Friday, February 8, 2013

Definitions #6: InfoPath Forms Author

InfoPath is the one component (add-on?) of SharePoint whose future may be in question. With the robustness of out-of-the-box SharePoint increasing with every new version, the need for InfoPath to extend the capabilities of SharePoint are decreasing.

That said, InfoPath is still widely used and supported in the enterprise.

What is InfoPath?

InfoPath is a XML forms authoring tool. InfoPath forms can be published to SharePoint or can be used stand-alone or integrated into e-mail to collect user-entered data, create reports, and also perform some calculations. InfoPath can easily utilize some of SharePoint's native web services to send and receive data, as well as auto-populate user profile information and other information. 

One of the most important thing to remember about a trained forms author is that he or she can implement a solution in InfoPath at a fraction of the cost of a full SharePoint developer and in a fraction of the time... and all without code.

InfoPath came to its peak (or so I believe at this time) with the 2007 version, and the capability of digital signatures in particular. InfoPath was improved but also morphed a bit in the 2010 version, adding a Contact Selector (aka People Picker) control natively. A contact selector was available as an Add-In for 2007 but a lot of configuring was required. With the improvements in SharePoint 2010 and the introduction of JQuery, tasks once limited to InfoPath can be easily accomplished with out-of-the-box SharePoint or with some additional manipulation with JQuery. Note: JQuery requires some knowledge of javascript. However, InfoPath requires no code in most cases and can be learned by someone with zero coding experience. Even though InfoPath is less needed with newer versions of SharePoint, it is still around and supported, and may still be utilized at any time.

From a qualifications standpoint, an InfoPath forms author should be well-versed as a Site Collection Administrator with experience with SharePoint Designer. This experience is necessary because the author will need to have to be a Site Collection Administrator to be able to publish forms, create workflows, customize permissions, etc.

Key Recruiting Takeaway: While InfoPath is a hard skillset to find, it is fairly easy to search for. Just type "InfoPath" in your resume searches and you should be able to find good matches, if they exist in your résumé databases.

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