As best-of-breed, software as a service solutions mature, and business users become more reliant in their features and capabilities, supporting the integration of cloud stacks from different providers has become riskier and more challenging than ever to assemble and support.
Trading off the breadth and depth of disparate point solutions in exchange for an integrated, all-in-one stack was the message Zoho CEO and Founder Sridhar Vembu (@svembu) shared in his keynote at the Zoholics 2018 user conference this week in Austin, Texas.
It was their largest event to date, with nearly 200 partners and 800 users registered. Zoho, a business software provider that grew from a CRM company into an end-to-end, business software solution is currently in use by roughly 33 million users worldwide.
If you’ve never heard of Zoho, here’s what CRM and SCRM author, consultant, speaker Paul Greenberg, who was also in attendance, says about them:
#Zoholics PG Note: They are, at least in my estimation, the likely market leader in the SMB tech world, but that isn’t known to the market. That’s Zoho’s element of mystery, which needs to be dispelled. W/Zoho One, they can OWN the market. But have work 2 do yet to make it happen
— Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe) April 12, 2018
Zoho has grown more than 40% over the last six years, putting it on a similar trajectory to category leader Salesforce.
Driving the growth was the Zoho CRM Plus bundle, which includes integrated sales, marketing and service applications, and the release of Zoho Books, a small business accounting software package that plugs accounts receivable, accounts payable and automated banking functionality into Zoho CRM.
Unlike Salesforce and Oracle, which have grown their cloud-based business software offerings largely through acquisitions, Zoho solutions are built entirely by the company, in a common software environment, affording greater interoperability, said Mr. Vembu in his address.
Their newest bundle Zoho One goes beyond sales and marketing automation with an integrated back-end tools for finance, human resources, collaboration, productivity, support and business process automation, transforming them from a front end sales, marketing and service application provider into a veritable all-in-one business software solution, with aggressive pricing that’s particularly well suited to small business owners looking to become more agile in the digital realm.
Sessions at the conference were focused on the ability to build workflows or “recipes” like the one below, that integrates their front and backend applications to homerun complete business processes entirely in the cloud, from website creation to lead generation to selling, bidding, accounting and shipping.
Zoho’s 5400 employees operate entirely on their own solutions, even when their products are still in beta. Zoholics was managed boldly on the company’s new Zoho Backstage bundle, an event management suite in beta release with tools for planning, operating and analyzing professional conferences and events.
Regional Manager Ricky Thakrar (@rickythakrarcrm) demonstrated the company’s new Zia artificial intelligence offering, accessible via desktop and mobile, which uses predictive analytics to model sales forecasts by analyzing the size, location and other data associated with opportunities at various stages of the digital sales funnel. Zia also extends voice recognition capabilities to Zoho’s portfolio of mobile apps.
To maintain the freedom to execute a holistic, integrated product roadmap under independent leadership, Zoho is privately-held and fiercely debt free company, whereas competitors Salesforce and Oracle leverage capital markets to accelerate growth, which is always a challenge to maintaining a long term product strategy when investors are focused on quarterly earnings.
Unconventional in its hiring approach and on the belief that contextual, experiential education is more valuable than formal credentials, the Chennai-based firm hires high school graduates and nurtures and develops them in everything from life and basic programming skills to on-the-job training.
Zoholics 2018 Austin was attended by nearly 100 Zoho customer success staffers who travelled from Chennai to help customers tweak their deployments and implement new services. They also maintain significant US offices in Austin and Pleasanton under the guidance of Raju Vegesna (@rajuv), who promised that Zoho would always protect the privacy of user data and never make customers the “product” as they are on Facebook and other ad-supported, free online services.
On May 15, Zoho will implement support for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for all users worldwide, making it difficult if not impossible to unwittingly violate these new privacy rules, and many of the sessions covered how these new digital compliance feature sets would be woven into existing Zoho apps.
Zoho operates nearly 100 conferences and events all over the world and maintains a calendar at https://www.zoho.com/events.html
I am a senior consultant and partner at a Zoho consulting firm in Los Angeles.