What is our primary use case?
We use VINYL quite a bit across the organization, such as creating apps for equity trade requests that everybody in the entire company uses if they want to get approval. We built an app and VINYL routes the approval to the person's manager. We also use it on the commercial side for CRM-related activities.
We augment our business process quite a lot with it.
It's in a private AWS environment at the moment that Zudy is hosting for us. We are going to move it to our own AWS environment shortly.
How has it helped my organization?
We literally have used it at a very tactical level, maybe improving integrations. We have used it in the commercial arena for things, like roster management and even for sales forces that might not fit into a traditional CRM model. We would have build-time front-ends for small groups who have a unique way of doing things. We will write back to the back-end CRM database. Then, we have deployed it quite a bit on the finance side of things. There is really no limit to how we have been able to leverage it.
It's a great platform for business process improvement. The fact that you can connect to any data source really provides workflow approvals, etc., in a very timely way. This has really empowered us from an organizational perspective. We have incorporated hierarchy information so we can route things that need manager approval within the company. It has really facilitated a lot of business processes, where sometimes the core applications only get you about 80% of the way there.
We have built a guided buying application that guides people through the requisition process, which is just an easier experience than a lot of other things. The fact that it can connect to just about any data source has been a huge benefit for us.
We helped our finance group with the management of POs, so people could get some visibility in terms of how much money was left on a PO, e.g., if they needed to close a particular PO or request another owner for a PO. The area of the procure-to-pay process was an opportunity for us. We used VINYL to develop a PO management app that has really helped facilitate and create transparency for people from a self-service perspective. With a click of a button, people can see the POs that they own, how much is left on them, and then take some action on them, whether it is closing the PO or requesting a different owner.
We have used it on the IT side of things just to help facilitate integration. Where we didn't necessarily build an app, we would move data, leveraging VINYL, from one system to another if we were having trouble with the integration. The ability to connect to a lot of different data sources in an easy way has really been a benefit both for building applications, but also for our infrastructure team when they are building integrations from point to point.
We use it for business process improvement things, like equity trade requests, where it is a one-off need but there isn't really a core application for it. Sometimes, a lot of those things prior to having an application in which to store everything, things could be stored in email and you have to go back and search for things. So, it can improve compliance and really just about any aspect of things. You don't need to do things out of the system. For a lot of the things that people do a lot of times in spreadsheets and organizations, VINYL is a great tool to eliminate a lot of that siloed data that ends up on somebody's hard drive that you can't find anymore. For us, it's really been invaluable. That is why I have used them for so long across both at my current organization and even at prior companies.
We leverage everything through an SSO provider. Depending on people's rights, they will either have the application within the VINYL tile within our SSO provider or they won't. The data is encrypted. It's really a comforting experience, which is very important nowadays with all the security risks that are out there.
It has just made us a more efficient company. It has even made us a more compliant company. We have been able to build business processes for things that could introduce compliance risk. Being able to do that quickly and efficiently without having to spend a lot of money on a custom solution, and the fact that it plugs into our infrastructure at this point and works across a variety of solutions, just works well for us. It has dramatically positioned our time to market.
What is most valuable?
Their ability to connect to just about any data source has been really invaluable. We leverage it in our finance area to help facilitate the processing of purchase requisitions, so it can connect to SAP and our contracting system.
It really makes opportunities limitless because you can connect to just about any system and/or application. What is nice about VINYL is you can create an app and not even necessarily need to take the data out of the source system. If you are creating a business process improvement application that reads data from a variety of different data sources, you can create a front-end to it and write back to those authoritative sources or systems of record without even moving data around. You can facilitate the improved business process with VINYL's ability to connect to a lot of different things, not creating multiple copies of the data, which is also a real benefit of VINYL.
I believe that we are on the latest version. I think it is awesome. Anytime you go into applications, especially low-code development applications, you can sometimes be restricted on how creative you can get with the UI. I think their new design really brings a lot more interest into the applications, where the sizzle is always important. When people are using applications, they like it to have a sleek look and feel. I think that the constant improvement in this area is always great.
Most of the apps that we deploy on the VINYL platform, we try to make them as low-touch or low-training as possible. We try to make them intuitive from an end-user perspective. That is really the value proposition there. If you can build things quickly in a very intuitive interface that drives value for your customers, the value proposition tends to go up a lot. Between the UI and design principles that the Zudy BAs always bring to the table, they really make that not an issue at all.
It really is a big deal, especially the fact that VINYL can connect to just about any data source. We don't need to necessarily replicate data into a data warehouse to do reporting analytics on things. We can leave the data where it sits. Whatever the authoritative system is of record, we can read from it, then write back to it, leveraging a pre-built front-end that we would put together with VINYL. It really creates a lot of flexibility in an organization where you wouldn't just get off-the-shelf software. Those things only get you so far. Because of the fact that VINYL can connect to a lot of different data sources, and just about any API, it gives you a great deal of flexibility. You are almost limited by your imagination, more than anything else.
It is really the benefit of the low-code development frameworks. You don't really need to be a software developer. You can work in the app and do more configuring of the application. You don't need to be a heavy-duty developer. In fact, we don't really have a traditional development organization because of VINYL.
What needs improvement?
Having been a customer of theirs for a long time, I think the UI needed improvements early on. But, they have done a remarkable job catching up in that regard. They have always been great at connecting to a variety of data sources. They are a leader in that space. They do a great job, from a business analyst perspective, helping you shape what the ultimate system is going to look like. There really aren't a lot of areas that need improvement. The areas that they have, they are keenly aware of and have made great strides in recent releases.
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For how long have I used the solution?
We have been using VINYL for about as long as I have been at my current organization. I've also used it at prior companies, but it's probably going on four years here.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
It has been amazing. I don't know if it is how they manage and control their releases. This has become important, as you can imagine. With having very large communities of users and everybody in the company using the system, most systems have become mission-critical. We have had no outages that weren't unplanned. It doesn't mean you don't iterate on applications or work on improvements, but in terms of unplanned outages, it has been very small.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is interesting because our challenge is managing. Because VINYL can be used across a variety of different use cases, just about any potential integration can be accommodated with VINYL and people are really only limited to their imagination. Sometimes, we have to manage the number of things that people want to create or build using VINYL. Sometimes, you don't want to just create things for the sake of creating it. Scalability-wise, we haven't had any issues. We have literally everybody in the company as a user of the application. There have been no issues in terms of simultaneous usage or any of those types of things.
There hasn't been a use case that has been too big or too small. We have done everything from mini CRMs for very niche field-facing teams to facilitating our procure-to-pay.
The usage has been organic. As more people become aware of its capabilities, with the capabilities of the VINYL platform and the capabilities of the Zudy business analysts, the growth has been organic. We haven't necessarily decided to scale up, but it is global for us. We are a global organization. We use it in other regions around the world as well. It is not like we are going to increase it by 50% or 60% each year. That is probably about what the increase has been, but it has been all organic based on demand and the value that people see.
Everybody in the organization uses it, from equity trade requests to some general onboarding HR-type experience. So, we have a very broad user base with the VINYL applications. On the IT side of things, the more traditional side of things, we probably have two or three people who use it. One person more on the integration side of things uses it, then we have people who are business-facing who are interacting with business partners to drive and build a lot of the applications. It depends on how you define using VINYL. As consumers of the application, just about everybody in the company does use it in some capacity.
How are customer service and support?
They have been super helpful in just about every capacity. A lot of times, there will be challenges. We will go to them if we have an interesting challenge connecting to a particular vendor, but their support model has been great. Even more from an overall partnership, if there is anything that we need, we can certainly have the conversation with them. They are very open to facilitating and getting it done for us.
They are a great team to partner with, depending on the need or if something is coming up. I remember an instance early on when we were first becoming a commercial company. We had a need to create an application that would send text messages to hundreds of people in the organization when we got approval on what the next steps were. That was literally a phone call that I made one evening. By the next day, these guys were able to put together an application for me where we could use it in a production setting. It is that type of relationship and flexibility that the Zudy team and VINYL developers have. If you have a critical need, they will definitely work with you on what it is. They don't ever throw SLAs back in your face. They are a true partner in terms of that type of development.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I didn't use them before the company did. We had a strategy to help us augment limitations in our current cloud solutions.
Where certain cloud providers are not going to give you the ability to change the platform, or it might take several years if they listen to your feedback, there might be real limitations in terms of what they do. Most of the off-the-shelf type cloud providers or cloud applications will get you about 80% of the way there from a business process. We use the Zudy team and VINYL product to close the gap and get us the remaining 20%.
Prior to using Zudy and the VINYL platform, I would be involved in a little bit more of your traditional development frameworks.
How was the initial setup?
For the initial standup, Zudy was great in that regard. From signing contracts to having environments that stood up was probably three weeks total. That was back and forth, coordinating calendars, and everything else.
There are a couple aspects to it that work really well. Most low-code development platforms enable you to get something built relatively quickly, but when you couple that with the strong business analysts that Zudy provides, they tend to ask all the right questions when you are having those initial conversations. They quickly get to a minimal viable product that will allow the organization to react. Typically, it's like a week or two from initial conversation to having a minimal viable product, and then you can iterate on that. Just the fact that things are moving that quickly, I think it gives the organization a great deal of comfort. It is a dynamic that really improves customer satisfaction. It is not like a black hole, where you have a conversation, months go by before you see anything, and you are not given anything to react to.
What about the implementation team?
The Zudy team was great in terms of being able to stand up an environment, then helping you build on it right from there. Every aspect of working with Zudy and the VINYL product is relative to most other interactions with other companies. You get to shave 50% to 60% of what you would traditionally expect off of the time that it takes to do things.
One of the things, we, as a company, rely quite a bit on managed service providers. Zudy, as a company, has really great business analysts who help in the development. When you couple that with a low-code development platform, the time to value is very quick and usually inexpensive, relative to many other applications.
They were great. They even hosted it initially for us. They worked with us on upgrades and moving it from a hosted AWS environment that they support for us to our own internal AWS environment. Even on the infrastructure and more technical side of things, they are a very supportive partner.
We have people who interact internally with our business partners. However, the Zudy team provides the folks on the infrastructure side, if you want them to host it for you. If you're going to do it yourself, obviously you would need people to manage the environment, stand up the servers, and all the traditional things that you would think of just having to host an application internally. If you have the Zudy team do it, you really don't need any staff. They have a great managed services arm as well, where you can take advantage of their business analysts. They will help you and sit down with your customers to help build the applications. They ask questions about what it needs to integrate to. They also ask great business process questions.
What was our ROI?
ROI is always a hard thing to calculate. How do you put an ROI around being more compliant? It is just something that you have to do. If you don't, then you get in a lot of trouble potentially. Certainly, time to market is a huge value. However, doing things in a more compliant way is probably where you will see the value.
We benefit from the managed services that Zudy offers. The fact that it is a low-code development platform really gets us value pretty quickly, which is great from an IT perspective. It really drives a lot of value with our business partners.
The time to value with VINYL and Zudy business partners is probably 30% of what it would take with traditional applications. I think the low-code development platform really gets you to a minimal viable product very quickly, then you can iterate on that very quickly. Between that and having the business partners within Zudy to help drive a lot of these discussions and actually do the development for us, it has really been invaluable.
You get to a high quality application in a very short timeframe and relatively low costs without any measurable incremental headcount. Certainly, you need people to interact with the business and probably people to help point them in the right direction in terms of what APIs or data to get to. We haven't added any real headcount because of bringing the VINYL application into our environment.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
It is great. We have been working with them on a model where you are not limited. You pay for the license, then you can use it as much as you want. For us, it has been very cost-effective.
We also pay for the managed services help that we get from them. But, to me, it is a very effective cost model. Licenses are relatively inexpensive, then you pay by the drink in terms of the managed services that you are going to need, which has been great. We figure out where we want to apply those services and try to be pretty diligent about managing the costs there.
Literally, we have the license, which gives you unlimited use, and then we budget for anticipated services that we will leverage with them in terms of leveraging their managed services team to help build the apps and work with our business partners. Beyond that, there are zero hidden costs, which is great.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
It is a crowded space. The Zudy VINYL platform has led the way in this space. When I compare it to other solutions, there are probably two things that stand out in my mind about why I am always drawn back to the Zudy partnership. Their ability to connect to just about any data source is huge. If you have a platform that can't connect to things, it really limits the usage of that particular platform. The managed services that you can leverage from Zudy are huge as well. A lot of times when you're standing these things up, you need support, strong BAs, and other things. It takes awhile to get adoption, if you think your team is just going to pick up a new platform, leverage it, and be really good at it. A lot of times, the inability to deliver something quickly will tend to make people not use it the next time.
The biggest benefit of the VINYL platform: There are a lot of low-code development tools out there, but VINYL has the ability to connect to just about any data source out there, if an API exists for it and can be leveraged. We have even partnered with them at times to work with third-party vendors to develop APIs on our own, if there wasn't an API that exists for it.
It is huge. Between UI improvements, the ability to connect to other data sources, or the ability to deploy truly mobile apps, it is that type of functionality that continues to keep the product relevant, especially in a relatively crowded space. There are a lot of people who try to use low-code development platforms, but the VINYL platform is very robust. When you combine that with the managed services that they offer and their continued development of the platform, it really makes them stand out.
It is probably close to 60% to 70% that you can deliver things quicker than you could with more traditional development frameworks or even low-code development frameworks, because there isn't really a limitation in terms of the number of tools or systems that VINYL can integrate with. You are not really limited. You don't need to find another solution or work out different integration capabilities when you're dealing with the VINYL platform. You are just limited more by your imagination than you are by any of the technical capabilities of the system.
What other advice do I have?
It is really a great platform for all the things that you don't quite get out of cloud-based solutions.
They continue to iterate and improve the application. In one of the more recent releases, they came up with a mobile app in which you can build a VINYL application that you can deploy on mobile devices, just like you would from the App Store.
Generally speaking, people pick it up pretty quickly. We tend to leverage a lot of the managed services within the Zudy team specifically for that because we're pretty partner dependent. But, it works well because they are able to do things so quickly. Our ability to go from concept to minimal viable product is pretty short, thus relatively inexpensive.
Having been a customer of the Zudy team for a really long time, it is always about adoption. Anytime you are introducing new technologies like this into an organization, people don't really quite understand what it is. You try and get your quick wins so people can see the value of it. Once you get past that, then you have the other lesson of how do you control growth, because you can connect to a lot of different things and people are very eager to find solutions to their problems. Sometimes, you have to manage what you are going to do and when you're going to do it, because no one has limitless resources. We, internally, establish a prioritization mechanism where we look at what is happening and where we should prioritize certain requests over others.
It is two-fold. There are a lot of low-code development platforms out in the market today, and you are going to see that a lot of them have value. Certainly, the number of data sources that they can integrate with is a huge piece of the decision-making factor, but then it is also the model. I have tried implementing tools like this in other companies, and it's not always easy to get adoption, even to get internal people comfortable with it and use it. If you can have someone who will partner with you in that journey and get your internal teams comfortable, and more importantly, get the business comfortable with the applications that you are delivering, then the adoption and value proposition go way up. It is really about the whole partnership, selection, etc., as you go through the process.
I wouldn't be with them this long if they weren't at least a strong nine (out of 10) for me. They are great. I wouldn't give anybody necessarily 10, but I would certainly give them a nine.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
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