The difficult part of building a custom business app is not the programming. After all, with Zoho Creator you don’t need to be a programmer. The tougher part is being clear about what your app should do and how it must be structured. Answering the following 5 questions helps you achieve exactly that. So let’s get started.
1) What does this app need to achieve?
Begin by defining the process that you need to automate. Do you need to manage the inventory, sales pipeline, registrations or a more complex set of processes? Note down the process step by step and list out the key pain points that you want your app to solve. Most importantly, determine the different groups of users and keep their requirements in mind.
For example, if you’re building an Order Management application, it would typically consist of order placement, modification & cancellation; inventory check-in/out; and payment processing. The different stakeholders would be the inventory manager, the customer, the delivery team etc.
2) What data do I need?
What forms and fields does this application require? Every form you create gets saved as a data table (think of a spreadsheet!). One quick rule of thumb is to identify the important nouns in your process. Going back to the order management app above: Customers place orders for products on the customer portal. The inventory list is checked to confirm the order. The invoice gets generated and sent to the customer.
All the words above in italics are the forms in your application. Forms have fields in them. In this example, the Product List form would then have the following fields: Product ID, Product Name, Vendor, Unit Price, Product Category etc.
3) How are the different pieces of information related?
Now that you have identified the information, you should map the relationship between them. For the app to work well you must link the information. A specific order belongs to one and only one customer, but a customer can have multiple orders. These kind of relationships are important to identify. The challenge is to not miss any relationships while at the same time not linking more than required. I suggest you sketch these relationships out!
4) What are the business rules & logic?
The next step in building your app is to think about the business rules that your application must enforce. Automate the recurring actions that make up your team’s daily work and save time. Note down all the business workflows such as approvals, report sharing, reminders or any triggers for time/business sensitive actions. With the intuitive drag and drop UI, you can easily create these in Zoho Creator.
For example, during the order placement, the order must be accepted only if the inventory is available. An intimation can be sent to the inventory manager.
5) What are the different reports required?
You require reports to update, monitor and track progress. Collaborate with the various stakeholders to get their perspective on their reporting needs. Plan out the best way to represent the data available, the frequency at which the reports will be created and how they would be shared with the user groups. In the reporting dashboard, identify the metrics and the data that you want to include. And with Zoho Creator, you can choose who will have access to which reports!
After you’ve answered these five questions, you should have a pretty good idea of the overall structure of your custom application. Now you are ready to get started with the app building. And remember, we’re always here to help.