sure the condition is only passed when the column's current value satisfies the condition and the previous value does not. It's also a great way of determining if a column has been changed at all.

Data Type-specific Operators

Depending on the data type of the column involved you will see a different set of operators. For example, text columns will show operators such as Equals or Contains, while number columns will show such operators as Greater than or Less than. The correct set of operators is presented automatically.

Conjunctions

Combining multiple conditions together you create even more sophisticated solutions. You are able to combine using either And or Or. We use a simple, yet effective system, where the current conditions is evaluated in conjunction with the result of all previous conditions. This allows you to develop complex logic without the need for parenthesis.

Internal Column Names

Conditions are stored using internal column names. These names are assigned when a column is first creator and do not change when you rename a column or display your site in a different language. Nevertheless, when editing conditions, you always see the display names of the columns, exactly as you know them. Rename a column, and the conditions keep working without any need for updates.

In summary, conditions help make your solution smarter, use them whenever you can and explore their power to the fullest.

 

Actions vs Workflows

By: Vladi Gubler | Comments [0] | Category: Products | 11/28/2016

Hi,

Once you realize that simply storing your data in SharePoint lists doesn't actually do anything, you know you need to throw automation and business process management into the mix. Whenever a user saves an item, things need to start happening behind the scenes, such as additional updates, additional items being created, external systems being called, emails being sent and so on. And as a SharePoint professional, you know that all you need is the good old workflow engine, right? Well, not necessarily.

Despite being deeply integrated in the SharePoint experience, workflows are not always the right tool for the job. I personally had a lot of experience with workflows back in the day, building custom ones using Visual Studio (and other tools) or even simply using SharePoint Designer. And I always had a feeling that things are just too complicated for a tool that is supposed to give a quick and easy solution to regular users, not hardcore developers. There are just too many moving parts, too many steps and even the approach itself targets mainly people with prior knowledge or experience in workflows.

There is one scenario I like bringing up while talking to people. When I create an item in a regular SharePoint Contacts list, I have a field for Last name, First name and Full name. Full name is basically a combination of First name and Last name, so the question is: would you create a workflow to fill in Full name automatically if left blank? I would say that almost everyone I talked to said no, it's not worth the trouble. They would prefer their users to work a bit harder, than to develop, deploy and support a workflow. And this is how we know we have a problem.

You could say, workflow engines are great for complex, multi-stage processes, that's their main purpose. I will not argue here, although not sure I would agree either. The thing is that the vast majority of automation needs are not those complex processes, they are actually the small improvements, like the Full name above. Those completely fall under the radar, because they are not worth the effort of the workflow developer.

This is why we had to develop a solution that would be simpler, easier, non-technical, but yet as powerful. And we developed Actions. Actions are everything workflows are not. They are light-weight, autonomous, simple to configure and require no deployment. They can be added, modified and removed one-by-one, without distrupting the whole system, as the need occurs, and do not require extensive workflow-specific knowledge. In fact, there is no flowchart involved whatsoever! And creating a solution based on actions takes minutes, not days.

Let me list just a few of the main differences between actions and workflows and let you make up your own mind:

Initiation

Workflows are started automatically, when an item is created or updated or they can be started manually. Actions can be initiated through a variety of events (item created, modified, attachment added, document checked in, etc.), but they can also be started on a timer (2 days before the due date, or every Friday), and manually (a lot simpler, through a dedicated ribbon button, that can be shown or hidden based on the user permissions. Another huge differences: actions can even run before you save the item, so you can perform additional checks and even prevent the item from being saved if needed. Quick example: room reservation system that will prevent you from double-booking resources!

Action Types

Built-in workflows (using SharePoint Designer, without any fancy 3rd party extensions) are pretty limited. Even when using Flow, the extent of customizations you can implement is not that impressive. How about creating a new SharePoint site, managing item permissions, creating a user in Active Directory or even simply create an item in a list that the user doesn't have permissions for? You can do all that with actions, simply and easily.

Development Time

Workflow starts with a flowchart. Even the simplest one. You wouldn't believe how many people would stumble at this step already. Despite what you keep hearing, it's not natural for everyone to think about what they need to do in the way of a visual flowchart, some people just don't work that way. Actions don't use flowcharts. Each action is created separately and is simply configured to run when it's needed (for example, when an item is created or the approval status is set to Approved). Save the action and it's ready to go, there is no deployment, multiple workflow versions and no specialized tools to learn. It's not uncommon to develop and deploy a whole solution using actions in under 20 minutes!

Ultimate Forms Integration

Because Actions are a part of Ultimate Forms, there are many ways in which they interact with other UF components or provide unique functionality. There is an action to generate Associated Tasks based on a user/group field value (each person get an individually generated task) or you can use Signature columns in conditions as Yes/no. There are lots of other examples as well.

 

The purpose of actions is not to replace workflows. In fact, there are many scenarios where a workflow might be the right tool for the job. Actions are there to provide you with an alternative and to avoid complexity where none is needed.

 

 

Importing data from Microsoft Azure's cloud MSSQL Database

By: david riggins | Comments [0] | Category: Products | 11/18/2016

Integrating SharePoint with outside data sources can be a difficult task.  In the past I have had to build data connections in SharePoint Designer, build SQL Server Integration Services packages or custom .Net code.  In my experience those solutions were difficult and time consuming to say the least.

Importing data using the Infowise Smart Import Pro tool takes that complexity out of importing data.  With a connection string and some default fields you fill out a single page of configurations and you can pull data in from a wide variety of sources.

In this video I go through a step by step process of building a custom list and connecting it to a Microsoft Azure Cloud MSSQL database.  I dive into structuring the custom list, what fields are required to make it work and how to validate your import is working correctly.

 



 

New Team Member - David Riggins

By: david riggins | Comments [0] | Category: General | 11/18/2016

Hello, my name is David Riggins and I have joined the Infowise team as a Training Specialist. I have been using Infowise to develop solutions since 2014 and have experience with both the On-Premise and App (Office 365) versions of the Infowise Ultimate Forms Suite.

As a SharePoint Architect for a big aerospace manufacturer I was tasked to make SharePoint as functional as possible and save time and money. As I looked around for 3rd party tools to enhance SharePoint I came across Infowise.  I instantly saw the potential for InfoWise to leverage SharePoint into a Rapid Application Development tool.  We implemented Infowise throughout the organization, trained the power users and built sophisticated systems that solved real problems.

Infowise offers an excellent Foundations-level lab based training course, it is the perfect way for new users to get up to speed on the Infowise Ultimate Forms Suite toolset. Head over to the training info page to learn more about the offerings. Please feel free to reach out to me at DavidR@infowisesolutions.com if you have any questions about the product or the training.

I hope to meet you in a training course soon!

 

Discount code for SPTechCon San Francisco 2016

By: Vladi Gubler | Comments [0] | Category: General | 11/2/2016

Hi,

Thinking of going to SPTechCon San Francisco 2016, December 5-8? We are certainly going to be there with a booth!

SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference is returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, December 5-8, 2016! SPTechCon offers more than 80 classes and panel sessions — presented by the most knowledgeable instructors working in SharePoint today — to help attendees improve their skills and broaden their knowledge of Microsoft's collaboration and productivity software.

SPTechCon will shine a light on SharePoint 2016, the latest on-premises server release from Microsoft. But there will also be plenty of excellent information, tips and tricks for working with SharePoint 2013 and 2010, as well as Office 365, with practical information you can put to use on the job right away! Whether you're looking to upgrade to a more current version, making a move to the cloud, or simply need answers to those daunting problems you've been unable to overcome, SPTechCon is the place for you!

As an exhibitor, we are excited to offer you a discount code that will provide you with $200 off a 4-day or 3-day full conference pass at SPTechCon. At the end of the registration process in the payment section, you may use the discount code INFOWISE to receive this discount.

See you in San Francisco!