Tuesday, July 03, 2007

After K2's BlackPearl demonstration a few weeks ago, I had a few questions. I contacted Josh Swihart at K2 and he and Anthony Petro, the Technical Product Manager, replied to me:

Question: I know the BlackPearl Report Builder uses Reporting Services – can these reports be exported and even hosted on a distinct Reporting Services server or hosted in SharePoint’s integrated Report Centre? The reason I ask is that a lot of Microsoft products - MOSS, Dynamics CRM - all use Reporting Services, so from a server topology perspective it would be great to have them all publish to the same RS server and manage things a little more centrally. Josh and Anthony: Yes, when you install BlackPearl you must provide information on which Reporting Services server you want to connect to. The Report Designer will use this server when you “publish” a report to RS. Once the report is in RS, you can use standard UI in RS, or compatible apps like SharePoint RS web parts, to view these reports.

Question: I wondered if the autogeneration of InfoPath forms using that Forms Designer item that Adriaan demonstrated would be available by Release-To-Market or shortly thereafter. This would be a nice-to-have for InfoPath 2007 development in conjunction with MOSS.
Josh and Anthony: The SharePoint integration wizards can use either ASP.NET or InfoPath forms server forms. Both technologies will have default forms that are installed with BlackPearl to be used for Instantiation, Association and Task Form. Note that there is more info on this in the SharePoint whitepaper. Additionally, we have added the Forms Generation Client Event which will allow you to generate ASP.net forms automatically for Process, XML and SmartObject data in the process. Post-RTM we will expand the forms generation client even to support autogeneration of InfoPath forms.

Question: I read this in one of the K2 Black Pearl pdf documents:
“K2 “BlackPearl” process information is availableto MOSS users through
integration with the MOSS Business Data Catalog (BDC). All process information is
searchable (security is respected) and can be exposed through list columns and
BDC web parts.”

Does this mean that for any custom workflow I create in K2, a BDC application schema is automatically generated for me to upload into the BDC Catalog? Or do I still have to create a schema for this by hand? It mentions “process information” - does that mean just the time it took the workflow to execute, the name of the originator, etc, or does it also expose SmartObject data and the like so that I can pull those into SharePoint via the BDC?
Josh and Anthony: We provide the ability to surface any SmartObject data through BDC - including process and activity data configured as SmartObjects. We have created a K2 Admin tab in SharePoint Central Administration to make it easy to identify which SmartObjects, and optionally their associations, should be exposed in BDC web parts and/or search. The BDC application metadata for connecting to the SmartObjects is automatically generated and configured as result of the actions on the admin page.

Thanks Josh and Anthony for taking the time to respond!I'll also mention again that there is a new community forum called K2 Underground for exactly these kinds of queries. There is also some documentation available on K2's blackpearl site which describes some of the new features. Plus there's a beta to download and play with!

K2 Underground is here: http://k2underground.com/. K2 Blackpearl website is here: http://www.k2.net/bp. You can send an email to beta2@k2.net to get your hands on the beta 2.

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