Posted by: Adam Deane | 01/03/2010

Windows Workflow Foundation

I get asked about Microsoft’s workflow platform, its pros and cons.

Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) is Microsoft’s technology for modelling implementing and executing workflows.

The technology was released in November 2006 as a part of Microsoft’s .NET Framework 3.0 (and 3.5) that enables developers to create workflow enabled applications.

Windows Workflow Foundation is the programming model, engine and tools for building workflow enabled applications on Windows. It consisting of .NET classes, an in-process workflow engine, and designers for Visual Studio.

WF is aimed at highly skilled developers enabling elementary workflow capabilities and consists of .NET classes, an in-process workflow engine, and designers for Visual Studio.

The purpose of WF is not to be a complete workflow solution for Windows. Instead, the goal is to make it easier for software developers to create workflow-based Windows applications.

The Pros

  • Although it will take some time, WF will become the common foundation for workflow in Microsoft products and technologies. An example of this is Windows SharePoint Services, which provides document-oriented workflow services based on WF. Future releases of other Microsoft products will also implement their workflow services using WF.
  • WF is an infrastructure currently used by some software vendors to develop their BPM and Workflow products.

The Cons

  • It’s important to understand that WF is a framework targeting programmers, not a workflow application intended for immediate use by end users. Accordingly, it doesn’t provide tools for users to interact with workflows. WF also doesn’t include full-featured management and monitoring tools or support the full BPM life cycle.
  • Windows Workflow Foundation is a complex model that requires high level programming skills. Programmers should have a good .Net background, preferably with BizTalk orientation, as the Windows Workflow Foundation is an extraction of the BizTalk orchestration definition. There is a fair amount of complexity to tackle just to put together a simple example.

Windows Workflow Foundation

Gartner had this to say about Microsoft’s BPM strategy (Full article here)

  • Microsoft, in combination with a Business Process Alliance BPMS partner, can fulfill each corner of Gartner’s Four Corners Framework for BPM.
  • Although SharePoint provides integrated document workflow as well as forms (InfoPath) workflow as a base set of capabilities to support common end-user scenarios, enterprise developers and business professionals have found that delivering “processes ready for people” requires more effort than they expected and additional technology for even straight-through workflow solutions, let alone BPMS usage scenarios.
  • Microsoft’s “people-ready processes” vision isn’t easily achievable without custom-built extensions to Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 with Silverlight RIA technologies or BPMS partner technologies. Some BPMS partners (although not all) go further and support case management, dynamic tasking and other nondeterministic interaction patterns, typical of unstructured processes.

Responses

  1. […] then I saw this post on Windows Workflow Foundation, and I see that it is possible to have been in the BPM space for 10 years and still not get the […]

  2. I agree with your comments. However, leveraging PowerShell & WF does provide a nice solution to solve many IT admins daily tasks. I was wondering if you have had a chance to look at PowerWF Studio http://www.powerwf.com


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