Computer Keyes Launches Automated Two-Way Communications from IFS
July 30, 2013 Dan Burger
Companies that are building mobile access to an IBM i-based system take note. Automated communications with access to documents on the IFS could help increase user self-service and reduce inefficiencies in workflow processes. Think of it as a strategy that includes registered users and limited access, much like you experience with online banking. Downloading and uploading information to and from an IBM i system is now available using kLink from Computer Keyes.
Just two months ago, Computer Keyes introduced kLink, software that accesses IFS files from any Web browser, including those running on mobile devices. However, it was limited to one-way communication. It was handy for automated remote access to documents such as PDFs, Word docs, and image files that contain, for example, orders, invoices, and receipts. Typically this information can only be accessed with the assistance of a staff member, who would attach the request to an email and send it. That’s less than ideal, because most staff should have better things to do than babysit requests that could be automated and secure.
The enhanced version of kLink, which Computer Keyes launched last week, adds the capability for mobile workers and customers to not only access documents, but also update documents and return them.
Computer Keyes refers to this as an on-demand feature because users can now ask for what they want and have it delivered to them automatically. The original kLink software was designed for companies to establish the specific set of documents that would be available and users chose from that menu. The upgrade adds the capability for a company to request information from its users (its employees, agents, or customers) and allows them to collect order forms and surveys, for example. Other business information can be disseminated upon request. Such things as delivery dates and tracking numbers come to mind.
A utility (electric, water, phone service) that has thousands of customers, for instance, will have invoices to send out at the end of the month. That takes time and a lot of processing power to do it all at once. Some utilities have found it is more efficient to send out emails. But the on-demand system can be even more efficient, says John Keyes, president of Computer Keyes, because not everyone will request it at the same time and the computer can handle requests one at a time.
Another potential use is for trucking companies that could make documents available to the drivers and the drivers could communicate with the company about their location, how far they have driven in a day, when the delivery date will be, and other status updates.
An SSL connection is the security safeguard being used prevent communications from being read in transit. Keeping documents safe and controlling which users can access specific documents is a matter of user registration, passwords, and security questions.
The document delivery process for the user is accomplished using customizable buttons added to the top of the kLink user interface. The buttons activate custom applications configured by an administrator to perform tasks on the IBM i. kLink provides a page creator that accepts HTML code to generate polished user interfaces. According to Computer Keyes, the page creator was designed so non-technical individuals can quickly design and render interactive, professional screens. While editing a page, the server updates dynamically and a refresh button on the browser allows changes to be seen. After a page is created and enabled, logged-in users can input data and select options before it is submitted to kLink. From there, back-end exit programs handle data validation and perform any desired tasks.
The Woodway, Washington, software company sells several products that can automatically place PDF versions of IBM i spooled files into the IFS, including KeyesPDF, KeyesMail, and KeyesArchive. A 30-day free trial period on all software is available at www.computerkeyes.com.
kLink responds to users in a variety of ways. For simple data retrieval, pop-up notifications appear on a user’s screen with information such as tracking numbers, subscription statuses, or other data a company designates. Documents such as invoices and shipping information can be automatically generated and dropped into a user’s kLink folder or into an internal data queue for processing. Emails, with or without attachments, can be generated and sent to a user or delivered on behalf of a user. Files can be printed or faxed or text messages can be sent. Applications can also be configured to allow employees to remotely initiate business processes with their mobile devices.
Compared to generating a similar application on a green-screen menu, the benefit of using kLink is instant accessibility to registered users on any device with a Web browser.
The kLink licensing model begins at $3,750 per logical partition without per-user fees.