Monday, February 22, 2016

Nintex InspireX Conference – Day One

Erik Abderhalden

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the workflows began to take hold.

  • Erik S Abderhalden, Fear and Loathing in Process Automation

Hello from sunny Las Vegas! This week Nintex is hosting their InspireX conference at the Aria, so of course Rightpoint had to send one of our most intrepid SharePointers to get the latest and greatest in the world of forms and workflow. Since I'm only one person, I can't attend all the sessions, but I'll happily share my thoughts and insights about the sessions I am able to attend. You can read my notes and thoughts about day two here and day three here.

PowerShell – Power Tools for the Nintex Pro

Whether you are a seasoned pro with PowerShell or you are just cutting your teeth, there was something for everyone in this session.

The big takeaway for me was the PowerShell action. I haven't had a chance to use this myself, but now I'm jonesing to use it. In the demo, by using the PowerShell action, a site collection was provisioned in its own content database with its own Nintex database with all of the appropriate Nintex features activated in the site collection. Talk about governance! The action can run PowerShell on any Windows server as long as WinRM is enabled.

There was also another really killer use case. A user can fill out a form with a start time, end time, and a file name, and the PowerShell action will go gather ULS logs from the farm during that duration. Awesome! I wish I had that back in the day when I was doing SharePoint help desk support.

One new cmdlet I learned about was Start-SPAssignment which disposes of objects used with variable assignments. Not a bad thing to use in case the script, or rather the scriptor, forgets to dispose a variable.

The rest of the session talked about using PowerShell with Office 365 as well as CSOM. If you are an admin for an on-premise environment, this part was useful to get up to speed on how PowerShell for Office 365 is a different beast.

Learn How to Execute SharePoint 2013 REST API Web requests in Nintex Workflow

If you're used to using the old fashioned web services calls (ASMX), calling SharePoint 2013's REST API can be a rude awakening. Thankfully Caroline Jung walked through and shed some light on how to do this for SharePoint 2013 on premise and Office 365.

While the REST API is nothing new, nor is the web request action, I found the session informative because I don't write web requests on a daily basis and the last time I made a web service request in a Nintex workflow it involved using the web service action.

I think the biggest change with using web requests is that power users who are used to creating workflows will need to learn some new things about this paradigm. Developers and no coders alike may find themselves wondering when should I use a Nintex workflow action opposed to a web request. Well thankfully there's a slide that breaks it down.

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Users will need to brush up on your X-Path skills with web requests. You'll need to use an XML action to parse the data. The X-Path will be something like //[local-name()='Title'] where Title is the namespace you want to retrieve. Do you dislike x-path? Thankfully Vadim Tabakman has developed a page to test X-Path. For all the no coders out there, this page is like manna from heaven.

Of course, what if something goes wrong with the web request? To handle failed web requests, it's best to enable error handling in the web request action followed by a Run-If action that can do some of the actions specified in the screenshot below.

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API's are almost everywhere in SharePoint - so you're not confined to simply work with list items anymore. Plus, you have more tools at your disposal as well. This will help workflow and forms solutions move from mere SharePoint apps to enterprise apps.

That’s it for the first day! I had fun and it was great meeting so many like minded people who are passionate about process automation and no code solutions. Stay tuned in the coming days for more of my dispatches from InspireX.

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