Q: What runs over 3 days, brings together over 450 attendees from across the world including 70 Nintex employees and 200 Nintex partners, and has 51 sessions from Nintex, Microsoft, vTEs, Partners and Customers across 4 streams?
A: It’s the inaugural InspireX conference of course!
The home of InspireX 2016 – Aria Resort and Casino, Las Vegas
Nintex CEO John Burton took the stage to kick off proceedings, and gave an impressive overview of how business and technology is evolving, and how Nintex is positioning itself to best enable those changes. He described how companies like Tesla and LinkedIn use Drawloop (recently acquired by Nintex) to automatically generate documentation to accelerate their businesses. He also had the chance to share publically for the first time a whole suite of upcoming products, which you can read about below.
Nintex CEO John Burton working the crowd at the keynote
Nintex Workflow Cloud
The Nintex Workflow Cloud will offer Workflow-as-a-Service to consume later in the year
This is a real game changer!
Nintex has historically always been tied very closely to Microsoft SharePoint. If you wanted Nintex, you had to get SharePoint first, whether that was 2007, 2010, 2013 or Office 365.
Now Nintex has announced the Nintex Workflow Cloud, which will essentially offer Workflow-as-a-Service – which I can only assume will get shortened to WaaS! The idea here is that Nintex will host the infrastructure and you can sign up to run your workflows. No SharePoint required! After speaking to the technical team, I gleaned that the backend is Azure based, but NOT SharePoint based. So Nintex are finally ‘leaving the nest’ of SharePoint whilst remaining coupled to the Microsoft platform.
The Nintex Workflow Cloud should be available for customers to consume later in the year.
If it’s worth automating, it’s worth measuring!
The mantra of Nintex Insight is: “If it’s worth automating, it’s worth measuring”. So Nintex are building a new Cloud service to collect statistics about your Nintex Workflow processes, so that they can then be surfaced in your favourite BI tools – Microsoft Power BI by default, or you can bring other BI tools to the party if you prefer.
Nintex Insight includes three pillars: Data, Lenses and Dashboards.
A Data Collector tool is available now for Nintex Workflow 2013 and coming soon for 2016 and Office 365. Its job is to run against the SharePoint environment and listen for events, so that it can pump data into the Nintex Insight cloud service. Then there are OData Application Programming Interfaces to allow BI tools to query the collected data.
These are different views or aspects of the data. Nintex is providing a range of out-of-the-box lenses which are categorised as follows:
- Usage – “How frequently are my workflows running?”
- Inventory – “Where are my Nintex assets?”
- Monitor – “How is my system running?”; “Can you notify me when things change unexpectedly?”
- Process Intelligence – this is the most interesting one in my opinion.
Process Intelligence is the most interesting from my perspective; they allow you to inject business information into the data being collected. Then the BI tools can slice and dice data based on business data rather than technical data, to answer questions like: “What is the average process turnaround time split by Product Line?” or “How do our Regions and Offices compare with each other for process success rates?”
The key to Process Intelligence is the introduction of Beacons which are Workflow Actions that can be inserted into Workflows to indicate key points which are meaningful to the business. They also provide the ability to dynamically inject business relevant information into the Data Collector.
Once users have Data and Lenses, the value comes from combining these into custom Dashboards within their favourite BI tool.
A Nintex Insight Dashboard being configured on the fly
Nintex Insight is a logical extension of the “Know Your Workflow” initiative which helps organisations evaluate the cost of processes and measure the real benefits of automation. With Insight, businesses will gain greater real-time understanding of their operations and be able to make faster and more informed decisions.
We are expecting Nintex Insight to be available in Q2 of the 2016 calendar year.
This one is really exciting for all the Nintex Developers out there! Xchange is intended to be the official repository for shared Community developed assets, such as:
- User Defined Actions (UDAs);
- Workflow Templates;
- Form Templates;
- Document Generation Templates; and
- Custom code, workflow actions, inline functions, etc.
You’ll be able to create assets, find assets based on type, industry, tags and keywords, to accelerate your Nintex development, and collaborate with the Nintex Community. Upcoming features include the ability to support / monetise your assets, and finding Nintex partners to support you.
The first version of the Xchange is expected to be released in March or April.
Nintex for Office 365 Updates
This is a very nice update – Nintex are broadening their Azure footprint for Nintex services across Europe, Asia and Australia! This will reduce latency and improve performance for user services such as Nintex Form rendering. It will also improve the story for organisations who are highly conscious of data sovereignty.
Alex Burton from Nintex sharing news of upcoming data centre enhancements
Nintex Workflow 2016 and Forms 2016
Even with all of the news of new products and cloud services, there was always going to be big interest in the upcoming versions of Nintex Workflow and Nintex Forms, which will be released in tandem with SharePoint 2016 – which just went RTM last week and will reach General Availability in May.
Probably the single most popular announcement was browser support – the Nintex Workflow designer and Nintex Forms designer will support the same browsers as SharePoint 2016, which is basically all modern browsers (even Safari on Mac). Now there will be less reason to switch browsers to work in SharePoint or Nintex. Power users rejoice!
Also very popular was the announcement that all new and upcoming Nintex 2016 features will be back-ported to Nintex 2013. Nintex will continue to enhance functionality across the most two recent releases of SharePoint so even if you can’t upgrade to 2016 right away, you’ll get all of the goodness.
Here’s the highlight reel of upcoming features announced:
- Browser support (mentioned above);
- Improved installation process including PowerShell cmdlets and automation options;
- Remodelled Central Administration interface with a single Nintex dashboard across all installed products;
- Improved online help accessible from within the designer, including an offline option for systems without internet access;
- Improved hybrid support through deduplication of many of the “Office 365” specific actions;
- Improved Nintex Workflow toolbox to help users find actions (including Nintex Live cloud services) quickly;
- External Start: the capacity to start Nintex Workflows using triggers set by external systems – note that this feature is actually already in Nintex Workflow 2013;
- Enabling Document Generation actions in the on-premises products;
- Workflow Metadata – define metadata about your workflows (e.g. Process ID, Process Manager, Owning Department, Business Criticality, etc.);
- Modernisation of Workflow Web Requests with technologies like REST and JSON;
- Improved visualisation of Workflow History in Office 365;
- Nintex Forms for Document Sets;
- Tabbed / multi-page Nintex Forms;
- Managed Metadata in Nintex Forms within Office 365;
Wow – that’s a lot of really nice features!
Yeah of course I had to use this opportunity to plug my session! It was entitled “Don’t be a victim of your own success: Managing large numbers of Nintex Solutions” and provided best practices and tips gleaned from our delivery of an enterprise scale eForms Platform for the Western Australian Department of Transport.
My presentation was unfortunately scheduled for the very last session of the event so a lot of people were already on their way home and I only had around 30-40 attendees, but I did get some very positive formal and informal feedback (thanks guys!) which was very satisfying. It was great to share ideas and gripes with a few other Nintex developers who had worked on similar solutions, and I also got an opportunity to mention the Cohesion Forms offering that Empired is building to accelerate Nintex adoption for organisations who are looking to automate in Office 365.
Marty rocking the stage and silently preying to the "Demo Gods" – who were slightly mischeivious on the day!
In one of the social sessions I was chatting to Jeremy Thake (a former Western Australian lad who is now a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft) who remarked that the scale of the InspireX conference is a great indicator of the strength of the Nintex ecosystem, which in itself reinforces the strength of the Microsoft ecosystem within which it has developed. It’s truly amazing to see how far Nintex has come since a few OBS consultants decided be beef up SharePoint’s workflow capabilities around ten years ago.
The breadth of the Nintex ecosystem has expanded with the recent acquisition of Drawloop, which was developed in the Salesforce space. There was an entire stream of Salesforce sessions at InspireX which was really interesting to see for someone who is used to seeing Nintex always being tightly tied to SharePoint.
I also attended a very neat session by Seb from Sharegate who demonstrated how organisations migrate content and Nintex assets across environments, and even from on-premises into Office 365, using the Sharegate toolset.
Wrapping It All Up
Wow – what an event! It was a brilliant chance to catch up with many members of the Nintex team that I’ve worked with in various capacities over the years, and to meet a wide range of people from Nintex, partners, and customers, who all understand the benefits that can be made from automating processes and information capture.
InspireX was a brilliant learning and sharing experience, plus a fantastic excuse to visit Las Vegas! But maybe next year Nintex can run their event at a location that is less than 30 hours’ travel from Perth?
Some of the Aussie (and ex-Aussie) team representing: From the left, that's me (Marty), Dan from Nintex, Dee from Data Capture Experts, Jason from Technology Shed, and Jon from Nintex
If you’re interested to learn more about Nintex or any of the upcoming platform features, you can visit http://www.nintex.com, or even better, you can get in touch with a local Nintex partner vTE (hint – that’s myself in WA, or Yugan Yugaraja in NSW) who has experience using the Nintex platform to deliver world class business automation systems.