On the importance of a solid Workflow platform
Workflow is one of the key features of any business application, including CRM. Since my PhD days when I used to spend time on researching Reactive scheduling architectures including Procedural Reasoning Systems, I haven’t had a chance to spend much time working on workflow/planning/scheduling architectures, until recently and I love every second of it. For the past few months I had an opportunity to think about what the next generation of CRM workflow software will look like by looking at what we currently shipped in CRM V3.0 and what other technologies are available around us. Needless to say that as a company, we have invested heavily in building a solid workflow platform. Windows Workflow Foundation (WF), in my opinion, is one of the coolest pieces of technologies that we are delivering to the market. The positive impact that a solid workflow platform could have on solving real business problems through an application like CRM is immense. When I talk with partners and ISVs, they generally are aware of the company’s efforts in this space but I mostly hear things like “yeah we heard about WF but haven’t yet spent a lot of time on it”. Here is some suggestion, go and check it out. It shouldn’t take you more than a few minutest to install WinFX and get started building your first workflow in Visual Studio.
If you are in an architect/technical lead/CTO role I highly recommend issue 7 of The Microsoft Architecture Journal where a comprehensive architecture overview of an ideal workflow platform is discussed in details with lots of good business examples to crystallize the business value perspective that I mentioned early. What I personally like about WF are 1) the declarative no-code programming model 2) A solid engine and a set of basic services (saves you tons of time developing common pieces that everyone needs for a workflow platform 3) Developer experience in Visual Studio (workflow designer).