Comparing Nintex workflow with Microsoft Flow – part 1

When you use Nintex workflows and you are considering to switch to Flow. Or when you use Flow and want to switch to Nintex it can be difficult to make the right choices. In this series of posts I am hoping to help you make the right decision for your organisation.

There are quite a few things that  you need to consider when you compare Nintex with Microsoft Flow. I this series I am considering:

  1. Solution architecture
  2. The operations (steps) available
  3. The UX of the development tools
  4. Cost / licence models
  5. My/Your experiences

For all of these solutions I will mainly focus on the cloud version of Nintex

Solutions architecture

When comparing Nintex and Flow there are some major differences. One of the main differences is the scope of the products.

Create a Flow

Create Nintex workflowCreating workflows and flows

Nintex very much lives within the SharePoint domain and this already starts with the way we create workflows and flows. Nintex is installed as an app in your Office 365 SharePoint Online site and Flow is completely separated away in its own application. Of course you can create flows that are connected with SharePoint’s lists and libraries but you could use Microsoft Flow to connect to many more application and create a flow that doesn’t use SharePoint at all.

But there is more. There is also Nintex cloud.

With nintex Cloud you get more of an Flow experience.

 

Important choice moment: Do you want to restrict your processes to start from events in SharePoint? Or would you be looking at Nintex Cloud or Microsoft FLow

Creating your steps

In flow when you add an action you get offered loads and loads of action that integrate with many products. Most of these actiosn are easy to configure and this makes Flow very much aimed at the Poweruser within your organisation as well as your more advanced developers.

Nintex has the same option to add steps and as shown below you can see that it is possible to run actions into both Microsoft products like Yammer but also 3rd party integration like WordPress and Twitter.

In both products it is possible to connect to custom APIs. Flow uses its Powerful connector model making it possible for your PowerUsers to create a custom connector through the Flow Designer interface and Nintex will let you create custom actions with Visual Studio. So I guess this is down to personal preference. Do you prefer to use Visual Studio or do you prefer to use the Designer interface that you use to design your flows.

The Nintex Cloud option you get more of modern experience

With the connector based model Nintex Workflow Cloud has followed the Microsoft Flow example and it is easier to manage your connectors and connections into your 3rd party solutions.

Tasks and history lists

As Nintex comes from a SharePoint background it will store a lot of the workflow information in SharePoint lists. With the Log in history list items are added on a regular basis to SharePoint lists. This can be very useful for debugging purposes as you can expose input and output from your steps in your workflow in your SharePoint lists.

Workflows will also very often include all sorts of tasks these tasks can be approval task sand they can be other tasks that people may need to complete. These tasks are stored in task lists in SharePoint. In general this will help you if you want to present these tasks to users in any other way. e.g. through a web part on a site listing all the outstanding tasks. It is of course still quite important to manage the number of items that appear in both these lists.

Flow is slightly different here. The approval tasks are stored within databases in the Common Data Services. The flow system can get better control over the task data. Another major benefit here is that there is a single database that holds all approvals rather than task lists that are stored across multiple lists across multiple sites.

With Nintex Cloud you as the assign a task action available to you. This already feels a lot better than SharePoint based task system that the app version of Nintex has been using for years.

Like with Flow these tasks are now not stored in SharePoint anymore.

App integrations

Nintex workflows has a great tool for creating forms, Nintex Forms. This will make it easy to create custom forms within your SharePoint online environment. Creating custom forms and connecting this to your workflows is one of the great benefits of purchasing both applications in a single package. I’m always promoting to use products that work together from the same supplier. With my Document Management background I found often that office integrations are the week link in Document management solutions as your Office applications like Word and Excel are upgraded and older version still need to be supported.

With Microsoft Flow the forms products, in some cases replacing InfoPath, is something that works well with PowerApps. With PowerApps you can create your custom list forms and on top of that you can create standalone apps, connecting in many of your existing datasources.

Next steps

As part of this series I will soon look at the following areas for both Nintex and for Flow.

  • The operations (steps) available
  • The UX of the development tools
  • Cost / licence models
  • My/Your experiences

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