Why Did We Build Nintex Workflow Cloud?

If you haven’t heard of Nintex Workflow Cloud yet, check it out. If you’d like to see more about how we’ve been building it, read You, Zoe and Nintex Workflow Cloud, where we interview Nintex Director of Product Management Zoe Clelland, who heads up the product management efforts for Nintex Workflow Cloud.

But you might be asking – why? We have a good thing going with Nintex Workflow and Nintex Forms for SharePoint and Office 365. Why disrupt it?

Cross-Product Processes

Well, we’ve looked at a lot of collaboration platforms, CRM platforms, content platforms and software-as-a-service offerings. And while most include some internal automation service, none of them are optimized for processes that span application boundaries.

And we’ve been finding that just about every interesting process does span app boundaries. Call it integration if you must, but we don’t, because the decision logic is as important as (probably more important than) moving content from one place to another.

We’ve taken some steps toward this in our platform to date, but this is an order of magnitude more serious.

We came up with an easy way to create, manage and use connections, and not just for sending and receiving content. To really embrace cross-product processes, we needed to make every workflow a service unto itself that can be called from any app, from another workflow, from a mobile client. Not just workflow using services, but rather Workflow as a Service.

Extremely Easy User Experience

Nintex’s marketing department ran an interesting experiment a little over a year ago. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the department was tasked with creating workflows of their own and showing them to each other. The people who understood SharePoint had a great time, but those who used it solely for storing documents really, really struggled – not with Nintex, but rather with creating lists, custom columns and other SharePoint features.

We needed a place people could go to simply draw out their processes. They can connect them to the content and data sources they need whenever they’re ready.

We took a step back and looked at every user experience improvement we could make to reduce popups, clicks – or anything else that can derail a person’s train of thought. We looked at how to make terminology easier to follow, and how to make things more self-explanatory. We really looked at how to make connections to other services easier to create, manage and share. And we did it.

We still love SharePoint. This will still work with SharePoint. But it doesn’t require you to master SharePoint (or anything else) first. We’ve always made workflow easy, but this is a whole new level of easy.

An Engine We Engineer

We’ve done a lot of good work over the years on multiple versions of Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation. We can make those engines dance.

But we wanted, and needed, more. So, for the last two years, we rolled up our sleeves, thought about what we wanted in a workflow engine, and proceeded to build exactly that. It scales up and out to many, many tenants. It gives us options for opt-in telemetry, tracing, and optimization. It lets us tweak, well, everything – in order to make continuous innovation possible.

The Feedback So Far 

Nintex Workflow Cloud will work happily with SharePoint, but it’ll also work well with Salesforce, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or NetSuite, or many other services. In the past two weeks, we visited both Microsoft’s Ignite and Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce events. We had a steady stream of traffic at both booths, and there are a few recurring themes:

  • That our workflow design experience is easy, easier than what’s in the box, is something we’re used to hearing from SharePoint users, but Salesforce people are saying it, too. More than once, we were told “this is what Process Builder should be like.”
  • A customer told us that what he saw Nintex Workflow Cloud do in a day or two would take nearly two months to get out the door otherwise.
  • Our bet on cross-product processes is getting nods and applause.
  • Developers are already thinking about how to leverage Workflow as a Service and extend our platform.

A crowd gathered in the Nintex booth in the DevZone to see demos of Nintex Workflow Cloud.

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Mike Fitzmaurice

Vice President of Workflow Technology Mike “Fitz” Fitzmaurice is Nintex's subject matter expert and chief spokesperson for workflow, business transformation, and technology evangelism. Before Nintex, he spent 11 years at Microsoft, and was involved with every version of SharePoint from pre-2001 through the 2010 release. His expertise includes process automation, integration, collaboration, and a lot of other “ation”s. Follow @mikefitz on Twitter.