December 18, 2018

SmartAssist: Helping Business Users Develop Better Applications One Step at a Time

by Emma O'Brien in Customer Success, Enablement

Companies are doing more with less, while the pace of business is accelerating every day. As a result, companies are looking at utilising less-technical resources to solve technical business problems by developing robust, something applications that integrate across line of business systems.

Business developers and power users know their process and their requirements like no one else does. And since the solutions they are creating are solving their own most challenging business problems, they have a lot of motivation and enthusiasm for the task.

What they don’t typically have is a formal background in programming, program logic and flow.

Less technical resources need guidance to be successful developers
To ensure that business developers have the tools they need to successfully build powerful, reliable and stable applications on K2, we’re extending and enhancing our platform’s SmartAssist features.

We introduced SmartAssist as part of the new Workflow Designer experience in K2 Cloud and K2 Five.

Developers of all skill levels can simply drag and drop workflow steps onto the canvas, and SmartAssist is there every step of the way, keeping a punch list of all the required configuration settings that still need to be completed for the workflow to be deployed and used.

In K2 Cloud and K2 Five 5.1, we’ve extended SmartAssist to provide guardrails in the form of warning badges that help novice application developers avoid some of the more common pitfalls of workflow development. These new warning badges alert the developer about potentially problematic configurations and practices that could cause problems.

One of the first SmartAssist warning badges that we’ve implemented in K2 Workflow Designer is the infinite loop warning.

Infinite loops are a common mistake by developers who lack formal training, but even proficient, formally educated application developers aren’t immune. The causes of infinite loops can be subtle and easy to miss.

For example, let’s say you have a K2 Workflow that is triggered by the addition OR change of an item in a SharePoint list. Then, in your workflow, you update the properties of the list item. This could trigger the workflow a second time, and loop back on itself interminably.

Guardrails, not gates.
If you try to do this in K2 Workflow Designer, SmartAssist displays a warning badge, not only informing you of the potential misconfiguration, but going one step further and explaining the problem and showing you how to fix it.

SmartAssist warnings don’t block you from deploying your workflow – if the design is intentional, you can go ahead and deploy the workflow.

In this way, K2 SmartAssist provides guidance and assistance to the business developer and power user, while not blocking the technical professional developer from being able to do what they need to do.

The infinite loop warning is just the first in a series of new warning badges in the SmartAssist system – we’ll be releasing more over time, empowering developers of all skill levels to build apps faster, better, and more error free every day.