On April 8, 2022
Published in original from the desk of Jacob Hartmann, President of Hartmann Industries.
TrackVia is a cloud-based low-code/no-code platform used to build custom business apps, centralize data, and automate workflows. It’s an affordable, easy-to-use tool for organizations who want to move away from paper and Excel forms but don’t have the time or resources to create their own digital CRM or ERP from scratch.
There are intrinsic limitations with all SaaS platforms – there are only so many software engineers a SaaS company can hire to build new features. Promises to larger clients and investors may limit resources that can be allocated to the needs of smaller clients. As a modern company using SaaS, you may need certain functionality that won’t be available for the foreseeable future.
As a TrackVia partner, Hartmann Industries is approaching these limitations differently. Today, I am proud to share our story in developing DeskTrackr – the only TrackVia add-on that allows for native 3rd-party integrations inside TrackVia’s user interface.
TrackVia’s Success Story
Since its launch in 2005, TrackVia has firmly established itself as an industry leader in the low-code/no-code space. TrackVia is used by large organizations such as Honeywell, Safeway, ADP, Stearns Lending, and GE. The platform is also used in the SMB space, with many customers having less than $10 million in annual revenue. TrackVia has received substantial venture capital and private equity funding, proving evident growth and technical innovation.
TrackVia’s core value proposition allows businesses to quickly and easily create applications that improve overall productivity.
For TrackVia to achieve this value proposition, it needs to furnish certain functionality out of the box. One of these things is integration with other systems (e.g., Salesforce, Google Apps, Quickbooks, etc.). Until recently, TrackVia had two classifications of integrations:
The first type is what I call “first-party” integrations – integrations that TrackVia themselves builds, or rather tools that enable the direct integration. These integrations are built directly into TrackVia’s codebase.
First-party integrations are generally rare with TrackVia. These include Workato, which opens the gates to a Zapier-like method of connecting TrackVia to other applications. TrackVia has also introduced “microservices,” which are locked down Amazon Web Service Lambdas that can easily interface with webhook applications. Unlike Workato, microservices require coding knowledge and an understanding of Lambda architecture and constraints.
The second type is “third-party” integrations – integrations designed natively by other software platforms utilizing TrackVia’s Open API. Most third-party systems will lean on Workato or Zapier to interface with TrackVia as middleware. This results in overall slower system operations and the added cost of such middleware from an end-user viewpoint. Simply put, for most organizations, Workato and Zapier result in a significantly higher total cost of ownership versus developing the same integrations from scratch. Overall, these integrations are also irregular to see in the wild.
Limitations of TrackVia
This isn’t to say that TrackVia isn’t an exceptional fit for contemporary ERP/CRM implementations. Hartmann Industries takes a robust stance on LCNC development and feels that platforms such as TrackVia are here to stay.
However, we also have a corporate and moral duty to our clients to implement the most comprehensive products and honest services. Our service delivery methodology is complex and crafted over years of experience; flexibility is a huge component. Our clients rely on us for everything from building a simple landing page to multi-year supply chain management solutions and international expansion undertakings.
As a TrackVia implementor, Hartmann Industries has several thousand hours of TrackVia experience across our entire team (at the time of writing). We’ve identified several immediate bottlenecks and inherently the solutions to resolve them as a third-party partner:
Custom Fields & Validation
The inability to create custom fields – all fields must be defined by TrackVia’s internal engineering team. This can lead to a lack of flexibility in tracking your own data attributes. For example, one user wanted to validate phone number formats in a way that wasn’t available in any of the existing field types provided by TrackVia.
This inspired us to create the first general-purpose and open-source app script library to simplify Groovy pattern matching using abstracted regular expressions.
Data Backup & Disaster Recovery
While TrackVia does offer compliant computing services (HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc.; TrackVia, Inc. is SOC3 complaint), some enterprise features are not available yet: immutable logging with dynamic and self-service exporting; legal holds; offsite end-to-end encrypted backups; agile BCDR techniques. As a solutions provider, we insist that our clients preserve multiple copies of their data, including those on SaaS platforms. Modern companies’ blood is data, and having multiple tourniquets in an emergency situation may save the company’s life.
For the same reasons that we require Office 365 and SharePoint backups, we require our clients to keep off-platform backups of their TrackVia data. These are trusted SOC3 compliant entities, but a company’s data is its own responsibility at the end of the day.
As no third-party backup solution exists for TrackVia, we are devoting resources to developing an add-on that can securely backup TrackVia data.
Our goal is to backup on a field level in real-time to an immutable and cryptographically-verified data lake hosted on-premise or in a public cloud provider such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. We call it BackTrackr.
The intent of this add-on is to improve the overall BCDR strategy in the TrackVia ecosystem, as well as provide a wrapper for enterprise features such as legal holds.
Native Integrations with 3rd-Party Systems
The use of Zapier and Workato poses financial and technical limitations on new TrackVia users. A complex business need may be technically implemented in such a system, but there is a good chance that it is not the most efficient solution.
Workato and TrackVia in action – screenshot from TrackVia University.
Hartmann Industries is committed to developing native integrations between TrackVia and our existing projects, such as PromptPDF (a FormStack competitor), PhishSweep (an AI-driven cybersecurity monitoring tool), and LocTrackr (a Verizon Connect competitor).
An Open-Source Developer Community
Finally, our corporate ethos maintains that free and open-source software is essential to the longevity of modern enterprise computing.
Hartmann Industries remains determined to shift the TrackVia development community into a flourishing FOSS ecosystem. We have created the first TrackVia user group on Facebook and a community on Reddit for open dialogue outside of the pre-existing community forum and LinkedIn user group. Compared to these alternatives, we feel that these less formal environments will promote creativity and better questions.
We will continue extending and releasing developer utilities, such as our PHP SDK and validation library, and publish lab reports on TrackVia data structure best practices, API usage examples, and our research and development projects involving TrackVia.
Hartmann Industries understands that many of our client’s immediate needs go beyond what TrackVia offers. We found these limitations, and we wanted to do something about them. So, we developed DeskTrackr – a desktop application for TrackVia that allows for native integrations – all within the user interface of your TrackVia account.
The idea of extending TrackVia natively first was discussed by our senior engineering team almost three years ago. Computing technology and our internal resources have caught up to a point where that idea is now feasible to implement. DeskTrackr has been in the works for some time, and I’m proud to say it’s feature complete and nearing release. We created DeskTrackr because businesses needed more functionality at a rate never seen before in the TrackVia ecosystem.
DeskTrackr makes it easy for TrackVia users to engage in cross-platform, desktop data entry and retrieval.
DeskTrackr’s first release will bring a slew of features, including:
We will release the first of many language sets, translating the entire TrackVia user interface (menus, options, etc…) into Spanish, French, German, Romanian, Hungarian, and Chinese. We intend to expand our language availability to include Hebrew and Arabic in the near future.
Microsoft Teams Integration
DeskTrackr brings native Microsoft Teams integration to TrackVia. Quickly and securely share records directly to Microsoft Teams with the click of a button without leaving the TrackVia interface.
The days of downloading files from TrackVia and waiting for your computer to load them are over. Similarly, gone are the days for administrators to worry about potentially untrusted devices storing long-term local copies of sensitive files saved in TrackVia. This type of functionality is an absolute necessity for our goal of bringing zero trust security methodology to TrackVia.
We have added a new option from DeskTrackr that lets you immediately view Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF documents without clicking multiple times before downloading or opening them. You do not need to have Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat installed to utilize this integration, which means that it’s now easier for low-powered machines to use TrackVia.
Occasionally, companies still have static computer terminals where employees can use a shared account to walk up and immediately begin using the system. This is against best security practices, and also does not bypass TrackVia’s own requirements for user licenses (e.g. a single account in Kiosk mode is not intended to replace user licenses), however we find this situation in the real world enough to warrant developing technology to improve the situation.
To improve these end-user experiences and security, DeskTrackr includes a kiosk mode that forces TrackVia to remain fullscreen and restricts frivolous end-users interactions with TrackVia.
We aim to release DeskTrackr as an application that will be downloadable and executable on any Windows, Mac, or Linux machine through common package managers. This means our program is accessible to anyone with an internet connection and can be easily rolled out through an RMM or GPO.
I am excited to continue this success story by growing our portfolio of integrations and add-ons to bring even more value to the TrackVia platform and its community of users.
DeskTrackr will be available for purchase in the upcoming months. In the meantime, we are continuing to polish and pursue several security requirements such as independent code auditing by certified cybersecurity firms, OWASP ASVS attestation, and other certification frameworks.
For pre-order and sales information, to request a specific DeskTrackr/BackTrackr/LocTrackr feature, or to share a new add-on idea, call us at (732) 831-7269. Hartmann Industries is open 24/7/365 to support your growing business needs.
Hartmann Industries is a Gold-Certified TrackVia partner. We offer an exclusive 30-day free trial for growing companies, including complete ERP consulting. For existing TrackVia customers, we already offer several add-ons to help shift the costly implementation and long-term support fees from CAPEX to OPEX.