Future of Forms in SharePoint: Latest trends and what most decision makers say

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It's been almost 4 years since Microsoft announced InfoPath to reach end of life by 2023 (Updated: 2026 as pointed out by one of the readers). What we're seeing though, that most customers, 38% surveyed last week, still use InfoPath and planning to do so until viable alternative comes from Microsoft. The next runner up are custom forms with 24% of respondents as a preferred choice. So what's happening here?

Why are people still on InfoPath?

Let's look at some of the reasons we're hearing and what you might be hearing in your organization:

  • "If it ain't broken, don't fix it". If you're already using InfoPath in your business, unless you have digital transformation project underway - what's the point of replatforming.
  • "2026 is a long time from now". True; many businesses these days refresh their systems once every 3-5 years and that's plenty of time to let InfoPath sit for a little bit longer.
  • "People here like it". If you've got InfoPath - you've got someone to support it. If you're not experiencing any pain from maintaining InfoPath form it's probably because you've got a unsung hero who maintains it.

3rd party tools?

Nintex forms, K2 forms, and many more smaller form solutions all compete in forms for SharePoint business. So why aren't people flocking to those? In fact 24% of our respondents said they already Use Nintex alone. Here is what we hear:

  • "Why would I pay for something that's already free in SharePoint" - it's true, having InfoPath, in most cases, free for a long time sets a bias that form solutions should not cost and should be out-of-the-box. We hear this over and over. There is also fed by a hope that Microsoft also recognizes this and is just about to release full next gen form solution. We'll get to that a bit further.
  • "Cost of migrations" - ok so you've decided to invest in Nintex for example. Now you've got to find Nintex resource/developer to migrate all of your forms. It's expensive just like any other transformation project.
  • "Not sure how viable is [3rd party product] roadmap and support". People are worried that smaller vendors just don't have far enough vision, roadmap and support standard. Many customers worry that if Microsoft dropped their form solution, so can any small vendor and then they're stuck with unsupported already invested costs on migration.

What about PowerApps?

About a year ago PowerApps went into preview and became generally available October last year. Yet, only the smallest percentage of people, 14% of those surveyed, are using PowerApps today. Why is that?
Here is what we hear:

  • "PowerApps are just not powerful enough". Many still believe that things you can do with PowerApps are far from what they consider production solution to replace InfoPath or their custom forms.
  • "They seem to be only focused on mobile". At the time when InfoPath was announced to be phased out, mobile was a key priority for Microsoft and PowerApps played that role too. That's just obvious from reading a first paragraph of statement from Microsoft. Forms created with PowerApps look amazing on the phone and I can still hardly believe you can make them available on a mobile so quickly, but how they look on a desktop is far from credible.
  • "We're not in Office 365 to be able to use them". PowerApps do support gateway to extract data from on-prem lists and libraries but you need Office 365 to be able to build and deploy PowerApps even if you're not storing data in Office 365 (Update: as long as you can authenticate to O365, as pointed out by the reader). This is a major turn off for organizations not currently in the cloud because all of the sudden form migration turns into a cloud migration.

Custom forms anyone?

  • "Cost of development". With great power of building anything you want, comes a lot of responsibility. Business requirements, build, and deployment. Unless your organization has accessible development team (contract or your own resources) you're not likely to go into custom development of forms. However, if you're re-building core business solution and require custom form logic already, in house forms are not such a big of a barrier.
  • "users need to be able to maintain those forms on our own" - power users believe they should be able to build simple forms just as easily as they build Excel spreadsheets rather than reaching out to developers and that's fair and valid point. Although this can be achieved with custom solution, it's a bit more effort and cost of implementation may be less desirable.

So, what should you do?

Here is what we hear these day from many decision makers:

  • "We're waiting till PowerApps mature, until then we're on InfoPath"
  • "We're building custom forms to better fit what we're trying to do"
  • "We're in a middle of migrating key forms to Nintex"
  • "[Vendors] should have migration tools to migrate our existing InfoPath forms"

What experts say

Here is our guidance. Start small with a pilot project first before settling on any specific direction.

Just like riding a train, it's not about where everyone else is going, it's where do you want to go to.

If you're on InfoPath already, and there isn't major transformation initiative in planning, wait a couple of years. Microsoft has recently switched their top focus away from mobile and this is likely to reflect on the direction PowerApps is taking. This means forms might be easier to deal with on a full fidelity device.

If you're planning any kind of IT transformation project try to bundle and migrate your InfoPath forms with it - either use Nintex or build custom forms. If can't fulfill requirements by using Nintex, build custom solution since customizing 3rd party can be more challenging than building form from the scratch. Also consider whether your forms need to be built by Power users in large quantities, if the answer is yes, you might want to consider 3rd party solution which supports templating etc.

What are your thoughts and what do you think is Microsoft missing from their forms strategy today?

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Yaroslav Pentsarskyy has been a Microsoft MVP for 8 years and speaker at many local and worldwide tech events. Several of Yaroslav's books include: Rapid SharePoint 2013 development, Top 60 custom solutions built on SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2010 branding in practice, and SharePoint and PowerShell Expert Cookbook.

@spentsarsky