Zoho@Zoho: Simple and Creative

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It is that time of the year to thank all you wonderful customers for your patronage. We see this as the end of yet another great year of togetherness. Carrying forward the faith into the year to come, here is wishing all Zoho users and others too, a very joyous season.
As for our customary application for this week, festive spirit is in the air and everyone is coming up with new ways of celebrating. I didn’t want to ruin the mood for you with a utility-packed application. Instead, it seemed a good idea to showcase creativity. At Zoho Creator, we worship creativity. There are plenty of people out there with a wild thing for creativity; Passionate about it to the core. They are those who contribute new ideas, initiate changes and readily collaborate to create a better story, out of whatever they have at hand. Bending your mind around corners is all what getting creative is about. That is also just what creating custom applications / creative applications is all about.
Twitter being one of the fastest and wide-spread means of getting to know of a product or service, we decided to flaunt our favorite tweets on our home page. We could have used the default badges and widgets provided by Twitter, but how could we just settle for that? Not with Zoho Creator at hand. We did try out something new with Zoho Creator. It is an application to fetch our favorite tweets, save them on a view, and embed the view on our home page. Twitter provides an API to fetch our favorite tweets from our twitter account. We had Zoho Creator’s HTML view to embed on our website. But we found the intermediate part to be more interesting; Creating a custom schedule to fetch the latest ones from twitter, automatically.
It was done and all was well. All pains were to cater to our thing for creativity. Other than this, the twitter application has no brainstorming complexity or never-heard-of sophistication. It is the simple idea that makes this application so unique. Just as simple things in life go on to be the best ones. If it will inspire you to put on your thinking caps, try it by all means. And in honor of the seasonal spirit of giving, tell us what your App story is!

Apps showcased till now: Ad Tracker, Reseller PortalDownload TrackerIT Asset Management,  Support Call TrackerNew Employee RecordTravel ManagementCourier Management,  Cab Booking

Zoho@Zoho: Tracking advertising costs with Zoho Creator

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Talking about advertisements, the first thing that crosses our minds is the excitement. It is the creativity of the design and the wordplay that leaves behind trails of enthusiasm, even long after it’s launch. But just the visual elements of the commercial are not everything that make the campaign a grand success. There is this other side; The equally important factor called cost. Especially with so much of marketing activities nowadays, it is easy to get lost in all the WOW. If your campaign should tower a head and shoulders taller than the rest, you need to invest, not spend. Here at Zoho, we have an application to keep track of the campaigns that come up for every product. And as we have a very wide range of services, it becomes necessary to moderate decisions.
Of all the services we offer, whenever a seemingly viral idea emerges, the team weaves it to completion. To launch it, they would raise a request on this Advertisement tracker application. The request has a detailed description of the product, type of campaign, the target-audience and estimated cost. The approval module triggers a notification email to the approving authority, the team’s manager in this case.
Before the managers approve or reject, the team would demonstrate the whole idea to them in person. This is not because they are superior and are the deciding factor, but because they might come up with a master stroke that might make a difference. Be it either trade shows, banner ads, bill boards or other campaigns, once the request is approved, the team that raised the request is notified.
In addition, the ticket is moved to the finance team; The bankers. It is the finance team that maintains this application, and has the authority to add new advertising locations, types of campaigns and include users. After the cost-benefit analysis, the fund is approved. The manager and the requesting team are then notified of the approval. They can now carry their campaign forward. Another note-worthy aspect of this application is the detailed reporting and analysis. Being powered by Zoho Reports, reporting becomes all the more picturesque than ever before.
This Zoho Creator application is not one of the kind that has so complex code stuffed into it. Nor has it got anything to do with the success of an advertisement campaign. Too bad, it doesn’t. But it does something inevitable; Helping us invest instead of spend. Try this application.

Apps showcased till now: Ad Tracker, Reseller PortalDownload TrackerIT Asset Management,  Support Call TrackerNew Employee RecordTravel ManagementCourier Management,  Cab Booking


Zoho@Zoho: How our resellers access Zoho CRM contacts via Zoho Creator App

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applications (LOB) is much talked about nowadays in the corporate
world. LOB apps are a series of indispensable applications that are capable of
being smoothly interlaced with each other.
This is where Zoho Creator come
into adding value to your business; Even change the way you run
business, perhaps. Zoho Creator is an online database platform to build situational
applications that can work seamlessly alongside these LOB apps, Zoho CRM for instance. These are apps that bridge
because a fully functional generic application might not cater to
your minor, but not-negligible requirements. Here is one such instance
which we encountered.

We have resellers in quite many countries, and it is they who help customers in their locality to get the most out of Zoho. We chose Zoho Creator to come up with this reseller portal. But this application needed contact information from Zoho CRM. Hence we employed schedulers to do the job.
Remember us having talked about

task schedulers

some time back; The what-to-do and when-to-do stuff? This application might prove to be the kind we had in mind. As a very pleasant outcome, we have got ourselves this application that is capable of importing contacts daily from our Zoho CRM account. Automatically. Seamlessly.

We designed it to fetch all the contacts for the day, and scheduled it to do so at 12 pm everyday. It accounts to 200 a time because the return limit for the API request is 200. Once the synchronization of contacts between the two services is in place, distribution of relevant data is child’s play. Access to details of clients in their locality alone is granted to the resellers, and that too, on a dedicated view. This application has redundant information, already available on Zoho CRM, but with a purpose. It is to avoid modification of data on CRM. Whenever a reseller closes a ticket, ie., generates a lead out of a contact, it stays on Zoho Creator for verification. This ensures the integrity of the original information stored on Zoho CRM; Not being altered at any cost.
Well, that’s all about this application, I suppose.

Try this application

too, as you’ve tried the previous ones. If you have built anything of this sort that busts myths about Zoho Creator’s capabilities, write to us. It might throw more light on how custom, online application building can get, and how Zoho Creator is pioneering.

Apps showcased till now:

Rebranding ManagementHall of ShameTweet Stream,  Ad TrackerReseller PortalDownload TrackerIT Asset ManagementSupport Call TrackerNew Employee RecordTravel ManagementCourier ManagementCab Booking

Zoho@Zoho: Managing and Tracking downloads with Zoho Creator

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What makes our organizational culture so wonderful is that each one of us is self-driven. Everyone is treated as an adult, and there is no need for micromanagement. This leverage is deeply integrated into whatever venture we take up, unlike the defined, enforced atmosphere that collapses almost all the time.These aspects are clearly reflected in our internet usage policy wherein except for some high bandwidth consuming and overly distracting domains, all other sites are freely accessible. No one is questioned for spending time on

instead of coding their way to the end of the day. As long as the work gets done; As long as it gets done on time; As long as quality of work done is not compromised, employees are free to spend their time browsing the internet. The only concern we had with this policy was managing downloads so as to ensure the network bandwidth was utilized efficiently.So, here’s what we did:

We decided to host a server exclusively for internal use. All downloads that might prove worthy, such as Java plug-ins, browsers, flash players, media players, dictionaries were added to the download server for everyone to access, instead of downloading them from the web every time. This model was designed on the basis of download trends and history, and all downloads were classified, broadly into three categories: Executable files, media files and documents.
Of the three, documents are the least vulnerable as they are mostly text files and comparatively lighter. Downloads of this nature can therefore be allowed at any time and there’s no compromise on the speed of connectivity. The second category, media files are more worrisome since they can be either audio or video and are usually quite heavy. Downloading of media files would therefore have to be restricted to office after-hours.Coming back to the first and most important type, executable files and installable software require immediate attention as they may be urgently required. Also, they  have an additional risk of license-related legal issues. This is where we deployed an application in

Zoho Creator
: The Download Tracker.

Other applications that came close were either costly, or refused to be customized.
Whenever a request for a software download is made by an employee, it is first checked for availability on our download server, because if anyone else has already downloaded it, it would be present on the internal server. In such cases, the Download Tracker Application displays the local URL for downloading  the software from the internal server instead of the web,  and thus prevents futile bandwidth spending.But if it is the first time this software is being requested, then a completely different process is followed.
The employee is requested to fill the form containing a description of the software, link to the source website and specify the reason for download. As in case of the

IT Asset Request application
, this request too requires the approval of the immediate superior, mostly the manager and a notification email is generated accordingly. The end-user license agreement is then studied and approved by the legal team. Once the software is approved for download by the legal team, Sysadmin team checks the source domain for authenticity. When the request clears all these checks, the software in demand is downloaded from the web, uploaded in the internal Downloads Server and a local URL is generated. All this is taken care of by the Sysadmin team. Availability of the requested software is then notified to the requester and the manager, via an email that goes out automatically once the checks are complete.

My maiden venture into screen-casting should presumably sum-up the happenings during a download:

What’s the need for a Zoho Creator application, you might ask. We could not find a ready-made software solution to suit our uniquely flexible internet usage policies. The ones that came close were either too costly or didn’t allow customization. That’s why we thought it was best to build the most appropriate software ourselves and turning-to-Zoho-Creator has been the most revolutionary part of the story. Try it.

Apps showcased till now:

Rebranding ManagementHall of ShameTweet Stream,  Ad TrackerReseller PortalDownload TrackerIT Asset ManagementSupport Call TrackerNew Employee RecordTravel ManagementCourier ManagementCab Booking

Zoho@Zoho: Zoho Creator untangles IT Asset Management

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IT asset request maintenance is one complex process. Though the business logic for this scenario is pretty lengthy, we did not have much trouble in creating a

Zoho Creator
application for this purpose. Our in-house team of Zoho Creator experts being the men behind many such applications which we use extravagantly, we naturally turned to them. “It was more of myth-busting than app-building because, just like any other IT guy, our IT team too was tough to convince. It was hard-wired into them that an online application on Zoho Creator was incapable of doing things that a ready-made software could easily perform. We had to overcome that”, they said.
There were many other concerns too. No down-time; Scalability; Notifications; Analysis and reporting tools. We designed it all. After all, we had to impress ourselves first if we are to impress our customers. Zoho Creator stood out in all the above criteria, theoretically, and made it’s way to the arena. Yet, it was uncertain if it could withstand all the activity in real time. So, we deployed it to function in beta phase, along with the email requests which we had been using. This was the phase during which the IT Asset Request application experienced many modifications and we prefer to call them improvisations. These minor changes were the things we thought would be good to have. These rich features were neither available nor could be put into pre-packaged software applications for free.

Here is a glimpse of the business workflow we have incorporated into this application. The employees who request for a resource did not need to know of the inventory details, and the manager who approves need not worry how the purchase should go about. Thus, various levels of permissions were implemented based on the role the person plays. These employee details are available on a separate database, and are looked up for validation. Whenever a request is made by an employee, the approver is notified of the request for verification and approval. But people forget things and a busy day always takes all the blame. A reminder email is scheduled to send itself once in two days, from the third day of request, if it has not been attended to. The timely, automated execution of the reminder email showcases the capabilities of schedulers.
Once approved, the inventory, maintained using a separate application, “IT Asset Manager”, is checked for availability. If the resource is available, it is installed without delay. But if not so, it has to be purchased, and is done by the Admin team. The case is hence moved to them. Here, we thought that the requester should be kept informed of the happenings while he waits. We added yet another schedule for an email addressed to both, the requester and the manager who approved, containing the current status of the ticket. Schedulers. Yet again.

. Yet again.
The purchase quotes from various vendors are obtained and the Sysadmin team mulls over the options. Once the item is purchased, the same is updated in the inventory tracker. Sysadmin team maintains detailed data of every raised ticket, from the moment of generation to the closure. Reports generated based on this data at periodic intervals, are used to analyze request trends and greatly help in keeping futile costs minimal, all thanks to

Zoho Reports
. Along the way, we came across special instances like temporary requirements. It is not always that a user requires a software resource indefinitely. A trial version was sometimes more than enough to complete a task or campaign. In such cases, the trial version is installed. Towards the end of the trial period, an automated notification email is sent to both the user and Sysadmin team, so as to have it uninstalled.
All these specific requirements would surely have made their way into a custom software, no doubt. But we were able to achieve the same outcome, at no cost at all. We feed on our own dog-food and freedom certainly is delicious; That we are powered by ourselves as much as we can. Not with this application alone, but plenty of others, some of which we shall talk about in the days to come.

Try this app

for now.

Apps showcased till now:

Rebranding ManagementHall of ShameTweet Stream,  Ad TrackerReseller PortalDownload TrackerIT Asset ManagementSupport Call TrackerNew Employee RecordTravel ManagementCourier ManagementCab Booking

Zoho@Zoho: Zoho Creator Team’s Call Logging App

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Most of you Zoho Creator users know Ruben well enough without me having to introduce him to you. He, together with Akash and Latha, supports Zoho Creator users when they hit a roadblock while designing their applications. With 400,000 users (and counting) to serve, we expect to face at least 100 requests on any day, and most of the days the number is well beyond that. Despite the support team’s undying passion to be of best help to our customers, the process of logging the ticket status tends to becomes monotonous with time. What would be ideal to maintain such a heap of data, but a Zoho Creator application? And who else knows the use-cases really well to come out with the perfect application? When we started off, one of the motives was to divert the valid leads to the sales teams of the respective service, but as we went on building this application, more custom needs started showing up. And we went on to handle most of those support related requirements in this application.
For every support call we answer, there is more to it than just metrics such as duration of the call. Simply using these material parameters to measure the quality of the call does not give us the entire picture, because they never are stable. What do these metrics do but cripple the quality of support provided? Yet, it becomes significant to keep track of these factors for analysis and projection. That is just what this application is for. Even more, as a matter of fact. It not only records the purpose and happenings during the call, but also looks up our CRM data, returns alerts if the contact is already present, prompts to save it if it is not saved yet and a whole lot more. In addition to auto-populating the necessary fields from the user details repository, this application is also capable of assigning the ticket to another member of the team for follow-up. This assignee would be notified by an automated email, triggered by this application. Integration with Zoho CRM and Zoho Reports has considerably increased the application’s functionality.
Assuming a real-life scenario, what would you do if you have a hardware failure on your new computer that cost you a fortune and a half? Call the toll-free line hoping for a replacement, naturally. But imagine getting bombarded between various departments, wrong queues as they call it, not once but multiple times. Nothing short of a moment of misery, I presume. Well, we’ve attempted to address that concern too. If you reach Zoho Creator Support instead of the intended Zoho Service Support Department, we notify the respective support team of your contact, and they call you; That’s how this application has added value in it’s own way, to the way we provide support.
Portraying these line-of-business apps here is an initiative by Zoho Creator to bring about an awareness of a simple online solution to your otherwise-complex, unique needs. This time, never mind the “this-took-us-a-day-to-develop” and “has-saved-us-time-and-money” part of the story. Try this application. If you have built an online application like this, for your rare use-case, share it with us if we may know. You too, are welcome to be a part of this empowering initiative.

Zoho@Zoho: This is how we simplified our recruitment process

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Hiring a candidate is not merely about filling a vacancy; Never about finding yet another one to do the job. It is more about picking the passion and craftsmanship from a galaxy of talents out there. This involves a lot of work from the hirer, both before and after recruitment. It is not a good idea to automate the interview process entirely. The procedure post-recruitment was one area we could try simplifying. What summed up to about a week of activity for three departments in the organization, now takes couple of hours before everything falls in place. With this

New Employee application
, here is how we go about choosing the system and software, approve the same and create a user profile for the new-comer, easily.
Once the HR team picks the right person, all the personal details of that candidate are updated in our internal human-resource management tool;

Zoho People
. Access is granted to the new employee, so that he can update his personal details himself. As for the user profile name, employee preference is considered. It is then verified for availability, and if it is already taken, alternatives are provided.
The next process of importance is the resource allocation for the chosen candidate; Hardware and software resources. Now, this is highly unique. Resources can never be the same for everyone. For instance, all a technical writer requires is a basic piece of hardware which is sufficient to access an

online text editor
, while on the contrary, a designer or an animator requires sophisticated software such as a Graphics suite, extended graphics adapter and high-end hardware. Care is taken beforehand in allocating these software requirements, so that no further time is spent in improvising. Resource allocation is left to the manager for approval. They, depending on the role of the candidate, pick the components required and approve it. The requests for user profile creation and resources are then forwarded to the Sysadmin team, who would make them available. They use a separate application for that; the IT Asset Request application. The purposefulness and the indispensability of this

Zoho Creator

application deserves to be talked about in a dedicated post, so that will have to wait.
As you see, each new recruitment keeps the HR, Managers and the Sysadmin teams busy enough. The information they work on is one and the same, so there is no need for duplication. What we needed was a central repository to hold all the data, for the teams to access them from. We should admit, complexity level of this application was much higher than

the previous ones

showcased here. What makes it so mighty is not the functionality alone. It is also because the IT Asset Request and the New Comer Application are closely integrated to handle a single scenario. But, if you overlook the hassle we went through in building it, you’d most certainly admire the orderliness it has added to the recruitment process.
Check it out!
Our HR department asked us if this app can welcome the new comer with a big smile. We politely said – “Will be available in our next update. Kindly bear with us till such time” 😉