In the last few weeks, I have been asked to explain what K2 is. I attempted this a few times and came up with an essay, that sort of explains what K2 is all about 🙂 Wanna read it?
Let’s imagine a scenario. Say you are buying a laptop through work. You send a couple of emails around and get the go ahead from someone up the management hierarchy. After this, you send a few more emails, attaching original approval details – a bit of copying/pasting information – and it goes to someone for action.
They basically need to get some quotes, order your laptop, pay for it and setup the payroll deductions and confirm delivery, that’s it. To do this they perhaps need to send a few emails, make some calls, web searches and use a couple of applications.
Now, think what happens when you haven’t heard anything back from that person for sometime? You lookup this person’s number and call to ask what happened. Guess what, you find out that they haven’t even received your email. You sent it to the wrong Sam.
So, you resend this email (you had this email flagged) , BUT what you didn’t know is that they are going on annual leave tomorrow. (Their calendar wasn’t shared with yours)
They come back from leave, go through their inbox full of emails and overlook your purchase request email. And you are sitting here expecting a delivery.
After a while, you pick up the phone and they get on to actioning your email. By now they have missed the discount period of the preferred supplier. Few more phone calls and frustrating weeks later the product finally arrives, and you go on that long service leave! (OK, I am exaggerating :))
When you have people involved with information moving back and forth between them, you need a system to support that. Emails and phone calls just won’t make it.
Electronic forms automation systems play in this problem domain. They can be the purchase order systems with in-built workflow. They provide a solution for this sort of problems.
We also have similar problems in areas other than purchasing. Some of these areas are well understood and have domain specific solutions. Some of these solutions are good but usually complex, expensive and not so flexible/easy to work with.
You need a system that can help with avoiding data duplication, data errors, missing key dates for delivery, getting the right people to do the tasks, share the work around, help you reuse information that already exists in your various systems.
A system that tells you what is happening with this particular request, who’s got it, how long its been there, etc.
A system that supports you to re-assign work when work load is high, when people are out of office, etc.
A system that can support many of these business processes interacting with and leveraging each other.
You need a Business Process Management system that allows the users to spot bottlenecks and change the processes, track, manage and control these changes, have audit trails and secure access to data and enable users to create and run their reports that provide information they need to make decisions.
There’s already a lot of valuable data available in organisations. The trouble is being able to get to it. This system should help you get to this data easily and use it within these business processes.
This system should integrate well with your existing front ends, easy to learn, use and extend.
This system should help all users – business and technical – in your organisation to be good at what they are doing and be able to build the applications they need, themselves.
They should not have to code but collaboratively assemble these business process applications. They do not have to wait on IT to deliver applications solely. They should be able to participate in this application delivery and help IT to help them.
Electronic forms automation is a very valuable starting point. Imagine taking this basic IT solution and making it as a dynamic business application that can be changed by users and enhanced by IT easily, as your requirements change.
How good is that going to be?