Over the past months Management-NewStyle has been evaluating approaches to workflow that lend themselves to its FlowMap software products. Microsoft's Windows Workflow Foundation (WinWF) has now been selected as the preferred development arena together with the Cavendish UDM database model (see item).
A recent review of WinWF by Ambrose Little, a leading authority on Microsoft's .NET environment, claims that "Workflow and WinWF are here to stay." (see his opinion) He urges that we "embrace workflow and embrace WinWF (you really don't have a choice). Embrace the modeling revolution. Gone are (or will/should be) the days of creating static documents and models that are stale as soon as the ink dries. Now our models can be our code. We can all be artists and communicate our genius to the world through pictures that concisely reflect our mental machinations." Here is the ultimate dream of The FlowMap System for the world of business.
WinWF Briefing (by Microsoft)
As described by Microsoft the Windows Workflow Foundation is the programming model, engine and tools for quickly building workflow enabled applications in Windows. It consists of a WinFX namespace, an in-process workflow engine, and designers for Visual Studio 2005. Windows Workflow Foundation is available (currently in beta) for both client and server versions of Windows. Windows Workflow Foundation includes support for both system workflow and human workflow across a wide range of scenarios including: workflow within line of business applications, user interface page-flow, document-centric workflow, human workflow, composite workflow for service oriented applications, business rule driven workflow and workflow for systems management.
The Windows Workflow Foundation namespace in WinFX is called System.Workflow. Windows Workflow Foundation provides a consistent and familiar development experience with other WinFX technologies such as ASP.NET, Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Presentation Foundation. Windows Workflow Foundation provides full support for Visual Basic .NET and C#, debugging, a graphical workflow designer and the ability to develop your workflow completely in code.
Windows Workflow Foundation also provides an extensible model and designer to build custom activities which encapsulate workflow functionality for end-users or for re-use across multiple projects. Windows Workflow Foundation will be used across many future Microsoft products including The Microsoft Office System, BizTalk Server and the Microsoft Dynamics Products (previously known as Microsoft Business Solutions products). Most applications can benefit from the asynchronous state management features of the workflow model, the rapid development features of the designer, the potential for end-user flexibility, and the increased visibility into run-time code execution.
A workflow is a set of activities stored as a model that describe a real world process. Work passes through the model from start to finish and activities might be executed by people or by system functions. Workflow provides a way of describing the order of execution and dependent relationships between pieces of short or long running work. While it is possible to write a workflow completely in code, workflow is often best viewed graphically. Once a workflow model is compiled it can be executed inside any Windows process including console apps, forms-based apps, Windows Services, ASP.NET web sites and web services.