Building a global supplier management system for a maritime conglomerate on Zoho Creator

This client—a global conglomerate with a business unit HQ located in Singapore—has businesses spread across real estate, hospitality, beverages, and energy resources. They operate in Europe, China, and the United States, with more than 100,000 employees worldwide.

In business for over 200 years, the client's daily operations involve many legacy IT systems. These systems are mission critical, but also old, hard to maintain, and difficult to upgrade. As businesses evolve, these legacy systems are no longer able to meet the needs of operations—and it's difficult to manage legacy systems while keeping up with the latest technologies. One common use case of Creator, Zoho's low-code development platform, is to help companies expand on the capabilities of these legacy systems, or migrate to powerful new applications powered by Creator, with ease.

The client's supplier management team was facing this exact dilemma. The team is in charge of communication and billing matters with their global suppliers. And there are multiple supplier databases sitting in various legacy systems at different office locations.

When the client's business units needed to update supplier information, the team first got approval via email, then manually updated the latest details into their legacy systems. It was a time-consuming process and prone to errors. On average, it would take the supplier management team a week to obtain the approval to create one new supplier entry in the database—and this all needed to occur before business units could have any transaction with the new supplier in the ERP system.

The team, together with the IT department, had been trying to enhance these legacy systems to automate the process. However, the legacy systems were the responsibility of other departments, who often didn't have the resources or urgency to upgrade the systems.

Why Zoho Creator?

After a thorough research period, the IT department decided to build a new application system—independent from the legacy systems—to automate the supplier management process.

During the study, they noticed that Zoho Creator had the capability to integrate with ERPs, regardless of how new or old they were. In addition, the self-service portal feature in Zoho Creator allows external suppliers to raise requests and update data in the system. More importantly, the nature of low-code platforms makes the development cycle shorter, and at a lower cost.

At this point, they reached out to us at Zolution to develop the system with Zoho Creator, as the technology is able to address the challenges they had been struggling with.

System Requirements

Zolution worked with the client's management team to build a custom ERP system to perform important tasks:
  • The application needed to automatically facilitate the multilayer approval process with notifications.
  • The existing supplier details needed to be brought into Zoho Creator using a REST API. The supplier list in the database of the legacy systems also needed to get updated periodically.

  • Due to an additional in-house database which is not connected online now—but will be soon—the design of the Creator app needed to provision the integration with the database in the future.

  • Zoho Creator needed to integrate with Azure AD for single sign-on.

Zolution soon completed the development of the system ahead of the target. The Zoho Creator application successfully helped the client reduce their processing time from one week to one day. Users around the world can now update the supplier information not only from their computer but also from their mobile phones. The new apps also helped to reduce human error significantly. All records and activities are logged in the system as well, for auditing purposes.

After the successful launch of the system, and with positive feedback from users, the client quickly decided to embark on a second phase, to expand the scope to managing the company's banking information as well. This project helped showcase how Zoho Creator can help IT departments to manage legacy systems and meet business requirements, in addition to providing a powerful and flexible tool that empowers companies to continuously improve their productivity.