Prototyping with Zoho Creator: A Unique use-case!

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Zoho was a platinum sponsor at this year’s CRM Evolution Conference, held in New York on August 10. The event brought together many CRM users and vendors, and although CRM was the focus of most discussions, we were looking forward to hearing about Zoho apps too.

And so, we were happy to hear from Charlie Isaacs, a Zoho Creator enthusiast. In addition to working with Alcatel-Lucent, Charlie also works as a social media strategist for Genesys Lab.

When asked about how Zoho Creator simplified his requirement, Charlie had something unique to tell us: he prototypes using Zoho Creator.

Listen to Charlie explain how he does it:

Whenever Charlie gets a new idea for a project, he prefers to use a prototype to propose his plan. He says, and we agree, that a prototype is almost always more compelling than a 20-page document. Charlie takes advantage of Zoho Creator as he builds form-based solutions. The advantage Zoho Creator has over MySQL, he says, is that MySQL doesn’t allow the association of a form on the front-end.

There is always Oracle and MySQL, but to get something up and running, Zoho Creator is there for me.

In addition to prototyping, Charlie also spoke about an interesting mobile application that he uses to read QR codes, which are looked up in a Zoho Creator database. Based on the information returned, like UPC codes, Charlie then dynamically constructs the menu on the handheld application.

Thank you, Charlie, for sharing with us two very new use-cases of Zoho Creator. We’re glad to hear that it only takes an hour with Zoho Creator to complete the prototypes, versus 8 to 10 hours without it.

Zoho Creator and The Playwrights’ Center – The Plot Thickens

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Premise:



 


The Playwrights’ Center focuses on both supporting playwrights and promoting new plays to theaters across the country. Significantly, they offer over $200,000 in fellowships to writers and theater artists each year. They also organize workshops where playwrights can get together with actors and directors to see their script at work, and manage several other programs that help playwrights get connected and build their careers. As they work closely with theaters, actors, directors, and writers, they have an advantage when it comes to advocating for artists and promoting them.




 




Flashback:



 


Way back in 1971, five playwrights were seeking professional assistance and support.

The Playwrights’ Center
 was founded by these five writers to help them secure productions of their plays, and later expanded to offer multiple forms of support and professional assistance. Since then, it has served as a launch-pad for numerous artists and currently serves over 1,100 member playwrights, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive play-writing centers in the country.


 




Lead:



 


Tom Borger is the Communications Associate there, who is responsible for social media coverage, as well as print and electronic communications. He was the person who set

Zoho Creator
 up for the Playwrights’ Center. He spoke to us about why and how they got started.


 




Action:

 

The Playwrights’ Center wanted to track the careers of writers who had benefited from their programs. Knowing where each of their playwrights’ plays had been produced, as well as what honors and awards that playwright had received, would help them promote and advocate for the playwright. The Playwrights’ Center also wanted to measure their own effectiveness. This data would go to funders and donors interested in the impact of the Center’s work.


The extensive documentation
was gratifying to have; there were so many examples, and the message
boards were full of other people’s experiences.



The problem was that they had theaters, productions, awards, and past development to track, in addition to playwrights. Also, a play would often have more than one playwright. When a play was selected, all artists associated with that play needed to be populated in the respective fields, and vice versa. Handling these complex branches of data on spreadsheets was the last thing they wanted to do because it led to multiple versions of the same data. So, Tom decided to build a new database using Zoho Creator.


Credits:


The very few times I ran into snags, I emailed support and heard back
really quickly. That was impressive because all that was for a user who
wasn’t even paying; I was doing all this on a free account.



Tom is now set for the next step; publicizing the applications on their website using a JSON feed. He also suggests that the number of specific scenarios addressed on our

community-forum
 should keep growing in order to guide new users. That, we will do.  


(And, personally, I loved using

Pixlr
for editing the images for this post!)

Zoho Creator – Zoho CRM Integration : A success story of Credible Systems

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Guest post by Mark Thurman of Credible Systems:


Credible Systems joined the


Zoho Alliance Partner Program
 2 years ago, with Zoho Creator as their main focus, and later expanded their scope to include Zoho CRM, Zoho Reports, & Zoho Projects. Founded in early 2009 by Mark Thurman and Sarah Treanor,


Credible System
 is a consultancy focused on helping organizations of all sizes and types, leverage the growing power of cloud-computing. Their clients range from schools and SME’s to much larger enterprises. Here is how Mark

sees it all:



The Client:


We were approached by a European-wide consultancy to assist them with extending the functionality of Zoho CRM. The client provides a broad range of business consultancy services to blue chip organization across Europe.

The Problem:


Their need was to effectively track the utilization of resources across their various clients and projects. Of course, a spreadsheet solution could have sufficed as a short-term solution. But we had our doubts about it being a scalable, long-term solution, keeping in mind the client’s growing operations. An external third-party solution would cause an additional problem of duplicating all data, inevitably leading to differences between the two sets.


Zoho Creator
 would be a fine solution for such a problem in any case, but its recent integration with Zoho CRM made it the perfect solution.

Zoho Creator, it seems, has something for everybody
.


The Implementation:


We created a custom database application that allows the user to import opportunity details directly from Zoho CRM, based upon certain criteria. For instance, only those with a status of “Closed Won” are brought into Zoho Creator. Using Deluge script, we then provided methods for 
  • Creating sub-projects for each opportunity 
  • Assign a unique Project ID 
  • Relate the project to specific internal business units for project work and administration 
  • Expose relevant CRM data for the selected opportunity 


And with reports generated from within Zoho Creator, they were able to



  • compare planned and actually delivered values for an opportunity against the estimated Opportunity Value in


    CRM






  • chart the utilization level for a specific resource, business unit or entire company against a threshold for a


    specific


    time period




  • create calendar views of resource


    allocation


    providing consolidated information at a glance



The Next Step:
We intend to use Zoho Creator for Google Apps, combined with


Zoho CRM’s sync with Google Contacts and Calendar
. By this, we can provide resource utilization calendars within Google Apps, for the data residing in Zoho CRM.

When an Activity is created, we can provide a function to ‘write’ the Activity details to Zoho CRM as an ‘Event’.
  • Create custom calendar views in Zoho CRM for ‘All Events’ and ‘My Events’ 
  • Set up CRM calendar sync with Google Apps calendars 
  • Then ‘All Events’ and ‘My Events’ CRM calendars will be visible on Google Calendar too.
Resource planning using Zoho Creator has allowed them to see how much resource is currently planned against each project, and how much they can possibly expand, thus enabling them to manage available resources effectively.

Zoho Creator – Zoho CRM Integration – What’s new and what to look forward to..

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A while ago, we came up with the first step towards integrating two of our most loved and discussed services – Zoho Creator and Zoho CRM. Today we are taking the next step towards an even more tighter integration between the two.

While the first cut, with dedicated Deluge tasks, was more for the tech-savvy users, this time around it’s for all of us .. Yes drag and drop lovers, this time you are in for the party too.

We have introduced a new field, Zoho CRM. As the name suggests, this field looks up CRM modules and adds them as fields in the forms that you create. Sounds familiar? Well it had to. This field is a clone of our Look up field. But then, it differs in one main aspect – the basic functionality. Simply add this field to your forms/situated apps and pull out CRM data instantly. A few tiny deluge tricks later.. You would have pulled out all relevant info that you need about the module.

And that’s not all. In the view, the value for this field is displayed as a hyperlink. Clicking on that link, presents you a summary page of the Module from Zoho CRM. Also the value of this field, just like any other field, can also be used as input for Deluge tasks.

Here’s the video that takes you through the tech specs of this integration. Go on and get started on your next business app situated around CRM Modules. Zoho CRM folks.. Welcome to Zoho Creator.. :)

Psssttt: Keep watching this space! A bigger and better announcement in the same vein is on its way.

Explore Zoho Reports Series: Part III – Form Interface using Zoho Creator

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In Zoho Reports, data is stored as database tables. Unlike in conventional databases, this tabular data can be readily edited in Zoho Reports, using its spreadsheet-like interface. When new data is to be entered, it would be possible to do so using this interface. But wouldn’t it be easier and more functional if we had a form interface? There can be situations where data entry has to happen without the user seeing the whole database.

Enter Zoho Creator, our friendly online app creator and form builder. All you have to do is follow three simple steps as below to get your form interface.

  1. Create the form using Zoho Creator’s drag-and-drop interface.

  2. When creating the form, uncheck the ‘Store data in Creator’ option

  3. Include a short Deluge script that instructs Zoho Creator to directly store data in Zoho Reports.

Once the above is done, you can start entering data in the Zoho Creator form, see it getting collected in Zoho Reports and create all the reports you need in Zoho Reports as usual. Detailed documentation of how to go about this is available here. In case of any questions/clarifications, leave your comments or email us at support@zohoreports.com.

Note: While the above is for Zoho Reports users, in the past, we have had a couple of integration points for Zoho Creator users (where the web app is built using Zoho Creator and all data gets stored in Zoho Creator itself).

  • Zoho Creator has an in-built ‘Reports’ tab (that’s powered by Zoho Reports) which provides all the necessary reporting for your data.
  • If you wanted to use the full features of Zoho Reports, you can periodically export your data from Zoho Creator to Zoho Reports, for further reporting and analysis.
More about the above two options here.

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Zoho Creator automates order-placement and stock-maintenance for UCSF Medical Center

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University of California, San Francisco
 (UCSF) is committed to providing the safest and highest quality health care. According to the

US News & World Report
, the UCSF Medical Center, which operates out of two major facilities at Parnassus and Mount Zion, is one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals. To continually refine the care they provide, the UCSF had to monitor and measure the treatments their patients received and evaluate their performance against their own rigorous standards, as well as industry benchmarks. We had Alfio Levy, a project manager at UCSF Medical Center, explain how

Zoho Creator
 served their need.

Alfio says, “UCSF has many departments that frequently needed to interact and be in constant communication with each other. And that includes departments situated across the two facilities. For instance, the nursing units need to receive pharmaceuticals from the material services department. They would fax an order across, and the materials would be delivered. It was working fine, except that we faxed about 4,000 orders every month. And that was a lot of manual work in both departments. It was also not possible to track the stocks periodically, so we would sometimes be left with no stocks till the order is delivered.”

“Another major challenge we had to address was ownership; one person would place an order or initiate a transaction, but almost always, someone else follows up to close the order. And before any loop could be closed, we perform Quality Assurance related checks. Everyone needed to know who did what, so a detailed log at every point of contact had to be recorded. This collaboration demanded a complex workflow, and could never be pulled off using paperbacks.”

I
should admit that I have previous lightweight programming experience. I
should have fallen for the workflow approach, because I was able to
implement everything I had in mind with Zoho Creator.

Alfio first tried to implement this workflow using Microsoft SharePoint, but he soon realized it was pretty cumbersome. Just about that time, he stumbled upon a Macworld magazine that recommended Zoho Creator, and he opted to try the online system. Condition based email scheduling helped him in identifying those areas that required intense attention, decide quickly on what supplies were needed frequently, and ensure they never run out of stocks. They had a lot of tasks that required authorization, and access control logic was absolutely essential. He could easily make Zoho Creator handle it all.

By providing the automation, efficiency and trend-analysis at an affordable cost,

Zoho Creator
 effortlessly overthrew all other options for UCSF Medical Center.


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