The nitty-gritty work of managing a business can be a thankless task in a world obsessed with disruption and crushing it, and for years those folks have been given software products with almost hostile designs and workflows. Bellevue, Wash.-based technology company K2 has been trying to make their lives a little easier for decades, and now that it has moved into its new home, it’s moving forward with plans to launch a new cloud-based version of its business management software this September with an updated design.
K2 makes software that allows companies to build business-process applications without having to invest in a big IT shop. It’s based around the idea that anyone should be able to design the custom workflows that manage business activities like invoice processing, expense management, and the myriad other applications that companies need to either buy or build, said Adriaan van Wyk, co-founder and CEO of the 19-year-old company.
This September, it’s planning to relaunch its core product as a cloud-based service called K2 Cloud, currently available as a public preview. It’s putting the finishing touches on this new product inside its brand-new offices in Bellevue, and GeekWire took a tour of the facility this week. Last year the company was considering a move into an office building in downtown Bellevue, but opted instead for a location inside the Bellefield Office Park, which is quite pastoral compared to downtown.
K2 Cloud is an expansion of the company’s Appit service, which runs on Microsoft Sharepoint. It allows customers to design applications that chart the logic behind what happens next following a new order, a new supplier, or an employee expense report.
Imagine one of K2’s customers just sold something, and that company just received the purchase order. Users can create a custom application governing how that the order is processed, sending alerts and instructions to accounting, inventory, distribution, or management on what needs to happen next. Each step of the process can be automated with this kind of software.
The new K2 product extends much of that same functionality but in a more visually appealing way than the old design, which looks a bit dated in the mobile era.
K2 Cloud will be managed by the company, allowing K2’s customers that want a cloud-based product to focus just on designing the workflows and business apps without having to manage the infrastructure themselves, van Wyk said. The new product “empowers as many people as possible in a company to use it instead of three or four specialists,” he said, thanks to the new design and the fact that the business team doesn’t have to get software developers involved to make changes.
Around 130 people work at the Bellevue office, with an additional 150 software developers based in van Wyk’s native country of South Africa. The company has around 460 employees in total, and raised $100 million in 2015 to fund the expansion of the product and the team.
T-Mobile is using the software to design apps that run on self-service kiosks inside its retail stores, and is also using the software to build applications for certain in-store employees, Van Wyk said. He couldn’t say which ones, but he also said several prominent Seattle tech companies are K2 customers.
Van Wyk is visibly excited about some of the future capabilities K2 is planning for its flagship product, such as voice input and augmented reality. Those technologies promise to change the way we interact with our computers, and if they really take off, software products will need to adjust beyond the mouse and keyboard.
The voice technology K2 is working on will allow customers to design their business workflows through voice input, and it is integrated with Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. K2 is using Google’s natural-language processing technology on the back end to decipher and process the voice commands, which van Wyk thinks will be particularly useful to its customers in the medical and energy fields.
“In the same way we build highly graphical tools, we’re going to do that exact thing for AI and voice,” he said.