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collabapi_infographic_20141108.v3

gocanvas.com is great : you can create form apps for your business without programming.

Replacing paper with mobile touchscreen and having your data in the cloud is such a big win… BUT there are a couple of crucial missing pieces that are vital to business  :

  • more than one kind of thing !
  • relationships between things

 

The Problem

In real life and in business, there are a few different kinds of things, such as :

  • Customer
  • Address
  • Vehicle
  • Branch
  • Product
  • Invoice
  • Event
  • Group
  • Project
  • Property
  • Contract
  • Supplier
  • Shipment
  • Task

And these things have important relationships between them : A Customer may have several site Addresses.  A Job may have several different kinds of Checklist attached.  An Invoice will have several Products for each Job for a Customer .. and so it goes.

 

Relations

A good app [ mobile or otherwise ] will have a data-model that reflects the REALITY of your business, and it will be flexible enough to handle the relationships between the data items.

diagram_consult

This is the old-school database stuff they figured out in 1940, which has been the staple of business IT for the past 60 years – they call them ‘Relational’ databases for a reason.

These days we want more flexible data, there is the whole NoSQL movement, key-value stores, XML and JSON.  To model reality and business we need natural tree and graph structures, not everything is a table.  Just dont throw away the baby with the bathwater : we need relations.

If you don’t have Relations you cant do the fun stuff :

  • one to many [ Comment Wall can have many Posts ]
  • trees and heirarchies [ Deep Product Catalog, Organization chart ]
  • graphs and social networks [ facebook, linkedin, crm, sales ]
  • people interacting [ messaging ]

This lack of relationships is killer for IT departments – they cant run a retail business or a supply chain or a sales organisation or a manufacturing plant without this flexibility.  Its also killer for startups exploring new business models who need an app to manage their operations or customer needs accurately and in a flexible way.

 

The Solution : Relations

The solution is to have a tool that is great for making forms… but is also great for handling relations between different kinds of things.

We need some deeper engineering that allows you to link things together,  so you can build these kinds of real apps for business :

  • Product Catalog
  • Topic Wall with Comments
  • Invoices where you can select existing products, or add a new one
  • Jobs that can be assigned to different stakeholders
  • Flexible forms with multiple sub-clauses [ Property report with any number of rooms ]
  • Social Network features …

 

Its early days, but this part we got right from the start – CollabAPI does support relations.

This means we can create apps for real business scenarios :

  • a custom CRM
  • sales business social network
  • a manufacturing process workflow
  • a real-estate property management system

 CollabAPI Beta

If you’d like to be on the beta list to try CollabAPI App Builder tool for your business mobile app… get in touch.

The more Things and Relations your app has, the better !

gord

justgord at gmail dotcom

Havent posted for a good while.. been incredibly busy working on a side project which seems to have a life of its own.

Collabapi.com is not quite ready for release, but I’ve been using it to get real work done for a while.  Its basically a much quicker way to develop data centric apps.  This kind of app is useful for tracking all the information you need to run a business well – the stuff that goes on paper / word / excel forms.  It would be great if there was a quick way to make it mobile / web and have the data in electronic format from the get-go so you could search it more easily and so on.

Example App :  Gym Membership Sales Pipeline

We can start by making a form each for our Salespeople, and our potential Customers.  I configure up the data model in the App Designer for these, save those changes… then the app comes up on web and tablet straight away :

ca_quicksales_salesperson

ca_quicksales_customer_profile

I did this by configuring the fields, checkbox items etc, and the app reflects this ‘datamodel’  : 

ca_designer_quicksales_cust_profile

Apparently there’s a sales-cycle thing we want to keep track of –

  • initial contact
  • see if the customers interested
  • what are their goals
  • book a meeting
  • get them to signup
  • success! happiness! cash!

So here’s a go at modeling up a sales call…


ca_quicksales_sales_call

… hmm, promising and a good place to start, I can actually put that in front of the Gym Owner and her Chief Sales Maven, and they can try it out on the web or on their tablet device.

so.. collabapi.com

The point of this article is not to say ‘you can do apps real quick in Collabapi’ … which is kinda true.

The coolness is really just the way we can iterate and experiment : get something out there quickly and get the users to make suggestions.  

Its more of a GSD or MVP / lean-startup approach to making apps.  Its not just for business apps, but I think it will be really handy for business … putting the love back into the ‘small-data’ that’s important to most people.

I’ll talk a bit about the technology under the hood at some stage – and there is a lot of tech under the hood – but for now, that’s a good place to pause and have a cup of tea :]

cheers,  gord.

justgord at gmail dotcom

Lately I seem to be busy mainly with consulting to Internet and Mobile startups, and one of the things I get asked a lot is which technologies I recommend for a given project.

It seems to work best when I give two approaches to serving data, one based on newer tools such as Node.js and CouchDB along with a more conservative alternative using Ruby on Rails or traditional LAMP stack as underlying technology.

As a prelude to the detailed project plan and data design, I usually give an overview of current trends.. I get asked that a lot, so I thought Id put my observations online here as a few bullet points :

Technology Trends :

  • Web and Mobile projects are converging [one usually implies the other]
  • Most data is social data [for the user and the people they interact with]
  • Most data naturally fits a tree or graph structure [tabular, not so much]
  • JSON has replaced XML [hand-in-glove with web, iPhone, Android ]
  • Scalability is a feature [can be deferred, but no easy migration path]
  • The days of generating HTML from PHP are gone [use JSON feed + jQuery]
  • People still use PHP and MySQL [it works, you can find developers]
  • Code using MVC frameworks tends to be overly verbose [Zend, Rails, Django]
  • Node.js and CouchDB are cool [but the newness of NoSQL is risky]

These are universally accepted as a good thing :

  • iPhone vs Android : both are good, competition is great!
  • JSON
  • jQuery
  • Architecture :  [ server data store ] <–> [ JSON ] <–> [ Web / Mobile client ]
  • AppStore revenue model

These are technologies to watch for :

  • Node.js [ultra high performance app servers can be written in Javascript ]
  • CouchDB [scalable NoSQL with sane REST api, map/reduce in Javascript ]
  • SVG [allows new kinds of User Interface on web & mobile ]

The above observations and predictions raise some interesting questions.. but Ill save that as juice for another post.