How good is Zoho's workplace

Zoho: Workplace and cloud apps for small and medium-sized businesses

If you are considering operating more cloud applications, you should also have Zoho on your list from now on. The provider, which is very successful in the USA, comes to Germany and covers practically all areas of a medium-sized company with its app portfolio.

Applications from the cloud are now standard in large and medium-sized companies, and now more and more small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are getting a taste for it. According to a representative study by the digital association Bitkom, for example, almost half of the companies with 20 to 499 employees in Germany organize and manage their documents in the cloud.

Zoho could easily pass as a typical German medium-sized company

At the beginning of this decade, Google already knew that the market for cloud applications could be a lucrative market for medium-sized companies and was a pioneer in addressing smaller companies with its G Suite (then “Google Apps before Business”). Since then, Google has provided the cloud platform and a number of its own basic apps such as Office, Mail, cloud storage, etc., apps for all other purposes are offered by partners via a marketplace. Google can now count more than five million companies among its paying customers worldwide, even if it has not been as successful in this country as in the USA.

"Organic growth was more important to us"

A company that is not very well known in German-speaking countries, Zoho, has also been successful in the USA and Asia over the years. Their approach has so far been different from Google's in that Zoho has concentrated more on developing its own cloud apps. The manufacturer now operates more than 40 such apps, including those for customer relationship management (CRM), analytics and project management, and has an installed base of 45 million users. Almost all apps can also be found in the Google Marketplace, some with more than a million users.

Zoho itself exemplifies the attitude of a medium-sized company. The company was founded in India in 1996 and initially dealt with network and IT management. Of that, there is still ManageEngine, an inexpensive software for the management of small and large IT infrastructures. In the mid-noughties, founder Sridhar Vembu realized that the future was in the cloud and started developing apps. The company, headquartered in Chennai, India, now has a strong presence in the US market, employs a good 8,000 people worldwide and is still privately owned. "Sustainable organic growth was more important to us than rapidly expanding internationally," says European boss Sridhar Iyengar.

Cloud according to GDPR standards

The absence from Europe is now over. Zoho has opened its own offices in Great Britain, France, Holland and Berlin and operates its own data centers in Ireland and Holland that hold customer data in accordance with GDPR standards. The teams in the European countries are supposed to look after customers and further expand the localization of the applications (at the moment it still leaves something to be desired). In addition, there is a partner network that is supposed to take care of the integration and commissioning of the apps for the respective customer.

With what arguments does Zoho want to convince the German middle class? “Even the workforce of medium-sized companies nowadays expect a different kind of work environment,” says Iyengar. Company applications should be accessible from anywhere and, above all, should not represent islands with their own data silo. With this in mind, the manufacturer has structured its apps in such a way that they can communicate with one another and exchange data.

Anyone who dances at all weddings is condemned to mediocrity - is that true?

In this way, Zoho is able to offer app bundles for the respective purpose, which in total can completely cover an entire company area, including sales and marketing, finance, e-mail and collaboration, IT management, etc. The Bundle for e-mail and collaboration includes, for example, in addition to the Office apps, project management, a planning tool for agile teams, group chat, video conferencing, a webinar platform and much more.

An average of 18 apps per company

The success to date and the usage statistics of Zoho One, the manufacturer's all-in-one bundle, prove that the integrative approach is worthwhile. Zoho One subscribers (depending on the license model 30 or 75 euros per user per month) have access to all of the more than 45 applications - including every new app. More than 20,000 companies now use this package, which Zoho markets as the "operating system for companies". One in four of these user companies uses more than 25 applications. The average is the use of 18 apps, and the trend is rising.

Isn't a provider who wants to cover so many different business areas with their software condemned to be mediocre? “We are often confronted with this question,” says Sridhar Iyengar. “The success of the apps and user ratings contradict this thesis. In addition, all apps are developed by their own team of specialists and the teams are based on the state of the art in their respective area of ​​application. "

One service level for all apps

Between the two levels of the Zoho platform and the apps, a third level has recently been added, the level of services. Communication in all its facets is one such service, for example, which now also covers telephony in addition to chat, video conferences and webinars. PhoneBridge is the name of the service that connects the telephone system with the CRM app. In this way, the data about the respective caller can be called up automatically with every call, which can be a valuable help for customer service and sales. The AI-based digital assistant Zia should also be available to all apps at some point.

Other services relate to the uniform login to all apps (single sign-on), app management and the implementation of workflows that automate actions within and between different applications. Zoho Sign, in turn, supports digital signatures using a blockchain-based process. Catalyst, a serverless development platform on which microservices for the various apps can be built, is not yet available in Germany. The whole thing is rounded off by the Zoho Marketplace, in which development partners offer their own applications as well as extensions for the Zoho apps.

correction: The original version stated that Zoho is headquartered in Austin, Texas. That was wrong and has since been corrected. Zoho is still headquartered inChennai, India. Please excuse the mistake.