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Current Role: Principal Systems AnalystExperience: Native .NET developer and K2 app creatorBusiness Challenges: Microsoft InfoPath migration and improving customer satisfaction through process automation Integrations with K2: Microsoft Dynamics GP, Avantis (ERP system) and Microsoft TFSFavorite K2 feature: Powerful extensibility, hands down – other competing products don’t come closeHobbies: Watching movies in his home theatre (complete with a digital projector and tiered seating), photography and taking road trips around the country with his wife and their “furry children” After a long week: Tim enjoys a good cookout. He loves BBQ, but don’t try to serve him anything that was cooked in an oven with liquid smoke. It’s natural wood smoke or nothing!
“In my role, I often have to get creative in my use of various tools to solve a problem. It’s analogous to Batman leveraging those wonderful gadgets and toys he has on his tool belt.”
And just as The Dark Knight was one of the earliest superheroes, Tim too is a veteran of his industry. Over his 26 years with Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. (AECI), he has watched the world of corporate programming evolve from relying heavily on native code to leveraging out-of-the-box solutions. When asked how he has adjusted to the introduction of a low-code design interface like K2, Tim acknowledges a bit of resistance.
“Like many long-time developers, my natural tendency is to see the world in terms of problems to be solved by writing code, and I needed time to adjust to a product like K2. “
Tim, however, quickly recognized and embraced the benefits.
“I’ve developed an appreciation for tools like K2 that let you put together a solution as quickly as possible. If we can automate a process for our users — without writing code —and have it meet or exceed expectations, I’m in favor of that. When you can quickly put together a form and a few SmartObjects that actually interact with the database, you can give them a live prototype in a very short time frame. This allows us to rapidly iterate towards a final solution”.
In particular, a favorite K2 feature amongst Tim’s customers is SmartActions, which allows a task to be acted upon by simply replying to an email. “We never had that ability in SharePoint workflows. It provides a very streamlined way for users to approve tasks and keep the process moving – even when they’re away from the office. And it comes with K2 right out of the box.”
Rapid delivery is only one of several tools that Tim has whipped out of his K2 belt. He’s also used it to create efficient processes that were previously lacking at AECI and helped transform the business.
“We use the work item feature of Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) to manage all of our work. We wanted a workflow that would collect customer satisfaction feedback as soon as a request was completed. So we built a TFS server extension that uses the K2 REST API to start the K2 customer satisfaction workflow whenever someone closes out a TFS work item. If the customer raises a concern, we record their comments in the work item and flag it for follow-up with the appropriate manager. We achieved this by writing a custom K2 service broker that exposes TFS work items as simple K2 SmartObjects. Now any workflow or SmartForm can easily create, update or read TFS work items.”
Crucially, this new automated process lets managers respond to issues very quickly—and that leads to happy customers. Without the use of K2, Tim notes, it would have been more expensive to develop a solution of the same caliber.
“This type of system, in which we solicit in-the-moment feedback for the tasks we complete, enables us to be more responsive to customer concerns. It helps us improve our level of service. This solution is representative of the needs that drove us to buy K2. It would not have been feasible to try pulling this off with SharePoint workflow.”
There are several factors that allow K2 to rapidly and easily build applications like this. Tim’s personal favorites are the powerful extensibility and the familiarity of the .NET platform.
“As soon as you try to step out of the box with competing products, they either can’t meet your needs or require you to go through ridiculous hoops. We’ve also been coding in .NET technologies since day one. So the fact that K2 is built on the .NET platform, and that the mechanisms for custom extensibility leverage .NET, make the product a perfect fit for AECI.”
Customers like Tim may not bask in the spotlight for their contribution, but then again neither would Batman. They’re too busy finding the next way to save precious time, money and resources. And that seems pretty heroic to us.
Thanks for sharing your story, Tim! And cheers to many more successful K2 apps at AECI.
About Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.For more than 50 years, Associated Electric has provided reliable, wholesale power generation and high-voltage transmission to its six transmission co-op member-owners. They supply 51 local electric cooperatives in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma serving about 875,000 member homes, farms and businesses.
Intrigued by Tim’s experience or work with K2? You can reach him at email@example.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn.
Have a K2 story you want to tell? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share your hard work with the rest of the world!