Zoho unifies BI and integration platform within next-gen low code Zoho Creator Platform

This is the sixth major redo of Zoho’s low code platform for both developers and Line of Business users, but the changes are so significant that the company says it is essentially a next-generation product.

Today, cloud software suite provider Zoho is announcing the latest version of Zoho Creator Platform, its low code development platform that is designed to be used effectively by both technical IT people and non-technical Line of Business [LOB] users. While this is a mature platform, this version makes significant changes. This is technically the sixth version of Zoho Creator, but is really a new Version 1 in terms of how things will be on built on top.

“The Zoho Creator Product is now 15 years old, with 2006 being the first version, but this is a reset in terms of what we will build on top for the next 15 years,” said Tejas Gadhia, Head Evangelist for Zoho Creator. “Traditionally our updates are regular updates, but this is more of a fundamental shift. So while it is technically the sixth version of Zoho Creator, it is really a new Version 1 in terms of how things will be on built on top.”

The basic philosophy of the platform has remained consistent over the years.

“It was originally designed because Line of Business applications didn’t scale, and ones for developers or IT teams were highly customizable, but would take weeks of training for LOB users to use them even at the most basic level,” Gadhia indicated. “We want to be the bridge between the two. Most companies have two platforms – one for IT and one for LOB users. We have a single platform that both can use, which makes compliance privacy and security all easier.”

Gadhia also noted that the way the platform is being used by customers has changed substantially since 2006, which accounts for some of the changes in the new release.

Tejas Gadhia, Head Evangelist for Zoho Creator

“Over the course of time, we have seen the target audience shift,” he said. “The  target audience was originally SMB and midmarket. However, we have shifted more to strategic deployments within companies. That changes the way they use it. Building low code is now like building something from a box of 1000 Legos. You need a proper plan. What is really significant here is that we have added in two products – BI and an integration platform – and made it all into a single separate suite.”

Gadhia said that Zoho also enjoys several advantages over many competitors.

“Ours is all built on our own stack, unlike our competitors [except Microsoft],” he pointed out. “Low code markets also contain a specific problem for customers. On their own, they are proprietary. You can’t transfer them from one service to another service. That’s unique to low code, because there is no universal data structure to go from one service to another. Customers are locked in. Because of this being so hard to move, customers really have to understand the vendor, and in particular whether this is a serious effort or a side project.”

New in this version, and the reason for the integration of BI and integration platform solutions, is a greater emphasis on creating and managing custom business solutions at scale from a single dashboard.

“Broadly speaking, we have brought management across all three of these applications in a single interface, while also allowing for limiting access on what people can do and see,” Gadhia said. “Traditionally. low code focuses on build and integration and analyze functions, while management has not got enough love.”

The new AI capabilities, which come from Zoho’s intelligent AI Zia assistant, now enables developers to import data from anywhere, cleanse and transform with one click, build data models, and automatically detect data relationships via Smart Import. AI tasks such as predictive analytics, keyword extraction, sentiment analysis, OCR, and object detection are built into the drag-and-drop user interface for easy deployment.

“It allows for both prediction and ‘what if’ analysis,” Gadhia stated. “The conversational analytics, without needing to know the underlying SQL queries, is what people fall in love with.”

Creating business processes is made easier by the addition of Process Blueprinting. This drag-and-drop builder graphically constructs an online replica of a business process by specifying each step, assigning responsibilities across stakeholders, and automating actions based on pre-set conditions.

Developers now have access to enhanced serverless functions by being able to write, store, and execute reusable code blocks in Zoho Creator Platform using Deluge, Java, or Node.js. These functions encourage IT and business teams to work together to build scalable and easily maintainable enterprise-ready apps faster.

Also new for developers is universal cloud modeling, which help developers establish secure data transfer by automating data integration protocols with unified data architecture and over 650 plug-and-play connectors to make data integration easier for users. The Integration Status Dashboard provides complete visibility on how well each integration operates.

“Users just have to access the custom front ends at the top of the page to access integrations.” Gadhia said.

Other new additions are centralized governance tools like granular role-based access controls, comprehensive audit trails and backup options, application IDE, dashboards to view and manage users, billing dashboard, personalization options such as localization, and branding customization. Integrated communication and collaboration aid has also been added to help LOB users avoid getting stuck by minor obstacles. This includes messaging, sending files, sharing screens, and the ability to make audio and video calls.