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You, Vadim and User Defined Actions

Build it once. Reuse it indefinitely.

That’s the short answer for why Nintex Lead Technical Evangelist Vadim Tabakman loves User Defined Actions (UDAs) and why he believes you’ll love them, too.

Vadim – who’s known as the Crafty Coder in the Workflow Pros partner videos and Jeopardy training videos – began his career as a developer. One of the major tenants of developing – reusability – has stayed with him.

So when he started working in customer support at Nintex in 2008, he focused on figuring out ways to make developing workflows even easier for people. That’s helped him gain a reputation as an expert on UDAs.

“In developing, they say don’t reinvent the wheel. If you’re building a bit of logic in code, wrap it up so you don’t have to write the same thing over and over again,” Vadim says. “It’s the same thing with User Defined Actions. If you find you’re doing the same thing over and over again, you can use it without having to rebuild the same thing over and over.”

Find User Defined Actions – as well as other useful assets – on the just-launched Xchange. Read Eric’s Putting you in the fast lane post on Nintex Connect for details.

What are User Defined Actions?

Vadim likens User Defined Actions to mini-workflows. It might contain one action. It might contain dozens. But either way, it works the same way.

In order to build a workflow, you individually drag each needed action onto your workflow. UDAs enable you to package commonly used actions for a specific type of process so you can drag just one UDA onto the workflow, instead of each individual action.

Take the Add SharePoint Group UDA, which is one of the first UDAs Vadim developed at Nintex in 2010. He created it because he wanted to save time on steps. In this case, those steps included:

  • Add a Call Web Service action
  • Configure the URL
  • Configure the credentials
  • Click on Refresh
  • Select the web method
  • Fill in all the details
  • Enable error handling

Instead of all those steps, he now can merely drag the SharePoint Group UDA onto a workflow any time he wants one of his workflows to include those steps.

“If part of your job is to build workflows and you know you’ve built 10 workflows and five of them have similar pieces of logic and you’re building the same things over and over again, you’re wasting your time,” Vadim says. “You could be saving yourself time with a UDA.”

Another time-saver? If a process changes and you’ve created a UDA related to it, you only have to make the change in one place; any workflow that contains that UDA is updated.

And UDAs are useful even if there’s only one action involved if it’s an action you use repeatedly.  That’s because there may be complexity involved in that action that most users don’t need to see or that you don’t want them to see, such as credentials to call a web service.

Have business users who need to do SQL queries or make web service calls but don’t have permission to do that? No problem with a UDA. They won’t see the logic behind the action, just the action itself that does what they need it to do, Vadim says.

Benefits of User Defined Actions

Besides saving you time when building workflows, User Defined Actions can also save time for people throughout your organization. Develop UDAs and you’ll end up with a library of reusable actions that you built, making you a hero to others in your organization who’d otherwise have to duplicate your work when building similar workflows for their teams.

“At the end of this, the more a customer uses Nintex Workflow, the more they make it more and more useful to the rest of the company,” Vadim says. “Build once and everyone can just use them.”

Jesse McHargue, a SharePoint developer at Duquesne Light, is a fan of UDAs because of their reusability and simplicity. His company’s IT team created a custom web service that copies items and attaches them to another item.

One motivator was simplicity. Users don’t have to wade through numerous, unnecessary details to do what they need to do. The information that surfaces is just the required data. Along similar lines, consider using a UDA if you’re using specific actions and don’t want other workflow designers to have access to the details, such as login information, or the ability to change how something is coded, he says

His advice? If a UDA makes sense for you, use or develop one.

“It wasn’t until we had others asking for the same functionality that we decided to create a UDA and save ourselves the headache of maintaining it in multiple locations,” Jesse says. “If you find yourself making the same workflows across multiple sites, consider a UDA.”

King of UDAs

During his Xchange session at InspireX, Nintex Technology Partner Evangelist Eric Harris called Vadim “the king of UDAs.”

Eric offered the shoutout after mentioning that User Defined Actions are one of the types of assets people will find on Nintex Xchange, the new central repository of Nintex assets “for the community, by the community.”

Check out Eric’s Putting you in the fast lane post on Nintex Connect for more about the just-launched Xchange to see Vadim-developed UDAs that you can download to make workflow creation faster and easier.

“Outside of the fact that he’s created the most in the community with over 50 UDAs, Vadim has mastered the art of how to create them, make them useful and engineer them to be reused by anyone who can grab them,” Eric says.

Jesse also has a lot of respect for Vadim’s mastery of UDAs.

“You can tell he knows what he is talking about and the passion for it comes through in blogs and in the community,” Jesse says. “Just the vast amount of content out there speaks to his knowledge on the subject. I had gotten to the point that if I see his name attached to the article or blog, I will read it because I know it will be informative and accurate.”

Nintex Technical Evangelist Sean Fiene is one of the three Workflow Pros – Vadim and Brad Orluk are the other two. The three Ninsters regularly record videos together and admire each other’s expertise. And when Sean thinks about UDAs, Vadim’s name instantly comes to mind.

“With a development background, Vadim has a clear knowledge of application design. UDAs allow Vadim to share his bite-sized workflow applications for easy consumption by other users,” Sean says. “Vadim and UDAs go together like peanut butter and chocolate.”

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