I am a big fan of Zoho, not just because it relocated the corporate headquarters to my hometown of Austin, Texas but frankly because I happen to believe that a full stack software-as-a-service (SaaS) enterprise play is the way of the future.
Back in March of last year, I published an article introducing Zoho as "the most successful SaaS company you may have never heard of." In April, I reviewed Qntrl (pronounced "control"), a simple workflow automation solution. In July of this year, I followed up with Zoho's BI And Analytics Suite review.
Today I would like to cover Zoho One. Launched in 2017, Zoho One is a suite of business applications designed to address every aspect of the business, cleverly described as the "operating system for business." In this article, I will cover the customer reaction to Zoho One and then dive into the new features added to the suite in the recent release this October 2021.
SaaS is where the puck is going
Many of you that read my articles will know I have cited many examples of enterprises that have successfully moved back-office finance, human resources, and supply chain applications into software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud solutions.
The cloud model offers several benefits, including offloading application management and updates to the vendor and having a subscription model tied to resource usage. Also, updates in the SaaS model are instantly available to all; cool new features evaluated quickly, nothing to download, and nothing to install. Customers have peace of mind knowing technology is up to date.
I maintain it is easier to deliver superior customer engagement and operational excellence when your enterprise applications are on a unified platform. Compared to a "best of breed" path, a unified approach to software cuts down on customization costs and complex integrations.
As organizations turn to big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence applications supported in the cloud to do the number-crunching, a unified platform with a single data source and reporting solution is preferred.
Finally, unified systems offer greater security. There will be clear hierarchies within a SaaS environment to facilitate consistent governance, business processes, approvals, workflows, onboarding, and off-boarding.
Zoho One: a unified software solution
Zoho One, launched in 2017, includes more than fifty integrated business applications and mobile apps for Android and iOS in one central system accessible through a single sign-on.
Zoho recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has grown to over ten thousand employees in the last twenty-five years. Zoho has seventy million users in one hundred and eighty different countries. Zoho One has over forty thousand customers, with the largest customer having thirty-two thousand employees.
Zoho’s long-term goal has been unification at every level, from the experience to the applications right down to the infrastructure and networks that run in the back end. Over the years, over fifty applications have been added to the suite to handle processes in multiple departments, from marketing to business intelligence finance to communication.
New enhancements mindful of the pandemic
Customers rely more on digital channels to sell products today. In response, Zoho has released Zoho Commerce to enable customers to grow an online business. Zoho Commerce will build a website, take orders, track inventory, process payments, manage shipping, market the brand, and analyze data within the online store.
Zoho has added three new applications to the Zoho One suite to enhance remote collaboration to make it easier to collaborate with a team while working remotely. Zoho Lens is designed for field service technicians to help solve problems faster and reduce on-site visits using augmented reality. Lens is an interactive remote assistance tool for field technicians and customers to join the session via email or text and view the problem in real-time.
Zoho Learn is a knowledge and learning management platform designed to help capture and retain the team's expertise, build training programs and measure the training results with features such as article templates, discussion boards, activity timelines, and quizzes.
The last remote collaboration application is Team Inbox, a shared inbox for teams that eliminates the need for cc’s and duplicate responses and allows people to work together.
The final new application in Zoho One is Data Prep. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), Data Prep discovers errors in data from multiple sources. It will analyze and improve quality, transform and enrich data with language detection and keyword extraction, and catalog data with custom tags to help improve discoverability during a search.
New and enhanced services
Zoho one has three new services and some significant improvements to existing services.
There are over fifteen hundred pre-built reports and dashboards in the business intelligence tool to help synthesize data. From the moment data is in the CRM system, help desk, or even a third-party application, all of that data can be understood and brought into analytics. It is visualized and automatically populated into pre-built reports. Zoho has made it as easy as possible for any customer, regardless of technical abilities, to get reports using natural language processing.
Work Graph is a new back-end service that creates a graph mapping out the different connections between an individual, the various contacts, projects, conversations with others across multiple tools like email and chat. It does this by studying signals to build a business-wide work graph that is specific to each individual.
The following new service is Mobile Applications Management which allows IT to provision and manage devices remotely. It also includes automatically assigning and installing specific applications to certain users, updating the operating system, and mandating security policies.
The third new service is Org Dictionary. It is a unified dictionary for the organization used across all writing pieces and different applications that will become specific to the organization. Any weird names that are not the common language, for example, would automatically add to the org dictionary.
A unified user experience
Zoho now offers a unified user interface to look and move around all Zoho One applications. Zoho now provides unified navigation, calendar, and dashboard with over 50 pre-built widgets spanning the entire business operations personalized on every user's home screen. These changes improve the overall experience of Zoho One as more streamlined and efficient. Third-party integrations are now unified and can be brought into the Zoho One ecosystem allowing access to all applications, whether Zoho or third party.
A customer example
A better understanding of the value of Zoho One can be found by listening to customer stories. One such customer is Arctic Spas, a manufacturer of hot and cold tubs. Arctic Spas struggled with a cumbersome customer relationship management (CRM) system that led to problems tracking leads and communications breakdowns internally and with the dealer network.
Arctic Spas adopted Zoho’s CRM software in 2013 and progressed to Zoho One in 2018. One of the main attractions of the software suite was the ability to customize and integrate to support the business expansion. With Zoho One, Arctic Spas were able to track leads more closely, improving the customer experience. The software scaled from managing three hundred leads per week to almost a thousand. With Zoho software, internal, external, and customer communication has improved drastically.
Applications deployed were:
- Workdrive, online file management for teams; Connect, a centralized hub for employee communications, corporate resources, and collaboration; CRM;
- Cliq, group collaboration software; Assist remote support and remote access software; and SalesIQ, a live chat and analytics platform for customer engagement - all working together.
Arctic Spas needed a solution to help with communication on all fronts, internal and external, and software that could manage different products, customers, and vendors. Key was the unique versatility and customization offered by Zoho One that made it possible to unify many processes into one system.
As we all embrace cloud technologies and emerging technologies in machine learning and cognitive computing, it's essential to consider how these solutions fit into your technology posture.
In contrast to traditional on-premise deployments, a unified system in a SaaS model promises to lower costs, encourage better business decision-making, and drive better organizational processes — things everyone needs in today’s rapidly evolving economy.
Zoho is well-positioned with cloud-native applications running on a cloud hardware platform to deliver a full-stack SaaS offering. The concept appears to be working with over forty thousand customers, and the average number of applications used by a customer rising to twenty-one today.
Small and medium businesses with a relatively clean slate should evaluate Zoho. There will always be a certain amount of stickiness in larger organizations as a software transition involves a monumental amount of work and data to import. Zoho has recognized the resistance to change and has built an integration with many third-party applications. In some cases, the willingness to play with other applications has led to the eventual transition to Zoho software.
I believe Zoho has the right product that addresses where the puck is going, which is pretty exciting. Whenever I meet with Zoho, I consider switching all my software over to Zoho; I think that day is fast approaching. The best part is that I don’t have to shift over everything, just what I need.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.