ZOHO: Why Low-Code Workflow Automation Trumps Spreadsheets In The Work-From-Home Economy

A year ago, I published an article introducing ZOHO as "the most successful SaaS company you may have never heard of." This was more of an introduction into one of the more interesting enterprise SaaS companies.

Today I am looking at the newest product from ZOHO called Qntrl (pronounced “control”), a simple workflow automation solution that integrates with technology from other vendors.

Workflow automation is a hot market trend, particularly with offerings like Qntrl, which offer low code solutions that use visual interfaces and simple drag-and-drop features instead of extensive coding languages.


Why workflow automation?

Microsoft Excel and emails are familiar tools, but if you use them to manage processes, you miss out on the visibility and control that comes from dedicated software. The bottom line is low-code workflow automation platforms can do everything Excel and email can do, but better.

Low-code platforms offer compliance. Let us suppose you are including personal information such as customer address and contact details in your spreadsheets. That information is available to everyone. Even if you set a password, it will become common knowledge. Low-code platforms include role-based access to the data, documents, and workflows, granting access rights to employees who need to see the information to perform the job. 

Excel spreadsheets are fraught with version control issues, from being stored in different locations, copied and pasted, and even accidentally deleted. Low-code platforms are SaaS, a single source of truth in the cloud, accessible by authorized users from anywhere and any device, essential these days when your workforce could be working from home.

What is workflow orchestration software?

Since I cannot provide you with a live demo, the best way of explaining how this software might work in your environment is through an example. 

Consider the onboarding of a new employee, which might involve multiple systems in the organization such as the human resource management system, facilities to reserve a cube or office, access to a computer, training, and a security badge. This workflow requires several things to happen in logical order ensuring only authorized users see the data.  

Qntrl uses a four-step wizard called Orchestration to set up this workflow. 

A “form” is the first step. With the form are fields that collect all the data about the tasks in a single place. Contained in a field might be personal data about the new employee, including, name address, role, salary, and start date. Managers create forms for every task and restrict access to specific fields such as salary, for example.


The second step is called a “blueprint," which defines the step-by-step approach of a workflow. Blueprints also help you efficiently manage, optimize, and automate repetitive tasks. It might contain steps like review, approve and reject. A blueprint might be two or more stages, with transitions to the next stage based on achieving preset conditions. Our simple example, approval of salary and sign-on bonus, would happen before assigning office space and a computer.

The third step involves the concept of “cards," created to request available solutions in an organization. Users fill out forms in orchestration, capturing the details of the task. Individuals are assigned a card and complete the job within a defined period. In our onboarding example, a manager would create a card to book accommodation for the new employee's interview visit. The progress can be checked by viewing the card’s stage in the blueprint. 

The fourth and final stage is to visualize progress via "reports" that detail the number of cards passed through each transition. Reports provide a window into the efficiency of the organization’s workflows.  

Qntrl enables you to see the real-time progress of jobs in the organization, hide confidential information from specific users, and send automatic notifications to users with job assignments. With all but the simplest tasks, this process is cumbersome using spreadsheets and documents.

Some other examples come from actual ZOHO customers who have been using the software. A large publicly traded conglomerate successfully used Qntrl to orchestrate the workflow of marketing campaigns across a wide range of product lines in multiple languages. A multi-national services company used Qntrl to automate the pre-sales process from requirements gathering to the final proposal. Finally, a large construction company used Qntrl to control the purchasing and contractor hiring process across multiple large-scale residential projects.

Wrapping up

As I mentioned in the beginning, workflow automation is a hot market trend as managers use intelligent workflow automation solutions to increase visibility into a department's or business's operations.

The need became pronounced during the pandemic when so many workers could not be in the office. It made moving work in a more automated workflow more imperative, and we have seen companies moving to add more of this kind of functionality as a result. 

Qntrl is generally available with paid plans starting at $7 per user/month, with an annual contract. Qntrl also offers a free version for up to five users and three orchestrations. Qntrl integrates with existing solutions, including ZOHO's suite of business apps and third-party solutions, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Workday.

With Qntrl, ZOHO fills a gap in today's market between unstructured tools such as email and Excel and simple tools like Kanban and Checklist tools at the low end of the market spectrum, and Enterprise software such as ERP, CRM, ServiceNow, at the high end. 

Unstructured tools and simple Kanban tools cannot scale and lack automation and integration capabilities. Using Enterprise software results in added complexity for users, added cost, and an IT burden to maintain the tools. 

Qntrl from ZOHO fills that mid-market gap in workflow management, with a simple drag and drop interface requiring a lot less technical expertise than traditional business process management (BPM) tools.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.