I type this blog post at the dawn of a new era: Spikes has always been an early adopter when it comes to cloud solutions and I am happy to announce that K2 onboarded us on their latest product: K2 Appit. We are one of the first EU companies – if not THE first – to get our hands on this shiny new toy. So what is this Appit thingamajig everybody seems to keep talking about?
K2 Appit is to K2 Blackpearl what SharePoint Online is to SharePoint 2013
Simply put, Appit is a cloud-product allowing you to build complex workflow and forms applications on SharePoint, all without a single line of code.
In case you are familiar with K2’s flagship product K2 Blackpearl you might have already encountered the following acronym which captures the essence of K2’s activities and as such also applies to Appit; K2 FAST FWD:
- Fast Forms
- Fast Workflow
- Fast Data
K2’s products allows you to quickly build Forms, integrating Data from a wide variety of back-end systems and use them in complex Workflows even if you might not necessarily be familiar with any programming languages. So you want to extend your SharePoint list forms to also show contact information stored in Microsoft Dynamics CRM? No problem! You want to start an approval workflow when your account manager uploads a contract revision to a SharePoint document library and automatically update your business partner’s contract status in SAP after the revision has been approved? No problem! Or perhaps you want to allow end-users to request new SharePoint sites and create these sites automatically, all without writing a single line of code, while also notifying the user’s manager? You guessed it… No problem! Obviously this isn’t the full extent of what K2 Appit is capable of so I’ll spend some time trying to give you a brief – and most likely far from complete – overview of what it can mean for your corporation or that of your customer.
- It allows you to design reusable Forms which, without any extra effort, are compatible with your desktop as well as your tablet and/or smartphone. And while on the topic of device compatibility: did I mention that tasks generated by workflows can be actioned on your mobile device even when your device is not connected to a network? K2’s workflow engine will store your decisions and automatically sync them when connectivity is restored. So why not approve some holiday requests while in between meetings or waiting for the train?
- You can create complex Workflows coupled with insightful reports so you can find out which steps in the process take up most of the time and could potentially be streamlined.
- K2 Appit is able to integrate Data stored in a wide variety of back-end systems, with out-of-the-box connectivity to SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, Microsoft CRM Online, Azure SQL, SQL Server and ALL systems that allow communication via web services: a feature which every self-respecting software system should include anyway 😉
So why am I – and my fellow developers with me – this excited about the product if K2 Blackpearl, its on-premise counterpart already covered most – if not all – of the functionality K2 Appit provides? There are many reasons, but I’ll try to summarize them into two main categories: intellectual and commercial. From an intellectual perspective their choice of abandoning the one-time license cost in favor of a monthly subscription fee significantly lowers the barrier for businesses to try out the product and get a taste of its functionality before fully committing their resources to it. This encourages the fine folks at K2 to convince these users by churning out even more great features and really pushes them to polish the user experience to new heights. Combine this with the shorter release cycles that are typically associated with cloud products and it’s clear to see that we as designer/developers will always have plenty of new tools to look forward to, which will be in our hands faster than ever, all wrapped in a nice and tidy product that is a pleasure to work with – tl;dr: Life is good!
From a commercial point of view it allows us to offer our services to a wider array of customers:
- Customers that are aware of the advantages of cloud based solutions but also of the risks associated with switching technologies and are looking for an experienced partner to help them make the transition so they can focus on their core business.
- Small and medium businesses that had previously turned aside K2 Blackpearl because of its flat license cost who might want to revisit that decision in favor of K2 Appit’s pay-per-user business model.
Needless to say this market is rapidly expanding, which was proven again last month when Microsoft announced its cloud-based revenue had doubled for the fourth consecutive quarter. It’s hard to imagine that Charles Darwin had the IT landscape of the 21st century in mind when he first used the phrase “survival of the fittest” but he couldn’t have been more right: businesses either evolve or they perish. And like the first birds taking to the sky must have thought: There is a whole new world up there for us to explore.