As a tech analyst, one of the perks of living in one of America’s most prominent tech hubs outside of Silicon Valley is the proximity to the companies I cover. When people think of Austin tech, they typically think of Dell Technologies, National Instruments, or, more recently, Oracle. Another perhaps less familiar name is Zoho, a global player in enterprise SaaS, Business Intelligence (BI) and data analytics services. While the company’s international headquarters is located across the world in Chennai, India, it recently moved its corporate headquarters from Pleasanton, CA, to Austin. Since the relocation, I would say I have been more attuned to the company’s movements.
Zoho is one of the only full-stack enterprise SaaS plays out there which, quite frankly, is where we see the “puck” going. Microsoft and Oracle Fusion are the only other two games in town for this right now and Salesforce is scrambling to get there through acquisitions. Zoho’s recent announcement of its new self-service BI platform perked my ears up, and today I’d like to talk a little about it. Let’s dive in.
So you’ve got the data. Now what?
Zoho’s new BI Platform enhances Zoho’s Analytics software by adding a new application called Zoho DataPrep. DataPrep, as the name implies, is a self-service data preparation tool, which leverages machine learning to build and manage pipelines of data pre-analysis. With DataPrep, businesses can take their raw data, integrate it, model it, cleanse it, transform it, enrich it, and catalog it to be optimized and ready for detailed analysis. I’ve been in the tech industry over 30 years, and one of the first acronyms I learned, GIGO, still applies. If you put (G)arbage (I)n, you get (G)arbage (O)ut, which is why DataPrep is so important.
DataPrep joins a whole suite of tools within the self-service BI Platform, including a feature Zoho calls Data Stories—an integration of its Zoho Sites, an enterprise portal builder, and Zoho Show, the company’s presentation software. When you think about it, the whole point of data analysis is to turn it into a “story” that can be easily communicated and used to guide future operations for better business outcomes. Data Stories enables admins to embed live reports and dashboards into both websites and presentations, which can be augmented with additional context for audiences. Zoho says this will reduce organizational friction and allow businesses to reap the benefits of data analysis without teaching its employees how to understand and learn the data analysis tools.
Another tool that makes it easier for users of all levels of experience to access the benefits of data analysis is Zoho’s own conversational AI, Zia. Simply ask Zia, via natural language query, for whatever data you’d like to have surfaced. The Zia Insights feature can then deliver textual narration of any significant insights from Zoho’s reports and dashboards and can even entertain what-if scenarios to game out situations and make better decisions. Again, this is all self-service and available to users with little to no technological know-how, thanks to Zia’s natural language skills.
It takes a village
One of Zoho’s significant differentiators, in my opinion, is its ecosystem and openness to third-party integrations. Zoho Marketplace is the company’s apps marketplace where partners can develop and release their apps and integrations for Zoho Analytics. Zoho says its BI platform is widely extensible to over 250 data sources, ranging from titans like Microsoft and Google to others such as Zendesk, HubSpot, Mailchimp and Stripe. One can’t overstate the significance of outside, third-party data sources to Zoho’s success—I was blown away by the revelation that 60% of the company’s user base runs exclusively on non-Zoho apps and data sources.
This ability to play well with others, in addition to a full stack, in my opinion, is one of the factors fueling Zoho Analytics’ impressive 30% YoY growth overall and 40% YoY enterprise segment growth over the past two years. Reportedly, the company has even seen a 10% rise in employees who jumped ship from competitors’ platforms. Additionally, the company claims that 50% of its customers settled on Zoho after evaluating it alongside competitive BI solutions. The company is ambitiously projecting this year’s YoY growth to be in the 45% ballpark. I wouldn’t rule it out, especially if the self-service platform takes off.
BI and data analytics are both hallmarks of this age of digital transformation. They allow businesses to identify deep, underlying trends that can drive operational decisions and make them much more efficient, productive and profitable. The actionable insights gleaned from data analysis may very well be what separates those who fold and the ones who thrive in the coming decades. Zoho’s position is an enviable one, as a leading purveyor of the BI tools so many businesses’ futures rest upon.
In a way, I see Zoho’s BI platform as a consolidation of the capabilities of, say, 27 other companies into one unified product. I believe this is where the industry is headed, as more and more businesses seek the consistency and simplicity this level of integration brings. The platform represents an intriguing offering from an intriguing player in the enterprise SaaS and BI market, and I look forward to seeing what traction it gains in the years to come.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.