Over the last two decades, the cloud has made it much easier for SMBs to access and use new applications. However, integrating these solutions can be a lot harder: SMBs cite “integration difficulties” as one of the top three obstacles they face in implementing new solutions.
In October, Zoho made several announcements that showcase how it is doubling down not only on integration, but also on innovation, for Zoho One.
The vendor debuted several new and enhanced applications and services, and a new, unified user interface for the solution. I discuss these below after a quick overview on Zoho for those still not familiar with the company.
Zoho and Zoho One: A Brief Primer
Zoho’s path as a software company has been anything but conventional. Instead of growing through acquisitions, Zoho develops all of its applications in-house.
Today, the private, bootstrapped and profitable twenty-five-year-old company sells over 50 business applications, five functional area suites (Finance, Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Collaboration, and Developer) and an all-inclusive Zoho One subscription that includes all of Zoho’s solutions.
Leveraging a generous freemium model, Zoho now serves more than 70 million users in 180 countries. With pricing that is exponentially less expensive than most competitors, Zoho has grown its paid subscription customer base to more than 500,000 accounts. Small and medium businesses comprise 90% of its customer base, Zoho is establishing a foothold in larger enterprises, such as IIFL, Purolite and Rain for Rent.
Although individual solutions, such as CRM, Analytics and Cliq (for chat-based messaging) are Zoho’s top sellers, Zoho One adoption is quickly accelerating. Many customers start with an individual application or a functional suite, and then move to Zoho One to access to the full portfolio of Zoho applications—all for $37 per user per month. On average, Zoho One customers use 21 Zoho applications.
But, Zoho One is more than an application bundle. Zoho positions it as an “operating system for business,” offering a unified approach to tightly integrate applications, services (such as analytics, search, and AI), storage and security.
No one vendor can provide everything that any given customer will need. Zoho’s marketplace offers over 1,000 third-party apps that integrate with it’s solutions. The vendor’s services and customization options help users to further tailor workflows to their requirements.
Zoho’s model rests on its vertically-integrated stack for developing and delivering its solutions. The company owns, develops and manages every layer—from data centers to hardware and networking infrastructure, up through applications and services—providing it with economies of scale and expertise.
A New, More Unified Experience for Zoho One
Zoho has developed and grown its application and service portfolio over the past 25 years. As a result, applications don’t always share the same user interface or look and feel. Furthermore, users often had to jump around to different pages to access different Zoho solutions. As a result, many users have lobbied the to vendor provide a more centralized approach.
To address this, Zoho announced the availability of a new, unified and personalized experience to make it easier for users to customize and personalize their workspace from a central location. These include:
- Unified Console, Dashboards, and Smart-Stack UI. Employees can now view see all of the applications, services and dashboards that they’re using in one place.
- Customizable Dashboard with Pre-Built Widgets: Widgets capture data across the organization so it can be aggregated together in a custom dashboard. This offers users a single lens into what’s going on across the organization, with the ability to drill down with a click.
Supporting New Workplace and Customer Trends
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended traditional ideas about the workplace, requiring companies to adapt and adjust to remote, hybrid and more flexible workplace strategies. Many businesses—particularly smaller ones—find it difficult to manage employee and data securely in this more complex environment and across of myriad of devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Customers increasingly expect that application providers will help them tackle this. Roughly three-quarters of SMB respondents agreed that it is important or very important that vendors embed strong data privacy and security capabilities into their solutions.
Zoho will now include its enterprise-grade Mobile Application Management (MAM) solution in Zoho One to help businesses more easily secure and manage all of their users’ devices with capabilties that include provisioning, specific app permissions and policies, locking and wiping devices remotely to better support employee mobility and flexibility.
Customer expectations about when, why and where they want to shop and what they want to buy are also in a state of flux—making ecommerce a priority for many SMBs. To help SMBs digitize their businesses, Zoho has added Commerce to Zoho One. This includes features tools build websites, process orders and payments, track inventory, manage shipping, market their brand, and analyze data. Zoho Commerce also integrates with third party payment gateways.
Improving Employee Productivity, Collaboration and Learning
SMBs ranked improving employee productivity the number one driver to invest in technology. Zoho has introduced and improved several solutions that are included in Zoho One to help them meet these challenges:
- Zoho Learn, a new learning management tool, supports interactive training programs and assessments with Zoho’s course builder to help businesses to nurture employee growth.
- Zoho Lens, uses augmented reality (AR) via real-time AR annotation, VoIP and text chat, and more to provide remote employees with assistance and guidance.
- TeamInbox is a shared email inbox designed to eliminate task duplication and streamline email conversations in one central location.
- Org Dictionary is an organization-wide central dictionary. Businesses can upload employee names, acronyms and other information, and the app creates a smart dictionary to create consistent diction across Zoho apps and users.
Most businesses are drowning in data. The challenge is to get the insights you need from that data to make better decisions. New capabilities here strengthen real-time cross-organization analytics for Zoho One users. For example:
- Enhancements to BI and Analytics Platform, with the addition of embedded, conversational analytics. Users can drill down into data to through natural language commands with Zia, Zoho’s AI assistant. 1,500+ pre-built analytics reports and dashboards are also included with the solution.
- DataPrep is a new, self-service data preparation and management tool, that is powered by machine learning. DataPrep prepares, cleanses and integrates data from Zoho and third-party apps.
- Work Graph, a new back-end service, provides relationship mapping to help employees identify the best resources to provide expertise.
- Enterprise Search, Zoho’s cross-platform search engine, can now understand natural language requests to help expedite the search process.
Integration is essential to secure the full business process value of new applications—and to gain a more unified, consistent view of the business. In today’s interconnected business world, companies that can more fully integrate business solutions and analyze the business in a holistic way can gain huge advantages. When you can see what’s going on across different areas of the business, you can identify how actions in one area affect others, and make better decisions to guide the business forward.
Putting innovative technology to work is key to SMB success. The comparison between SMBs that are already on the digital transformation path is stark: SMBs that had a digital transformation strategy in place and initiatives underway were about three times more likely to have enjoyed an uptick in revenues from 2019 to 2020, and about 2.5 more likely to expect revenues to rise in 2021, than those SMBs with no plans for digital transformation.
But both integration and innovation are challenging for many SMBs due to the perennial lack of issues—lack of time, money and expertise.
Zoho One doesn’t solve all of these problems, of course. But the company’s continuing efforts to provide more of the integration and innovation SMBs need—without sacrificing affordability—provide an accessible path to help many to surmount these hurdles.
All data in this post is sourced from in SMB Group’s 2021 SMB Technology Directions for a Changing World Survey.
This post is sponsored by Zoho.