The purpose of customer-facing portals is to automate a specific business function by providing the customers with a web and/or mobile presence to submit their information, and get results without having to interact with customer representatives.
There are many different use cases of these types of online portals from help-desk and ticketing systems, to knowledge bases, forums, or even chat platforms. Naturally, there are also many tools on the market that offer fully built-in portals for these types of traditional use cases.
However, there are also many use cases that are specific to industries or individual companies. These can be highly custom scenarios that would typically be handled by custom software development. Common examples include pricing and quoting tools for complex products and services, product or service configuration tools, Return-on-Investment (ROI) calculators, and so on.
Due to their unique nature and high frequency of change, companies often build tools in Excel to automate these business functions. In this article, we will explain how SpreadsheetWeb can transform such Excel tools into customer facing portals, without losing the advantages of using Excel in the first place.
Business Process and Workflow
In SpreadsheetWeb, the business logic is essentially copied from the underlying Excel workbook – the file is transformed into a web application. This way, no matter how complicated the business logic is in Excel, it can be carried over into the web application with zero coding. SpreadsheetWeb’s Control Panel, on the other hand, allows access to the application, saved data, user and group management tools, workflow features, and tracking capabilities. All elements of the Control Panel, as well as user access is fully configurable.
This approach allows the businesses to simply plug in their Excel workbook into SpreadsheetWeb, create the web application with a drag-and-drop style builder, and customize their Control Panel based on the application requirements. When you need to make an update in the underlying logic, you can download the workbook from the server, make your edits, and simply upload it back into the system – preserving Excel’s simplicity for building and editing the data model.
Online portals – especially those that see heavy traffic – require meticulous assignment and management of the data. Application versions, as well as all stored data is kept in a centralized location, and users can collaborate by assigning a record to another user or group, and mark its progress for everyone to see by switching its status – all from the same place. Furthermore, you can also choose to send automated email, or even Slack notifications when a record’s status or ownership changes.
User management is an important part of portal applications since employees, as well as the customers need secure access into the platform and their own data. Self-registration and account maintenance can also be must-haves, especially in portals with large number of users.
In SpreadsheetWeb, you can manage all users from the Control Panel – including those created via self-registration. Be it for updating the system, or a user taking a leave, you can always edit, delete, suspend or unsuspend the users from the same menu.
SpreadsheetWeb has support for creating multiple levels of users with different access types. This means that you can have end users feeding tickets into the system with no access to other people’s data, then the next level of users in the workflow categorize and assign those requests in their groups, and the highest user level overseeing the process with access to all data.
You have full control over your password policies, and you can specify every aspect of the password criteria from the number and type of characters, to password expiration frequency.
Data security is very important in portal applications where you could potentially be collecting and storing customer information. There are also strict rules in regulated industries – like healthcare or investment – where traditional security measures simply don’t cut it.
SpreadsheetWeb provides data security on multiple levels. In addition to data encryption at transport and at rest, another key security feature is the ability to install SpreadsheetWeb on-premise. This allows companies in regulated industries to store their data internally within their network, where they are already compliant with those security regulations.
Analytics and Reporting
In a system with several users interacting with different pieces of the system, it is crucial tracking what the users are doing in the system. Furthermore, giving the users reporting capabilities on their own activity and data can also give them better insight as to what is on their to-do list.
The Analytics page on SpreadsheetWeb’s Control Panel allows admin-level system users to see everything that happens in the system – from when users are logging in and out, to where they are located based on their IP address.
A big challenge in managing online tools and portals is the organization of the data, and where everything is in the pipeline. Reporting tools can help get an overview of the system, and identify any red flags. SpreadsheetWeb’s built-in Dashboard applications can be used to query data from any of your web applications, and visualize that data. You can choose from dozens of charts, diagrams, maps, and gauges.
Let’s take a look at a live example. Assume that we have a startup financials calculator that can help users find out their costs, profits, and other expected results on their finances in their first few years in business.
Creating the system users manually can be a fairly tedious process. Instead, you can make an application "restricted with registration", and allow the users to login with their accounts to access your application, or allow them to create a new account if they don't already have one. The signup process is very straightforward, and the users can access the application right away.
SpreadsheetWeb comes with a built-in user management module. With this, an admin user can see everyone that has signed up to use this tool.From this page, you can change the user roles or other details, convert them into a higher-level user type (i.e. subscription) if their payment went through, or suspend/unsuspend them. Team members can also be given access to this page to help with managing the portal users.
When converted into a web application, the tool looks nothing like Excel, but retains the same calculations and data throughout. This tool consists of 12 pages, and hundreds of inputs – so it might be a bit hard to finish it in one sitting. Users have the ability to use the Save button to capture their data, and continue where they left off.
Saved records can be accessed from the SpreadsheetWeb Control Panel. You can download the data, edit or delete existing records, or utilize any of the workflow features from this screen.
If you’d like to sign up, you can access the website (created with Carrd), and the portal (created with SpreadsheetWeb) by clicking the images above, or here: https://startupfinancials.com/