Transitioning off InfoPath Forms – Lessons Learned from the Front Lines

InfoPath forms were once considered the work horse for creating customized forms. With InfoPath forms deprecated and slated to be retired by 2023, organizations are increasingly looking to transition off legacy InfoPath based solutions.

Often InfoPath based solutions are viewed as a collection of individual forms that need to be transitioned off to a new platform. The problem with this approach is that this often leads to a disjointed solution and inefficient design.

In addition, with the passage of time, processes and business needs change. To meet these changing requirements, Information systems tend to be a patchwork of updates, which in time leads to inefficiencies. This eventually renders the legacy solutions unreliable and inefficient.

InfoPath based solutions were designed and implemented to better match the capabilities of the InfoPath forms. Transitioning off InfoPath forms requires a holistic review of the entire solution is necessary. Before choosing a platform to replace the InfoPath forms or starting solution design, highly recommend the following

  1. Evaluate Current State – It is essential to understand the current state of the solution. The older the solution is, the documentation is most likely out of sync. With respect to InfoPath forms, it is important to understand the solution’s
    1. Data access needs
    2. Integration with third party systems
    3. Security needs
    4. Code behind used on forms
    5. Are the InfoPath forms workflow based?
    6. Business validations
    7. Other customizations
  2. Determine Future State:
    1. Business Value /Need – If the legacy solution is still relevant and is being actively used. This will also help identify quantify the business value of the solution, ROI and help make a financial case for transitioning off InfoPath based solution.
    2. What worked and what didn’t work?

      Transitioning off InfoPath based solutions, essentially requires re- implementing the solution. This presents an excellent opportunity to re -design the solution to better meet today’s business needs.

      Start by evaluating if any part or feature of the solution has become obsolete or no longer being used. It is possible that the business requirements may have changed since the solution was first implemented. Alternatively, the latest versions of SharePoint/ Office 365 provide capabilities/ options that allow for certain OOTB features to be leveraged without requiring the need for a customized solution.

      Strongly recommend getting feedback from business users and IT admins, people who interact and manage the InfoPath based solution on a day – to – day basis.

    3. User Interface – InfoPath provided very limited capabilities in terms of responsiveness and was not mobile friendly. Both responsive design

      and mobile friendly are essential features and determines user adoption and how end users will interact with the web application.

  3. Choosing a Platform to replace InfoPath: There are several alternative platforms that could be considered as viable alternatives to replace InfoPath. The decision comes down to 3C’s
    1. Capabilities
    2. Cost
    3. Compatibility (with existing platforms)

InfoPath Replacement Alternatives

Below is a comparison of the three most commonly considered alternatives

  1. Microsoft’s Power Platform
  2. Nintex Modern Forms and Workflow Platforms
  3. Custom SPFx/ .Net SharePoint Forms
  1. Microsoft’s Power Platform

    1. Technology

      1. Forms Platform: PowerApps
      2. Workflow Platform: Microsoft Flow/ Azure Logic Apps
      3. Data Storage: Common Data Service (CDS), SharePoint
    2. Features and Considerations:

      1. Highly scalable and flexible
      2. Tightly integrated with SharePoint and Office 365
      3. In- built support for responsive design
      4. PowerApps provides limited capability in terms of reusing across SharePoint solutions
      5. Cloud based solution, requires a data gateway to be setup to leverage PowerApps on a on-premises SharePoint environment

      Additional information on the platform can be found here

  2. Nintex Modern Forms and Workflow platforms

    1. Technology

      1. Forms Platform: Nintex Forms
      2. Workflow Platform: Nintex Workflows
      3. Data Storage: SharePoint
    2. Features and Considerations:

      1. Dedicated On-premises version available
      2. Truly a no-code alternative solution (Designed for use by Power users)
      3. In- built support for responsive design and mobile friendly
      4. Forms can be difficult to reuse across SharePoint solutions
      5. Licensing implications that come with third-party tools

    Additional information on the platform can be found here

  3. Custom SPFx/ .Net SharePoint Forms

    1. Technology

      1. Forms Platform: SharePoint Framework
      2. Workflow Platform: Nintex Workflows, Microsoft Flow, Custom solution
      3. Data Storage: SharePoint / SQL / Azure Database
    2. Features and Considerations:

      1. Fully extensible – Flexibility to leverage different technologies
      2. Highly customizable, ability to meet the exact needs of the business
      3. Ability to support responsive design
      4. Implementation is effort intensive
      5. Requires highly skilled resources to maintain the solution

Additional information on the platform can be found here