Zoholics 2024

Zoholics 2024

10 Jun 2024

At Zoholics, Zoho’s annual customer event, attendees gathered to hear about Zoho’s products and updates, and to network with other Zoho users. CEO Sridhar Vembu set the stage, discussing how Zoho offers an unusual product suite with extraordinary breadth and depth, and how the company’s commitment to R&D and innovation keeps its offerings relevant to changing customer needs. Noting that Zoho has been in business for 28 years, Vembu stated that it’s focused on providing long-term value to customers while taking care of employees.

Zoho is definitely unique, as I noted in a previous article on the company. Zoho offers 55+ applications, including its flagship CRM, as well as productivity and collaboration apps, and many others. Customers can use as little as one application, or as many as they’d like. When asked how many customers in the audience use more than 30 Zoho applications, there were surprisingly quite a number of hands raised.

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AI Updates

Of course AI was an important topic. Zoho notes that the best use of AI is when the user doesn’t know they’re using AI but gets the value from it. Chief Evangelist Raju Vegesna told the audience that one large language model is not the answer to everything, and there is a need for narrow, small, medium, and large models. Zoho’s AI platform Zia is used across the applications, providing a variety of capabilities and functions, as shown below.

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In this video, Ramprakash Ramamoorthy, Director of AI Research, discusses how AI is contextually sprinkled across Zoho’s apps, including collaboration, security, and more.

CRM for Everyone

There were several announcements, including my favorite, CRM for Everyone (not to be confused with what I call CXE, or “CX for Everyone”). CRM for Everyone is an expansion of Zoho’s CRM, bringing work orchestration to the CRM platform, and applying AI for specific deliverables. CRM for Everyone democratizes CRM by connecting teams with their own context and empowering teams to be more collaborative.

Zoho notes that there are too many silos and that access to the CRM is strictly rationed which limits CRM’s effectiveness, necessitating the entire paradigm of CRM to change. For example, sales is a disconnected process, as sales, legal, tech support, contracting, marketing delivery, order management, and other teams are all separate, leading to disruptive customer experiences. Each team has their own workflows and applications, but they need to coordinate and work together.

CRM for Everyone is about breaking down silos between workers and teams to provide cross-functional communication and collaboration for customer operations, right within the CRM. Rather than limiting and rationing access to the CRM to specific individuals, CRM for Everyone democratizes CRM to all teams involved in customer operations activities such as a sales process.

This brings together various workers involved in the sales process, such as solutions engineering, contract management, legal, sales enablement, customer onboarding, and others, making it easier for workers in different groups and departments to work together in a dedicated space and be part of the workflow. Each team can have a dedicated space in the CRM to create data modules from scratch or from a template.

Collaboration Updates

For its collaboration work management portfolio (Zoho Projects, Zoho Notebook, Zoho WorkDrive, and Zoho Sign), updates and announcements focused on workflow automation, vertical market capabilities, and AI (Zia).

As Chief Evangelist Vegesna noted, "We've developed a tightly integrated set of collaboration tools powered by platform-layer services like AI, unified search, and process automation underneath—all in an effort to help businesses be more productive.”

For example, Zoho WorkDrive (file management), added workflow automation, allowing users to map, manage, and automate content procedures across departments and teams, such as legal policy or contract review and approval. Zoho’s digital signature and ID verification solution, Zoho Sign, can be added and tied in at any stage of a workflow.

Ram explained that AI is sprinkled across all of Zoho’s applications. For example, Zoho’s project management platform, Project, added natural language processing (NLP) capabilities enabling customers to search across multiple applications. In addition, using Zia Insights, Zia can summarize custom charts and analytics dashboards to generate tasks. Zoho Notebook uses AI for summarization, task management, automatic tagging of topics, and more.

In this video interview, Aarthri Elizabeth, Senior Marketing Manager, discussed Zoho’s collaboration updates and how they make it easier for workers to collaborate synchronously and asynchronously. She also discussed vertical market support for all of these collaboration tools.

Security and Privacy

Zoho has been focused on security for a long time; it introduced Vault in 2013 and has added several other capabilities since then.

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Zoho made several new announcements related to its security stack and various security products:

  • Ulaa, a privacy-first browser, added machine learning (ML)-powered phishing detection, as well as ad blocking and cryptomining protection.
  • Zoho Directory, a workforce identity and access management (IAM) platform, added conditional access and routing policies to let IT admins automate access management. Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) enables users to upload their own encryption keys from an external key manager. Cloud RADIUS lets businesses authenticate enterprise Wi-Fi networks and VPNs.
  • OneAuth, a multi-factor authentication solution, added Smart Sign-in, providing users a faster way to log into their Zoho accounts by scanning a secure QR code. The new App-Lock kills unauthorized sessions remotely with Remote Logout.
  • Vault, for secure password management, added breached password detection, in addition to the ability for Vault to store credit card information. Administrators can set and maintain access privileges for employees based on need and compliance. 

Zoho truly is a unique company with a very strong customer fan base. I’m still waiting for Zoho to introduce a full-blown CCaaS solution – maybe by next Zoholics?


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