In our previous blog, we took a look at what citizen development is, how it works, and what it holds for the future. In this blog, we introduce Play Force, from Australia—a playground services company which deals with projects of all shapes and sizes, from traditional and nature-based playgrounds, right up to complex bespoke installations. They serve a wide variety of professionals, like restaurant owners, malls, schools, and local council offices.
We had a heartwarming conversation with Justin Kaese, the general manager of Play Force, and learned that Zoho Creator has been at the forefront of their business operations for over 4 years. Let’s take a look at what Justin had to say.
You head Play Force. Could you talk a bit about the role and your time at the company?
[Justin] I’m the general manager of Play Force, and our mission is to provide best-in-class service when it comes to playgrounds—installation, inspection, and maintenance. At Play Force, we believe that every kid has the right to play, grow, and develop in a safe environment.
In a world where technology makes work easier, how important was it for you to make a shift in the software landscape?
[Justin] We were looking for software to handle our job management, and wanted to move from a paper-based system, with both environmental and tedious work taken into consideration. The dilemma of using spreadsheet–multiple people formatting it simultaneously—was making it hard for our processes. The initial software that we hooked onto didn’t work as planned, so we had to see the deal out, and lose money and time in the process. Getting into the basics of low-code, something unfamiliar back then, made us explore the concept more and dive right in.
Citizen developers are nonprofessional developers who build applications that can be used across the organization for specific business needs. Keeping that in mind, would it be safe to say that Play Force runs on applications powered by citizen development?
[Justin] Yes, I’m the only one who develops on the platform, while everyone else in the company is a user of the application. We have no professional help in that department as of now. Talking about my coding expertise, it can be narrowed down to whatever I’ve learned while building on Zoho Creator and a couple of other side projects.
From your experience with Zoho Creator and low-code platforms in general, how do you think low-code empowers citizen development?
[Justin] Personally, I think low-code was way easier than what we had assumed. We jumped straight in watching some of the tutorial videos online to understand the platform and started building stuff on-the-go. In 3 to 4 weeks of traversing the platform and playing around with applications, Play Force was running on Zoho Creator without a developer being involved.
Now, 4 years later, it’s still an “ongoing project”—and the best thing is that whenever someone needs something, they can either add the functionality by themselves or send me a request for it. This flexibility doesn’t often come with traditional development.
What has been the biggest business gain you’ve seen after implementing a low-code platform like Zoho Creator?
[Justin] One is definitely reducing the carbon footprint by migrating from paperwork. Second, we’ve been able to automate processes for our field workers so that they get real-time updates on their mobile. This is a huge advantage considering the time we save.
Also, we use all three platforms–web, tablet, and phone applications. We’ve got web applications for our office space and a mix of mobile and tablet for playground inspectors and other remote staff. From inspections, safety paperwork, and risk assessment to HR and Accounts, Zoho Creator is pretty much widespread at Play Force.
As far as Play Force is concerned, what’s next? What is your immediate goal for the future?
[Justin] We’re trying to find somebody who could manage our application and supervise the upscaling process when required. This would make me less occupied, and I could concentrate on expanding the reach of Play Force and focus on things that are of supreme importance to the business.
It’s pretty amazing how a small business like Play Force could build and manage their business apps with zero technical help, isn’t it?
Next up, we’ll be sharing the story of Pedro Schambon Jr–Co-founder of My Father’s Farm and Pro-Farmer Software Solutions—who not only built applications on Zoho Creator for his farm, based in Texas, but also developed full-fledged software, so that other farmers can also benefit from it.