Sharepoint and Workflow @ UG Meeting

I am now over 45 and turning 46. And yet, from time to time, I still turn giddy like a teenager when I see cool technology being demonstrated. This was the case last night when I was at the 22nd floor offices of Microsoft Singapore to attend the Sharepoint Users’ Group meeting. This is the view of the Marina bay and Singapore flyer from the window.

Marina Bay from Microsoft Offices

There were two speakers for the event. I will start with the second speaker first — Mr Senthamil Selvan is a solutions architect for Cambridge Solutions Pte Ltd. They have and are doing work on sharepoint for Singaporean Government.

Senthamil showed slides extolling the virtues of Sharepoint and the fact that Sharepoint is a development platform. He was preaching to the choir! The crowded room was made up mostly of Sharepoint fanatics. This was the Sharepoint Users group meeting right?

Why is sharepoint so cool?

Senthamil talked about Sharepoint having a lot of features already built in. This enables ordinary, non-techies to turn Sharepoint into their corporate web portal! The ‘programming’ or should I say, configuration of sharepoint is done via web browsers. As Jon Co loves to say, “It is so easy, even a two year old can do it” —powerful but easy to use!

Sharepoint’s core benefit is its document management system. It comes with versioning — So should a co worker accidentally write over the file, you could still retrieve the older version.

Instead of sending huge files via email, you just upload your shared files into the sharepoint folders and let people access them from there. These are all browser based operations. If you haven’t tried it out yet. I urge you to talk to your admins and ask them to set you up with Sharepoint.

You could use site templates to make sharepoint work either as a team collaboration application, or as a Wiki or as a host of other applications, out of the box! The newer version had RSS and email alerts.

Sharepoint also has built-in capability to manage LISTs (list of whatever items) and calendars and events. I should also mention that it has a contact list as well. So it is perfect for organizations to use it as their internal portal!

Best of all WSS (Windows Sharepoint Service) comes FREE when you get Windows Server. I had also introduced several of our Philippine Web hosting clients to sharepoint where they promptly used it as a platform for medical transcription and for document management.

Now comes the part that made me giddy as a teenager– the first speaker!

The first speaker of the event was Mr Hoo Kai Sheng of I first saw in Malaysia’s Convention Center (KLCC) at the Microsoft TechEd. K2 was showcasing their sharepoint enhancement products then.

I didn’t get the chance to see those products as there were a lot of people crowding their booth. Last night’s Sharepoint UG meeting gave me the chance to see the demo first hand and the entire team was there.

So K2 has these 2 solutions for Workflow management in Sharepoint. K2[Blackpoint] in Beta2 and BlackPearl.

Workflow is the capability in sharepoint that allows a document to be routed to specific parties. Workflow also allows for limited action to be done on those documents.

Imagine a leave application document being routed to the supervisor for approval automatically when it is created by the user. And when the document is either approved or rejected, an email is sent to the user informing them of the decision. The approved or rejected form could also be moved to another folder inside the sharepoint portal system.

Imagine the lower carbon footprint from not using PAPER! This is what workflow in Sharepoint can do. Other common applications for workflow include expense reimbursements, reservation systems etc.

Kai Sheng highlighted the fact that Sharepoint already had some workflow capabilities builtin. One could also use Sharepoint Designer (ex Frontpage) or do VB programming on the Workflow foundation.

Where their BlackPoint product excels is that it offers more functionality than the built-in workflow of sharepoint, and is easier to use than the Sharepoint Designer and VB development on Workflow foundation.

The BlackPoint demo showcased the fact that it now uses Microsoft Silverlight technology to enable an ordinary user to drag and drop wizards and actions into the ‘visual diagram’ of the workflow. It also allows for conditional approval and LOOPs in the process. One click and the workflow is published and available for use in a document library.

For the auditor in us, K2 Blackpoint offers reporting to show how the document was routed, when it was routed, and who acted on it. This allows management to pinpoint the cause of ‘delays; in processing. Hmm…this could be use to cut down on Philippine government red tape???

The blackpoint workflow solution enables us to overcome the built-in limit of Sharepoint being able to run only 15(??) workflow applications at a time.

After looking at the demo it became apparent to me that an ordinary user could quickly learn 80% in just 2 hours. They could be creating awesome workflow based application without learning to do code!

In my mind, I was already thinking of what my hosted clients would be able to do with faster deployment of workflow using Blackpoint.

By the way, you can try out K2[BlackPoint] by downloading their beta at this link: As a full disclosure, I am in no way connected with either Cambridge or K2. Although K2 did give me a cool jacket 🙂 Thanks to!