Integrating Appian BPM with SharePoint

Appian BPM is a workflow tool that allows you to model Business Processes and execute the in a repeatable fashion. Tools like this have broader tooling and support when compared to the Microsoft-only tools like SharePoint Designer and Workflow Foundation.

Appian currently offers an integration toolkit with SharePoint. I’ve listed the capabilities and design implications below.

  1. Infrastructure
    1. The Appian Integration kit creates their own web services to supplement what is offered by Microsoft out of the box. This requires you to install something on the web servers so the Appian-provided web services can use the SharePoint dlls.
    2. The integration works with both WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007.
    3. The integration toolkit currently supports Appian 5.7. Appian 6.0 support will be released in the first half of 2010.
    4. To support single-sign on between SharePoint and Appian, this approach requires Appian to be installed on a Windows server rather than a Linux server.
  2. Workflow
    1. The integration toolkit offers canned tasks for working in SharePoint like creating tasks, creating and deleting sites, and customizing permissions. These activities lend themselves to automating parts of your SharePoint governance plan. Appian discusses this use, and I think it provides an excellent solution for managing "site sprawl".
    2. Appian does not provide an out of the box feature to start a workflow from content in SharePoint. (eg. starting an Appian workflow from a new document upload). This capability requires a developer to use the Appian webservices from a SharePoint event handler.
    3. Appian also provides a web part to see Appian tasks and reports in a SharePoint web part. These webparts link back to the Appian server however, so users will not work only in the SharePoint environment. This approach mirrors what I have seen from other BPM providers as well.
    4. Appian provides a document picker if you choose to use SharePoint as a document repository and use Appian as the workflow environment.

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