Shareflex vs SharePoint Online
A question we frequently get is; “why do we need Shareflex on top of SharePoint Online to develop SharePoint Online business applications`?
Actually the answer is quite straightfoward. If you only need to store files in a SharePoint Library or you need a standard SharePoint List with an approval workflow you do not need Shareflex. You can simply use SharePoint Online featured. However, if your requirement is a bit more challenging, as in most business applications, you will quicly hit the limitations of SharePoint Online and need Shareflex.
Samples of such requirements are:
- Development of user friendly but complex forms
- Link attachments to the forms
- Make intuitive workflows
- Get grip on permissions
- Use DTAP development methodology
- Eliminate custom coding projects and standardize application development
To a certain extend there are other SharePoint application development tools in the market such as Nintex. However, these platforms differ a lot and. If you are interested we invite you to read our comparison article between Nintex and Shareflex for more details.
It’s important to note that Shareflex is not a replacement of SharePoint. Shareflex is a rich development platform with lots of out-of-the-box features. It runs on SharePoint Online and tightly integrates with many SharePoint Online features.
Out-of-the-box features Shareflex
One of the most important features of Shareflex is the forms designer which is missing in SharePoint Online. The Shareflex forms designer allows developers and power users to develop great looking and intuitive forms in SharePoint Online.
Shareflex allows combining of meta data fields (stored in a SharePoint Online list) and attachments (stored in a SharePoint Online Library) on one screen which is great for the end user.
This Contract Management form is a great sample of a complex form developed with Shareflex.
- Special LookUps
- Dependent value sets (also multiple)
- Set fields ReadOnly, hide fields
- Using same technical basis as SharePoint (React)
- Call webservice
- Integrated document viewer / preview
- Add a customized menu to a list or item
When using Shareflex you get several functions to create the desired forms structure:
- Combine information of several Subsites or SiteCollections in a treeview
- JSON configuration
- Configuration saved in SharePoint library
- Called by browser while page is loading
- Displayed metadata is configurable
- Integration in Outlook to upload emails into SharePoint file structure
Filtering functions on a form are important to provide end users the right experience and allow them to improve productivity. Therefore, Shareflex offers a number of form filtering functions:
- Combine information of several lists or libraries in one search result
- Customize filter query options and search result
- Copy the configuration for different systems
- Configuration is saved in lists
- Always current hits because no index is necessary
If you want to know more about Shareflex form development in SharePoint Online Modern UI, please check out this post.
Another crucial function in business application development are the workflows that help implement company processes and policies. They ensure that the right person carries out the right task at the right time. Shareflex offers a seamless and powerful workflow user interface.
In this section we will explain some of the Shareflex Workflow features.
The Workflow task list stores all workflow tasks for all users in a particular Site Collection. The user will only see all workflow tasks that are assigned to him or her from different business applications. Administrators on the other hand will see all workflow tasks which eases problem solving.
Another important workflow feature Sharflex supports is Workflow delegation. This function allows the users to delegate workflow tasks to other users in a certain time frame.
Typically the end user who needs to carry out a certain task wants to see all relevant approval information on one single Workflow approval form to instantly make the right decision. Therefore Shareflex displays the workflow approval options (reject, approve, return to requestor, cancel); the form meta data, and attachments all in a professional, user-friendly form.
In addition, Shareflex Workflow provides a Workflow approval audit to ensure that your organisation is compliant and can follow audit trails. In other words, which user has approved or rejected a particular request on which moment.
Workflow permissions are important to determine who can edit the form, who can see the form, and who doesn’t have access to the form details. For instance, during a certain workflow the content of the initial request may not be edited.
For Setting up a Shareflex workflow Shareflex workflow designer is available. This designer allows developers to setup a workflow and connect it to the Shareflex forms. After that, if needed, the power users can use this browser based tool to make modifications to the workflow.
The DTAP development methodology is crucial in setting up a professional application development system that will run for many years, serving the users new applications and update existing applications with new versions. Therefore, Shareflex supports DTAP by nature. For instance it provides:
- Script-driven deployment
- Use of automatically generated placeholders for using the same script in multiple systems
- Edit SharePoint object parameters (e.g. list or web part properties)
- Multi language-Support
- Integration in Visual Studio Code for Intelisense and Snippets
Developers can create a script to roll out a complete new Shareflex application including all SharePoint Online lists, libraries, permissions, workflows, content and much more to another SharePoint Online Site Collection. This ensures that the apps rolled out to production will function exactly the same as they do on the development Site Collection.
In addition developers can make update scripts to update applications to a new version.
The image below shows the Shareflex provisioning client rolling out a Shareflex application to a certain SharePoint Online Site Collection.
Shareflex offers several out-of-the-box rules, such as:
- Access to all possible CSOM
- Integration of file system, SQL database, other website collections, webservices, SMTP and more
- Save configuration to library in SharePoint
- Use of automatic placeholders for easy transport to other SiteCollections (development, test and production systems)
- Use of TimerJobs for periodical actions and editing of mass data
Typically when you develop business applications you have to deal with permission structures. Being a sophisticated application development platform Shareflex offers the following features:
- SharePoint-based business applications can be extended with role concepts
- A comfortable authorization editor is available to define roles, users, permission units as well as simple static permissions
- Metadata-dependent permissions can be set, and
- Permission profiles can be defined
Shareflex is an essential add-on for companies that are looking to develop complex SharePoint business applications. Therefore, an increasing number of large organisations use Shareflex to support business critical functions while at the same time integrating them with standard Microsoft 365 functions. As a result they improve company-wide productivity and collaboration. If you wan to see how Shareflex can help your organisation please contact us for a further introduction.