SharePoint 2007 Workflow (Visual Studio 2008) Livelink Workflow (Livelink Server 9.7) Workflow Platform Type Framework Engine Electronic Forms Support Yes (InfoPath) Yes (LL Forms Module) Interoperability with Desktop Applications Yes (Microsoft Office Suite Only) No Interoperability with Email Yes Yes Integration with Line of Business Applications Yes No (Actually maybe with some insanely complicated level of integration) Electronic Signatures Yes (WRMS, a bit complicated) Yes (eSign) Supports Attachments Yes Yes Expression builder (WF Logic) Yes Yes Dynamically assigning WF steps to Users With customisation Yes Easy MIS Needs to be built Yes (OOB) Logging Needs to be created in WF Yes (OOB) Interoperability with custom services and web services Yes No Development Required Yes No (except for customisation) Development Language .NET OScript
First of all, it was only since Visual Studio 2008 came out that I decided to start comparing elements of SharePoint 2007 such as Workflow and Business Process Management to other leading Enterprise Content Management systems. Before that exercise would be pointless.
Livelink in this game comes as a seasoned veteran and SharePoint 2007 and WWF are playing the catch-up game here, so I’ll focus more on how much WWF caught up so far.
Windows Workflow Foundation’s (in SharePoint context) biggest weakness is in fact that it’s a framework that requires skilled developers to design workflows where other workflow solution are in a form of an engine, with very easy, user friendly design studio that can easily be mastered by less skilled people (basically non-developers).
That, being a weakness, in fact is also the biggest strength of WWF, as in my personal career, the percentage of clients that were happy with OOB (out of the box) workflow (such as Livelink) functionality is less than 30%.
On the other side customisation in WWF now is almost flawless, it provides variety of highly functional Workflow steps that make use of the latest technology available for .NET, and is provided in known strongly supported languages (such as C#). Whereas in Livelink for example, the whole solution is written in a proprietary language called OScript (written especially for Livelink) which is object orientated (mostly similar to C, has elements like assocs and stuff) with a very good object model but also very outdated making the customisation less then easy (in today’s terms), and since it is proprietary the skills are very scarce (there’s only very few of us in the country that are good with it) making it not very profitable for the clients and service providers.
Also, to add a custom step to Livelink workflow requires creating whole module, installing it and in some cases having to even re-do the existing workflow (if it existed before), they don’t have the code activity type steps (although other WF engines like K2.NET and FYI have it).
Windows Workflow Foundation for MOSS2007 also wins “BIG TIME” with InfoPath 2007 and Forms server with SharePoint 2007 against Livelink Forms. Being able to add various controls from the InfoPath UI to your SharePoint 2007 Electronic forms is a good start, and then controls such as: Repeating Sections, Repeating Tables, Optional Sections, leave Livelink Forms far behind.
Livelink still leads with the tight integration of workflow with rest of the Livelink suite, consisting of much more refined products to better provide various Enterprise Content Management Solutions.
All in all the race has become tight and I see MS SharePoint 2007 Workflow solution leading in near future if the OpenText Livelink crowd doesn’t realise how important it is to keep your solution on the latest Development Platform.
The talk has been for some time that version 10 of Livelink will be completely re-written in Java, we’re yet to see if that will increase the stakes in the game (if it comes any time soon).
SharePoint 2007 Workflow (Business Process Management) Solutions are solid enough to play with the big boys now, even without the help from the mighty (yet expensive) BizTalk server.