Office 365, Program Framework

Nintex Online: Three features to help automate business processes

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In a recent post we looked at the rapid ROI that Nintex Workflow enabled for many projects. In this post we’ll be taking a closer look at the Office 365 specific version of Nintex – Nintex Online.

Nintex Online is a great way to expand on the out of the box options that SharePoint offers for both workflow and forms, and this is especially true in the Cloud where customisation options are very much limited.

We are a Nintex partner

We are very pleased to be a Nintex partner, and as such have a great relationship with the team over there. Nintex have some very exciting things up their sleeve for the next 6-12 months, but for now let’s dig a little deeper into their online suite.

100% cloud based

The first immediate strength of the Nintex Online suite is its deployment model. Office 365, as a cloud offering, means companies do not need to worry about upfront hardware costs or ongoing maintenance. Microsoft take care of all of this. But it also means that extending Office 365 or SharePoint Online is different than when using the On-Premises model. The classic manner of application installation and distribution is not available.

Nintex have reacted well to this and developed their suite so that it cleverly takes advantage of the new SharePoint App Catalog model. Think of this as a SharePoint version of the Apple App Store. Deploying Nintex Online via the App Store means it takes advantage of the latest coding standards, and the performance and security assurances that come with this. But more usefully it is available to users of the right security to install, test and deploy directly from within SharePoint.

Not only does this effectively bypass the distribution bottleneck of old (relying on IT to deploy and configure new apps), but Admin users can control centrally who gets access to the app via native SharePoint permissions. If you have a site owner or admin that you trust to use the Nintex form designer for instance, you can release the Forms part of the suite to them and then let them use it as their needs dictate.

Visual Editor

Continuing the theme of ‘ease of use’, we can begin to look at the ease of use of the Nintex Suite itself. If we look at the out of the box options, specifically SharePoint Designer 2013, one of the big controversies upon its launch was the removal of the ‘design view‘. This decision effectively killed off the ability to give it to trusted business or less technical users, as was possible with SharePoint Designer 2010.

The Nintex in-browser visual editor overcomes the lack of SharePoint Designer, and the out of the box limitations of SharePoint Online itself. The forms designer is accessible from the Office ribbon, for both lists and libraries. It gives users design-time preview capabilities (something that Designer is also incapable of) before committing to any changes. It follows a “code-light” approach in its functionality, which opens up the task of form customisations to non-IT colleagues. Again another great way to show case the power of Nintex to a wider remit of users.

The same powerful visual editor is at the core of  the workflow designer. The Office 365 version of Nintex Workflow puts the company’s mantra of “workflow for everyone” into full effect by offering end-user level tools that allow them to build complex workflows with ease. This doesn’t come at the detriment of IT designers or developers, as specific actions and tasks are also included to allow those audiences to do even more technical work.

Extendable  with in-app purchases

The final element we’d like to highlight here is the Nintex Store, and the potential it offers for even more extensibility. The store works much in the same way as the Office 365 store but is focused entirely on the Nintex Suite. It provides a range of additional workflow steps, controls, and connecters to other Cloud based services – such as Yammer, Box and SalesForce.

SharePoint Online BCS, another way of approaching a similar problem, typically requires a specific type of web service (OData or WCF) for those wanting to integrate it with external systems. Deployment of these services can be complex, and is only really something very technical users can attempt. Use of the Nintex Store extensions removes both the need for a developer resource and provides end-user level access to a range of other information silos.

An enterprise grade option

Microsoft’s Office 365 is a great product out of the box. It provides enough features and functionality to satisfy a huge range of project requirements. But extending it with extra functionality can be complex for the non technical user. This is where Nintex Online comes in and does a great job. We look forward to using it in increasingly innovative ways on our clients projects and systems.