Wednesday, October 15, 2008

K2 [blackpoint] on Silverlight - my first impression!

On Friday October 10th, I participated in a SourceCode’s webcast regarding the Silverlight version of their new product K2 [blackpoint]. Having already tested Windows client of Blackpoint, it was interesting to see how Silverlight edition compliments K2 framework… but first things first:
What we all know about K2 [blackpoint] is that it is a new addition to K2 product line which we can use to build a dynamic process- driven applications, using SharePoint and its integrated services. K2 [blackpoint] offers a new opportunity for developers to deliver a powerful , simplified and easier to maintain business process without writing a code. What is new here is that K2 [blackpoint] is a new advanced product not only for the developers but also for business users allowing them to manage the processes at any time when their business requires it. Most important, K2 [blackpoint] already has a new design platform incorporating all main features required to plan business processes quickly and efficiently.
K2 [blackpoint] structure is built on Microsoft Silverlight which provides rich functionality to browsers. While Silverlight is still a relatively new product, K2 [blackpoint] provides many sophisticated features, which contribute for the successful and friendly usage of the Designer.
The new K2 [blackpoint ] designer is aimed at non technical personnel. It consists of a standalone application so you do not have to own Visual Studio or Visio. The web version provides an easy and simple development platform for enterprises without hassle of installing software on each single workstation. You can build an entire application just by using the visual designer. You do not need to write a single line of code.
Writing complex and intuitive applications on K2 [blackpoint] with Silverlight is as easy as it can be. You no longer need to develop and use complex JavaScript libraries. You can use a simple XML driven language and a powerful visual editor to accomplish the same effect. Another clear benefit is that K2 [blackpoint] uses XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language). XAML is a declarative XML-based language used to define data binding, events and UI elements in WPF and Silverlight applications, and to define workflows in Windows Workflow Foundation.
If we continue to walk through the new K2 product then I would like to point out that now we can set the properties of the workflow faster than before, using many user-friendly features such as: Outcome Templates for adjusting the process activities, numerous Wizards that will help you optimize your company's workflow and building many business entities.

While K2 [Blackpearl] Designer is a tool for expert developers with its integration with Visual Studio and extendable workflow foundation technology, K2 [blackpoint] is a scaled down and simplified version which can be used anywhere in the world directly from your web browser. Its intuitive design delivers the power of SharePoint and workflow to the common user.
It will be fair to say that K2 Blackpoint Designer on SIlverlight as any other web application cannot compete in performance with a standalone native applications. Luckily user can choose between the two - a standalone K2 [blackpoint] designer or Silverlight version of it.
K2 [blackpoint] has the capacity to design some business solutions efficiently from within the Microsoft SharePoint environment. K2 [blackpoint]’s “native” integration with SharePoint and Outlook will help you optimize information flow in your company. You may configure all SharePoint web parts according to your needs. This includes processes that will manage lists and libraries, list items and documents or content types.

As we continue reviewing K2 [blackpoint] I will say that it delivers the opportunity to work in the same environment as in K2 [blackpearl], so if you are familiar with the K2 [blackpearl] tools and services you will need minimal training effort to transition. In the same time K2 [blackpoint] training would be a good investment if you want to enable your business users to take charge of process development and maintenance.
Let’s look at a particular project which uses InfoPath forms. If you want your workflow to gather information from people who will submit the forms then you need to start an initial project in K2 Studio which will integrate InfoPath template. Then it could be used from the K2 Process Portal. The support of InfoPath forms makes the process more efficient and user friendly for audiences who will develop the whole process.
Before we test how our process works we have to check the security settings. We have to be sure that the appropriate permissions are set for the users who will operate with the processes. After specifying the required users’ role in the SharePoint Administration section we can start testing to be assured that our processes works according to our needs. This will include launching our integrated InfoPath form, filling it out and then submitting it. Then depending on your workflow settings and implemented activities it could be reviewed, approved or declined.
If you need to monitor process instances you can take a look at Process Instances panel. This panel is a new feature of the K2 designer, which makes administration of processes much more mature and efficient.

I would like to emphasize that K2 [blackpoint] supports Smart Object Service Integration to connect to your Line of Business systems. While you cannot create new SmartObjects in K2 [blackpoint], you can reuse already pre-created SmartObjects or you can procure their development by K2 partners.
K2 [blackpoint] focuses on building complete process using Sharepoint and InfoPath. While it is a great advantage for some clients, it is disadvantage for others. There is still a large pool of companies who like K2 workflow framework but do not want to invest in Sharepoint/InfoPath infrastructure. In our next article, I will highlight what iTechnology offers for non-Sharepoint clients.

Also if you would like to see K2 [blackpoint] demo, or interested in K2 Blackpoint/Blackpearl training, please feel free to contact us at
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