Notes From The Field: Beyond SharePoint Workflow

Beyond SharePoint Workflow

What Companies Look For As A Next Step In Their BPM Journey

As I continue to work with customers and prospects, I find some common ground in those looking to expand beyond SharePoint Workflow and Forms (And those products that rely on the underlying engine) .   There is definitely a BPM journey that organizations seem to take, regardless of whether they realize they have embarked.  This journey almost always leads to expanding beyond the confines of SharePoint, as well as a deepening need for more complex capabilities.    Here are some of the common trends I see in organizations looking to take their business process management to the next step:

  • The Requirement for Complex Workflow Patterns (With No Code) – simple serial workflows can only take you so far, and organizations quickly realize that rework steps, and moving to previous steps in any process is an absolute necessity in common business flow.  Having a BPM platform that integrates with SharePoint lists and libraries, and provides support for all types of workflow patterns can provide immense value, and eliminate the need for complex custom code and management of state.
Complex Workflow in SharePoint
Rework Should Not = Custom Code
  • Wanting Reusable, Shared Data Layer and Simple LOB Data Access – Accessing external data in SharePoint can be challenging, and I find many companies are looking to simplify the integration with external business systems.  The tiresome process of setting up Business Connectivity Services/External Lists in SharePoint, and maintaining them can be problematic.   A reusable model, as seen in K2’s smartobjects, can provide agility and reduce the overall time required to configure forms, workflow and reports.  The “create once” and reuse theme provides power and flexibility.
SharePoint External System Integration with Data
Simple, Visual Data Integration Tools
  • The Need to Surface Forms and Workflows Outside of SharePoint – SharePoint is a great tool, but should every form and workflow live  within its UI?  More and more, I am seeing organizations that want to have business apps (forms, workflow, data and reports) that live outside of SharePoint and can stand alone.  This is especially true when it comes to mobility, and the need to support various device types with web-based forms.
Supporting SharePoint access through mobile devices
Support for Mobile
  • The Need for A Broad Set of Design Tools – BPM in any organization is a broad undertaking, and usually involves a wide variety of individuals, with varying skill sets.  With Business Process Design, one size does not fit all, and organizations are looking to support power users, business analysts and developers.  See my post: BPA, BPM and Design.

So, in summary, if you are looking to step outside of the SharePoint workflow engine and its forms capabilities, take some time to evaluate your next step in the journey and focus on at least these 4 points.   For some additional considerations, see the below post:

10 Key Features In 3rd Party SharePoint Solutions

Comments?  Thoughts?

SharePoint 2010 End of Life

SharePoint 2010 Workflow end of life

Where will all the workflow go?

We have passed the end of life of SharePoint 2010, and it will no longer be supported through standard support as of 10/13/2015.  This will force the hand of customers that have been lagging behind in migration to SharePoint 2013/SharePoint Online, and it will be quite interesting to see how customers will transition.   Many of the prospects and customers I see in the field are slowly moving their content in phased projects from 2010 to 2013.

If you haven’s evaluated your forms and workflow options, it is a great time to examine your future platform for both forms (Move away from InfoPath), and workflow.  K2 is a great option for an overall BPM/BPA platform, and can help bridge the gap during migration, as we support SharePoint 2010, 2013/Online.

End of life announcement below:

SharePoint 2010 End of Life 10-13-2015

For more information on an InfoPath replacement, see: InfoPath Replacement in K2

To see how you can transition your SharePoint 2010 Workflow to K2, see:  SharePoint 2010/2013 Workflow with K2


Business Process Management for Small Business: Finally Affordable

Workflow and Digital Forms for the small business

Digital Forms and Workflow Can Give You a Key Advantage

For the longest time, the Business Process Management tool set has been out of reach for the Small Business.  Digital Forms, Workflow and Reporting on Process were way too expensive, and business settled for “poor man’s” workflow: spreadsheets and email.  The landscape has changed, and there are now a broad variety of cloud-based tools available and at a price point that just makes sense from a Return on Investment (ROI) perspective.  For $500 to $1000 per month, a 100 person business can now glean all the advantages or process automation and digital transformation (read paperless 😉 ).  Below are some core areas where small businesses are driving efficiency and improvement:

  1. Digital Transformation – Most businesses see document scanning as a path to the paperless office.  But with digital forms and workflow, you never create paper, and your documents and processes are “born digital.”  Preventing paper provides powerful efficiency, and makes insight and reporting to your business process a snap.  Whether it is automating your sales order process or managing customer service, digital business process can transform any small business.
  2. Customer Service – Providing top-notch customer service can be difficult for small companies that just don’t have enough staff to handle the ebb and flow of the business cycle.  Using technology to automate customer communication and interaction makes sure that customers are served promptly, and all interactions are tracked.
  3. Foundation for Growth – Growth can be a blessing and a curse, and adding headcount is not always an option.  The process automation that business process management software brings to the table can keep costs low, maximize efficiency and productivity,  and let you add employees where needed.
  4. Business Applications – Have you ever just wanted a quick little application to solve a business issue?  Say you want to manage product returns, manage time off for employees, or just build a structured way to gather new ideas from employees.  With BPM software, it’s like having your own custom software development team in-house.  Drag and drop to build anything, only limited by your imagination.

So what does one of these application look like?  Where can you get more information?  K2 has a fantastic workflow, forms and reports product for small business called Appit.  Below is a quick video overview of the company and products:


Want more info to see how K2 can change your business today?


BYOA in Healthcare: Quick Sample of a Rapidly Built Advice Nurse App

Healthcare process automation

Workflow and Forms in Healthcare, Hospitals and Medical Clinics

Building Your Own Apps

I wanted to share a quick proof of concept I built for a healthcare organization that was struggling with automating their process in their telephone nurse advice center.  This video shows using K2 Workflow, Forms and Data to build out a quick app for managing calls, and the new tele-patient process.   This process was built using K2 blackpearl, the no-code Business Process Applications (BPA) platform.

Here is a great link for more info on BYOA in Healthcare and Medical: Business Process Apps in Healthcare

Location, Location, Location: GeoData Value in Forms, Workflow and Reports

Adding a New Dimension to Your Data: Location Services

Having been a Flight Officer in the Navy, one of my core duties was navigation.   Position was everything, especially in the expanse of the Pacific Ocean, or in the tight spaces of the Persian Gulf.   In the beginning, it was all about using our Inertial Nav System (INS).   A box with gyros that  used inertia to determine position.  Then we received hand-held Garmin GPS units as a test squadron, and nav was reinvented.  At that time, our GPS used the military system, and we had pinpoint accuracy at any point in time, and we used it with all our other systems to maintain navigation accuracy.

Now here we are in 2015.  Everyone has a GPS in the palm of their hand, or in their back pocket, and positional data is available at any time.  The modern GPS chipsets utilize not only GPS technology, but also leverage the wi-fi hotspots and cellular networks triangulation to get down to under 10m in accuracy (in many cases under 3m,  see this cool test here: GPS Device Accuracy).  In the past, if a business wanted geo-data for any type of purpose, they needed to invest in an expensive infrastructure of hardware devices and software, and the capability would only be given to a handful of people as it was cost prohibitive to make it pervasive.

K2 Geo-enabled Form with Location Services

Along with the pervasive hardware today, Business Process Application (BPA) platforms now provide “location services” to surface GPS/location data in their forms from just about any device type.  What type of information is available?  Latitude, longitude, altitude, accuracy estimates, position time stamp and position age.  So what are some use cases, and how can this all be leveraged?  See below for some industry ideas:

Oil, Gas and Natural Resources – obviously, and organization with field-based assets can leverage positional technology.  Take a field technician working on a well, where his positional information is reported back to a supervisor and mapped.  Maybe a mining company doing an asset inventory across all their mines, and creating a real-time database of equipment position.

Government – there is a great opportunity for just about any level of government to leverage this technology, whether it is a city allowing citizens to report potholes, or a county assessor surveying property, with positional information at their disposal, services can be accelerated.

Law Enforcement and Fire – imagine a fire fighter that could walk the line of a forest fire, and report back real-time to the command center.  Maybe a disaster recovery effort where just mobile phones can be utilized to crowd source information.

Construction – with all employees on site armed with positional information, management can get real-time information on progress of jobs, location of assets, and automatic location reporting of safety incidents.

K2 Location-enabled smartform On iPad
K2 Location-enabled smartform On iPad

So how can a BPA platform utilize this information?  See below:

Geo-enabled Digital Forms – forms are for data collection, and with location services enabled, positional information can be transferred with any form submission.  This data can be stored, and used for trend analysis, mapping or decision-making all based on location.

Real Time Decisions – with smartform technology, dynamic form decisions can be made based on location information.  Maybe the currency on a form is auto-adjusted based on the location, or available options in a drop down list are adjusted based on position.

Workflow and Branching – when a form is utilized to initiate a digital business process, that information is now carried through the process, and work can be routed based on location.  How about a workflow that routes to an appropriate service manager based on region?

Reporting – With a location dimension now enabled, organizations can now use mapping for trending and analysis.  This data dimension can be compiled without any further information entry from end users, and can just become part of any submission.

Just some thoughts…more to come on the topic.





Build vs. Buy: A Whitepaper and Case Study for All CIOs

Business Process Applications

Build or Buy? Some Key Information


Every story is the same, with some minor differences.  IT departments are struggling, and trying to avoid becoming full time software development houses.  But let’s face it, building custom applications, forms and integrations is just part of the job.  I wanted to share this cool video and white paper put out by K2 focused on the “Build vs. Buy” dilemma.

They conducted an experiment with two developers of equal experience level.  They had one build out an expense application with a variety of forms in custom code (, and the other built out the application using K2 smartforms.

“I have newfound respect for the power of K2 smartforms.
Put any ASP.NET developer through this exercise,
and they will come to the exact same conclusion –
this product is freakin’ awesome!” Eugene, the Dev

They predicted that K2 would be 4x faster, but in the end, it was 8x faster than custom dev.  The white paper here outlines all the requirements of the project, as well as some other details:

White paper: Easy vs. Hard : A True Story of the Power of K2

And here is the video they put together that shows a time-lapse:


The IT Dream: Self-service SharePoint Project Sites

SharePoint Sites and Lists Auto-Creation

SharePoint Site and List Auto-creation Through Self-service

So, this past week I had a few inquiries about how organizations can use K2 Forms and Workflow to automate IT SharePoint tasks.  Any organization that uses SharePoint sites for project management could leverage this tool for site and list auto-creation.  In the video demo below, I outline how you can use a simple SharePoint list to drive self service SharePoint creation tasks.



More on IT Management with BPM here:  Is IT Missing the BPM Boat?

Irvine Event with Microsoft and K2: Unlock the Power of the Cloud

Cloud based apps in SharePoint and Office 365

Leverage Office 365 and Salesforce in Cloud Business Apps

More and more companies are moving to the cloud to save money and drive productivity.  But are you really getting all you can out of your cloud=based applications? Microsoft Office 365 has set a new bar for productivity platforms, and as a result, businesses far and wide are scrambling to leverage the power of its tools. If you have moved – or are moving – to Office 365, customizing your investment and integrating with your LOB apps and CRM solutions doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming.

Join K2 and Microsoft at the Microsoft Technology Center in Irvine on May 21, 2015 to learn more and see the power of integrating cloud based-apps.

Click to Register




Business Apps in Financial Services and Banking

Banking Workflow and Forms

Mortgage/Loans in SharePoint

BPA: Solving 5 Top SAP Business App Challenges

SAP Workflow, Forms, Reports

Making SAP Workflow, Forms and Reports a Snap with Smart Data

SAP can be a challenge for many CIOs trying to stay on budget and meet a demanding deployment schedule.  Projects that focus on building business apps that connect to the ERP system have traditionally required teams of developers and experts to create custom solutions.  Below are 5 top challenges:

  1. Business apps should reduce complexity and increase agility.
  2. Business apps should reduce or bypass SAP user interface challenges
  3. Business apps should build bridges between technology silos.
  4. Business apps should speed up implementation
  5. Business apps should maintain governance and speed up approval cycles

For a full explanation of how to solve each of these core challenges, see the full report: Solving SAP Business App Challenges