I’ve been in many organizations where basic solutions like Infopath and Sharepoint forms are used for critical business processes. Employee on and off boarding is very popular, just like many other HR, Travel and IT forms. A problem I’ve often seen with such solutions is that they are created by an individual with some knowledge and a lot of best intentions. After many weeks of hard work, the form is working as expected and even the workflow executes the steps required. For months the solution will work as expected and the organizations becomes more and more dependent on them.
When the original developer is no longer working within the organization or not available to do modifications, trouble begins. The Infopath based solutions become outdated, incorrect and finally useless. It becomes painfully clear that long-term support was not considered during development and only short term benefits counted.
In my opinion low initial development and license costs should never be a reason to choose a certain solution. On the long term costs will be must higher and more important business processes may be hampered.
A better approach to build request forms and fulfillment workflows is to use a Service Catalog solution. A Service Catalog portal is able to offer a variety of request forms to employees. It can contains a combination of HR, Facility, IT, Security, travel and/or Logistic requests. All departments make use of the same software and support staff that is maintaining the catalog. You will never run into the issue of lost knowledge or inability to adapt to new demands. A well-managed Service Catalog brings users an easy-to-use and recognizable interface across all internal service providers and organizations the ability to constantly adapt to new demands.
License costs of a Service Catalog will probably be higher than using the available Microsft Office Infopath solution, however development and maintenance costs over a period of 5 years will be much lower. Operational maintenance can on such a Service Catalog solution and adjustments or extensions to forms are supported.
Now that Microsoft has announced to discontinue Infopath and Sharepoint Forms, there is another reason to stop using these ad-hoc solutions and start building a Service Catalog with software fit for the purpose.
Raymond is co-founder and owner of SMTX Software, provider of Service Catalog software solutions.