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Easy-to-build apps are creating new possibilities for business users, both internally and outside the company walls. In this discussion, K2 CEO Adriaan van Wyk explains how technology is helping firms connect profitably with a broader range of customers and other stakeholders.
Q: You’ve spoken about how businesses can build applications on their own for an increasingly broad range of internal processes -- from temporary projects to ongoing core operations. But what about how these tools can help leverage resources outside the company?
A: We’re not only seeing the variety of uses expand, but also the network of customers and partners that a company can easily and economically engage with. These apps are so friendly and quick to build that it becomes very easy and seamless to involve people outside the organization. It’s a very interesting phenomenon that’s happening, and it brings a complete change of ROI. In practice, you can have a hundred-person company, but if you put these apps into the hands of partners, customers and other stakeholders, you can run a business that essentially employs 1,000 people even though you only have 100 on your payroll.
Q: So when you find a business problem to address, you don’t necessarily need to hire a bunch of employees or consultants to find the answers?
A: That’s the idea here. You can instead use technology to find the right communities to engage with and solve the problem that way; and it happens much more quickly and at a much lower cost.
Q: Can you talk about the software development that got us to this point?
A: If you go back to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the development of a business application tended to be incredibly expensive and complex. You’d have companies with thousands of people write an application that was generic enough so that most could use it. That’s how companies like SAP and large accounting and logistical systems grew in that era. In the 1990’s, technology started changing and we saw rapid application development tools make things easier and easier; there was a lot more custom development, with companies hiring in-house developers. And in the past decade it’s been almost a “big bang” of a shift toward browser-based online development. Today, we’ve gotten to the point where we can have solid apps that talk to your existing information and allow it to be shared with the right people so you can easily send work to people, discuss it and even change the business logic on the fly -- all with a user experience that feels normal and natural.
Q: Does this include mobile devices?
A: Absolutely, and that’s crucial because mobile has been highly impactful in creating this thirst for information and the expectation among business users that they should be able to reach for a mobile device in their pocket and be immediately productive.
Q: How do you help customers think through the possibilities, especially because so many customers seem pretty self-sufficient once they’re in the K2 environment?
A: We actually have a division in K2 on the customer success management side that, depending on how deeply you want to engage with us, can involve early-stage mentoring or broader training within the client organization.