Are you getting the most value from K2 blackpearl?

29 Apr

As a BPM architect and business analyst I’m in the fairly unique position of having seen how companies all over the world are using K2 blackpearl. It would be nice to be able to say that they are all going about it the right way, but I find that most companies aren’t. That’s not in any way judging anyone, but in reality the best way of using any techology comes from experience, and in most cases companies don’t have the time (or budget) to spend getting experience and building up the expertise to tackle a workflow project using industry best practices.

This isn’t going to be a K2 blackpearl best practices guide, but here are a few checks and balances to make sure you’re on the right track:

1. Get results fast.

As a rule of thumb I feel that I and my team should be able to deliver a useable, valuable workflow project within 3 months. If it takes longer than that then I have a good look at the project – sometimes it’s a large project and there’s a good reason for a longer timescale – but our rule of thumb is 3 months.

2. Choose the right technology.

Spend the time at the start of the project to choose the right tecchnology to fit around K2. In many cases this is simple – you can safely go straight to Microsoft SQL Server and know you’ve chosen well. The business part is usually simple as well – you’re going to be using .Net. The choice of UI technology, however, is critical. Are you going to use ASP.Net? Forms? InfoPath? SharePoint lists? All have their pros and cons, but if you make the wrong choice here you’re going to pay for it over and over again. This leads me to…

3. Fit the requirements to the tech, not the other way round.

Once you’ve chosen your tech, accept the limitations and live with them. There’s no silver bullet technology to solve all your problems. The first thing you want to do at the start of the project is print out a big sign which says “it is what it is” and hang it on the wall in the meeting room.

The most common time I see people struggling with this is with InfoPath. InfoPath is a great technology for getting results fast. I can get a great looking UI done with back end integration in almost no time at all, especially with SmartObject technology. But it’s not ASP.Net. I’ve seen people take InfoPath so far beyond what it’s meant to do that the result is completely un-useable. But I’ve also seen a company which asked “what is InfoPath good at”, they focused on those areas and the result is probably the most successful K2 project I’ve ever seen.

4. Invest time in the API.

Blackpearl has a great API. It deserves to be treated like any API, i.e. don’t just start coding and hope for the best – dig deep first and then build up a re-useable framework using the API. We do this for every project we do, and now we have a well-written, well-documented re-useable, TESTED, generic K2 framework to pop into any project. And no – our framework isnt’ for sale 🙂

5. Buy K2 skills into your project.

I once worked for a .Net startup in London. The company was started by about 15 consultants from a major consultancy company who thought that they could send their consultants on a 2 week .Net course and then write enterprise software. After a few months they hired me. The first thing I told them to do was to delete everything and start again from scratch. What a way to make friends!

My point here is that there is a very experienced community out there, and it’s worth investing in getting it done right. This is possibly the most important point I can make. Buy in the right skills. You have a number of options:

  1. Hire an architect with K2 experience.
  2. Contact K2 directly and ask them to recommend some help.
  3. Contact a K2 partner.

You don’t need to outsource your whole project. At the very least, if your budget is tight you can buy 2 weeks of time from a recommended K2 partner and get your architecture and design correct from day 1. We do this all the time for people. If you start off in the wrong direction you will pay for it in the long run. Again, and again, and again, and again…

Hope that helps!

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in SmartObjects


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