Review: Creatio 8.0 Atlas shoulders no-code CRM

Creatio 8.0 Atlas is a competent no-code development environment, with good CRM capabilities for sales, marketing, and service, and good BPM capabilities.

At a Glance

Creatio, previously called bpm’online, is billed as “one platform to automate industry workflows and CRM with no-code and a maximum degree of freedom.” Creatio combines a studio for building BPM (business process management) workflows, designing user interfaces, and managing Creatio apps with CRM capabilities for sales, marketing, and service. It also provides prebuilt industry-specific BPM workflows and a collection of applications, templates, and connectors.

Creatio apps can run in the browser or on mobile devices, and the Creatio servers can be deployed in the cloud or on-premises.

Creatio competes fairly directly with Salesforce, HubSpot, Oracle, and Microsoft. It also competes with varying levels of overlap with the roughly 400 low-code/no-code products on the market, but especially with the ones with BPM capabilities. Creatio has more than 700 partners around the world and offers up to 50% margins to partners.

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The major functional parts of Creatio are listed across the top. The BPM workflow shown is for front office product verification.

Creatio capabilities

How does the slogan “one platform to automate industry workflows and CRM with no-code and a maximum degree of freedom” translate into practice? Let’s go through one section at a time.

Studio Creatio

Studio Creatio is for building BPM (business process management) workflows, data models, and integrations. It is the baseline solution of the Creatio product range, available both as a separate app and as part of other Creatio products and Creatio Marketplace software solutions. Studio comes in two flavors: Studio free, a free product to accelerate business process design and implementation, and Studio enterprise, a low-code platform for business process automation and custom business app development.

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The Studio Creatio user interface consists of the side panel (1), notification panel (2), command line (3), folders and filtering area (4), and the content of the page that is displayed at the moment (5).

Creatio Process Designer

Creatio Process Designer is the part of Studio Creatio that lets you create BPM workflow diagrams. Process elements include user actions, system actions, events, gateways, sub-processes, business process flows, and connecting actions. Some actions refer to planned tasks outside of Creatio; others display user interface actions, such as dialogs, within Creatio.

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The Creatio Process Designer workspace is designed for creating and editing business processes. The workspace contains all elements required to create a process: the toolbar (1), the working area (2), the process element toolbar (3), the element setup area (4), the process area context menu (5), and the zoom toolbar (6).

Freedom UI Designer

The Freedom UI Designer lets you design user interfaces with a fully responsive app layout (including mobile). This is also the place where you set up data sources and connect them to app pages. You can place fields, charts, UI components such as buttons, lists, and labels, and layout components such as expansion panels, tabs, and flex containers.

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The Freedom UI designer includes the element library (1), an action panel (2), a working canvas (3), and a setup area (4).

Creatio machine learning and AI

Creatio supports predictive data analysis using a machine learning service. Creatio supports specific sets of models for Studio, Sales, Marketing, and Service. In general, you need to train your models based on your own historical and current data. Model types include lookup value prediction (classification), numeric prediction (regression), predictive scoring, recommendation, and similar text search.

You’ll probably need a data engineer to collect and clean the training data sets and a data scientist to train the models and set them up with reasonable probability thresholds and a schedule to retrain them regularly. Once you have good models in place, ordinary Creatio business users should be able to simply accept their predictions if the quality is high enough.

Depending on the probability ratio, Creatio distinguishes among the following prediction types:

  • Certain predictions
  • Near-certain predictions
  • Weak predictions

Creatio will only populate a field with certain predictions. For near-certain predictions, the user can view the list of predictions and their probabilities.

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Creatio’s machine learning service is a containerized service that runs alongside the main Creatio application.

Creatio Application Hub

The Creatio Application Hub is a module for managing and orchestrating your applications at each stage of the development lifecycle. It allows users to design and launch new applications, configure existing applications, and manage instances and deployments. It also lets them have a consolidated view of all available apps, connectors, and templates, access available composable elements, and set up and facilitate the collaborative no-code development process.

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The Creatio Applications Hub gives you a consolidated view of all available apps, connectors, and templates. It allows you to manage instances and facilitate collaborative no-code development process.

Creatio CRM tools

Creatio offers CRM (customer relationship management) for sales, marketing, and service. At first glance, it seemed strange to me that Creatio would combine CRM and low-code/no-code products, but all three CRM products are built on the base of Studio Creatio low-code and BPM workflows. The way Creatio is priced, it makes sense for your marketing, sales, service, and IT departments to combine their purchases under a single contract.

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This lead analytics console for Marketing CRM is one of many features of Creatio’s CRM products.

Industry-specific BPM workflows

Creatio offers a number of prebuilt industry-specific BPM workflows. When I checked in February 2022, there were customized products for nine industries: financial services, manufacturing and distribution, professional services, retail, pharma, telecom, public sector, transportation and logistics, and media and advertising.

Creatio Marketplace

The Creatio Marketplace offers applications, templates, and connectors. Only 12 of the 350-plus apps were certified by Creatio. Some 210 were free, and 145 were paid.

The prices of Creatio Marketplace add-ons vary. Some are expensive. For example, the Field Sales add-on is priced at $240 per user per year, and the Pharma add-on is priced at $900 per user per year. Other add-ons are free, such as the GDPR plug-in, developed by the devlabs community project, and the Excel reports builder, also from devlabs.

Adding something from the Creatio Marketplace seems straightforward unless you have a large installation with a load balancer. Then you need to wait until after working hours, shut down all but one instance, do the installation on that instance, copy the new files to all of the other servers, then restart all the instances.

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When I checked the Creatio Marketplace in February 2022 it offered 18 industry-specific systems, 127 connectors, and 221 applications. 210 offerings were free, and 145 were paid. 12 apps were certified by Creatio experts.

What’s new in Creatio 8?

Creatio 8.0 Atlas introduces three major innovations: the Application Hub, the No-Code Designer, and an elevated canvas-style UI designer called Freedom UI. All of these are discussed above under “Creatio capabilities.”

Getting started with Creatio

To get started with Creatio, you basically need to sign up with your work email and log into your free workspace. Then you can explore Studio, the CRM products, and any Marketplace add-ons that seem relevant.

Whenever I went away from my computer for more than a couple of hours and came back, I had difficulty logging into my free workspaces. They eventually “warmed up,” however. I don’t imagine that this is a problem with paid instances.

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Creatio offers free trials of all of its products. While Studio Enterprise and the CRM Suite are separate products, you can license them under a single contract, which makes sense given Creatio’s minimum annual purchase volume policy.

Creatio for developers

If you dig down under the no-code layer of Creatio, you’ll find developer-oriented page designs and source code. The back-end source code is C#; the front-end source code is JavaScript with AMD (Asynchronous Module Definition) and RequireJS. In addition to Creatio’s own IDE, you can use an external IDE such as Visual Studio.

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This is how you dig down to the developer layer in Creatio. Start by dropping down “Advanced settings” and picking a module to open.

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This screenshot shows a page design opened in the Freedom UI designer. The link for the source code </> is at the upper right.

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This shows the AMD JavaScript source code for a client module. Note the use of the define keyword to allow the module to be dynamically loaded.

Competent no-code development

Overall, Creatio is a competent no-code development environment, with good CRM capabilities for sales, marketing, and service, and good BPM capabilities. Creatio’s minimum pricing tends to be too high for small businesses, but is reasonable for medium to large businesses.

Creatio has a fairly robust marketplace of add-on applications, templates, and connectors, of which more than half are currently free. It has customized products for nine industries, although the industry-specific add-ons seem to be the most expensive.

Every part of Creatio that I’ve played with is available as a free trial. I’d certainly recommend trying it before you buy. I’d also compare it directly to competing products, such as those from Salesforce, Oracle, and Microsoft.

Cost: Studio Creatio Process designer: free. Studio Creatio Enterprise: $25/user/month after free trial. Sales Creatio: starts at $30/user/month; see https://www.creatio.com/sales/pricing. Marketing Creatio: calculated based on the number of marketing users, the number of active contacts and email traffic; see https://www.creatio.com/marketing/pricing. Service Creatio: starts at $45/month per user; see https://www.creatio.com/service/pricing. Prices of each solution in the Creatio Marketplace vary, and can be checked in the respective tab on the Marketplace or with the solution provider. The minimum annual purchase volume per customer is $5,000. A minimum contract period for all products and editions is three years.

Platform: Online (cloud) or on-premises servers (IIS or .NET Core, Redis cache, and choice of Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, or PostgreSQL; optional load balancers and version control).

At a Glance
  • Creatio 8 Atlas is a competent no-code development environment, with good CRM capabilities for sales, marketing, and service, and good BPM capabilities. Creatio’s minimum pricing tends to be too high for small businesses, but is reasonable for medium to large businesses.

    Pros

    • Good no-code development environment
    • Good CRM capabilities for sales, marketing, and service
    • Good BPM capabilities

    Cons

    • Minimum pricing tends to be too high for small businesses, but is reasonable for medium to large businesses.

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