Zoho One — The Operating System for Business

Zoho is a privately-owned technology company that was founded in 1996 as Adventnet, Inc. and has quietly evolved into an ambitious global player that serves the SMB and enterprise markets with cloud applications. The company offers a suite of more than 50 business, collaboration and productivity applications. These include applications for CRM, project management, finance, human resource management, analytics and support.

The company is headquartered in Chennai, India. It has eleven offices in India, five in the United States and has offices in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Singapore, China, Egypt, South Africa, United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. Offices in France and Germany are in preparation. Zoho has more than 10,000employees as of mid-2021. It is present in 180 countries with more than 70 million users.

Zoho is led by its co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu. Being a privately held company, Zoho is not obliged to, and does not publish revenue or profit numbers. However, the company indicates a track record of profitable growth that is well in the double digits.

The company manages its growth organically, i.e. without acquisitions. All applications are built by Zoho, using one single hard- and software stack. They are deployed and delivered via Zoho owned data centers in the United States, Europe, India, China and Australia. Following this unique approach, the company has built a solid platform with a unified data model that allows it to grow and deliver software at high speed.

Core values of Zoho include corporate self-determination, privacy as a principle and a commitment to delivering high value.

Zoho One

Zoho aspires to deliver the operating system of a business with the goal of driving customers’ margins by unifying business operations on one single technology platform. The most important part for delivering this vision is Zoho One.

Zoho One is Zoho’s premier bundle of business applications. Currently, Zoho One consists of 45 applications supporting sales, marketing, email and collaboration, helpdesk and customer support, finance, HR, analytics and business process. Of these, customers have activated on average 21.

Zoho One can be licensed as an all in one platform but also be part of a journey that starts at first licensing one application, then more and then moving to Zoho One directly or via licensing one of the other suites (such as CRM+, Finance+, or Workplace).

The most used applications in Zoho One are CRM, Analytics, Cliq, Books, SalesIQ and Desk. Zoho analyses show that this is quite consistent across regions. This means that customers use Zoho One to support a broad variety of front office, back-office collaboration and business intelligence processes.

Figure 1: Most used Zoho One applications

Zoho One has currently around 40,000 customers, which makes it Zoho’s most popular suite. The largest customer has around 32,000 employees. Customers are distributed worldwide in more than 160 countries, with the highest numbers in the United States and the European Union.

Organizations that have implemented Zoho One are from a variety of industries, although the top five industries are the high tech, professional services, Real Estate and Construction, Retail, and Banking/Financial Services/Insurance industries.

Analysis

With Zoho One, Zoho offers a comprehensive set of applications that support a major part of the corporate value chain, including supporting processes. The main areas that are only partially covered (via Zoho Inventory) are Procurement and Inbound Logistics, as depicted in the diagram below. These processes, however, are supported by partner solutions that are available on the Zoho Marketplace.

Figure 2: Processes of the corporate value chain that are supported by Zoho One

Zoho One is a set of solid horizontal applications without much industry flavor. Still, it is adopted across a wide range of industries around the globe, which shows the versatility of Zoho One and its underlying development platform. Due to Zoho owning the whole solution stack, the applications are well integrated with each other. This goes beyond process- and data integration. In fact, the applications that are part of Zoho One can be regarded as components of a unified system. They share the same set of underlying core services, like AI, analytics, communication, provisioning and search to name but a few. This set of services is continuously enhanced, with new services being for example the work graph, mobile application management and organizational dictionaries.

Zoho focuses especially on the flexibility and adaptability of its system. Even during development, everything is kept simple and expressed in a uniform and easily understandable style. The solution stack’s design allows for rapid creation or translation of business applications for most vertical industries, as well as adaptability to individual customer requirements using no code, low code and high code environments.

With Canvas, Zoho opened the solution to detailed visual adoption of roles, customer corporate identity or templates, e.g. for industries. In combination with Zoho Creator, Zoho Catalyst, Zoho Flow and the Zoho Marketplace this creates opportunities for partners and developers by offering a complete develop — extend -integrate — deploy platform. At this time, Canvas supports only Zoho CRM.

Zoho One’s pricing model has worked well for companies that are growing and want to go beyond CRM applications, with more than 50 other applications available and more on the way. With Zoho One, companies can scale easily and quickly. Zoho also benefits from the significant synergies and savings in organic marketing in highly competitive markets.

The availability of a wide range of APIs as well as more than 2,500 integrations, either natively or via tools like Zapier, Integromat or PieSync, enables Zoho One to become an integral part of a corporate business application landscape. Customers are using parts of Zoho One in combination with parts of or the complete Google Workplace (GSuite), Netsuite and various marketing applications.

Currently there are around 1,000 extensions or custom apps solutions available on the Zoho Marketplace ( https://marketplace.zoho.com/home), but the number is steadily increasing.

Zia, the Zoho Intelligent Assistant, is a platform tool that provides AI/machine learning driven services throughout Zoho One. Zia not only provides intelligent data enrichment services but also powers predictive scenarios. In addition, Zia is a core part of Zoho’s context-aware, natural language enterprise search. The enterprise search is already pre-integrated with external applications like box, Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce and others. In combination with its ticketing system and knowledge management capabilities, this could be a game changer in the industry. Many companies are looking for a service that answers questions across a wide variety of sources and topics.

Further, with its integration into more than 100 call center solutions, in combination with the collaboration suite, Zoho PhoneBridge and Zoho Voice (not part of Zoho One), Zoho, from a capability point of view, is already now on the forefront of the converging call center and unified communications markets, without saying so.

Zoho One represents an interesting path for Zoho to take, the path to disassembling applications into services which can be recombined as needed. Thought to an end, every business object like “account,” “quotation” or “customer visit” is a service that any other application can use. These services are recombined with no code/low code (workflow engines) and high code tools to create solutions as needed.

SWOT

Strengths

  • Deep integration between applications that cover a wide range of corporate value chain including an e-commerce solution that offers visibility into inventory and financials
  • Built-in data cleansing through the data preparation capabilities of the Zoho BI and Analytics platform
  • Independent applications reduce entry barriers and allow multiple entry paths into Zoho One
  • Work graph, which enables context aware communications and search based on an understanding of the strength of interactions between people
  • Context aware conversational search
  • Transparent and attractive pricing without hidden fees
  • Natural Language Processing powered enterprise search and analytics

Weaknesses

  • Usability is not always consistent across the various applications and devices
  • Missing industry solutions
  • No CPQ solution in their own stack

Opportunities

  • Capitalizing on industry solutions and technology trends, leveraging the deep and wide solution stack, full development platform and the Zoho Marketplace together with technology and implementation partners
  • Hybrid work solutions extending Zoho Workplace like Zoho Backstage, but also Zoho Learn, Zoho Lens and further solutions

Threats

  • Competitors’ acquisition strategies might out-compete Zoho’s organic growth strategy by enabling faster delivery of new functionality
  • The partner management organization might be lacking local staffing to support strong growth in strategic regions

Originally published at http://www.epikonic.com on October 19, 2021.

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