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#LSA18: When is an App not Just an App? When It’s Part of Zoho One

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The day’s featured speaker, Zoho President Raj Sabhlok was introduced by Charles Laughlin, Project Lead for LSA’s TAI (Tech Adoption Index).

From its roots in network management software 22 years ago, Zoho has evolved into a multinational online services provider with some 35 million users worldwide including many SMBs. (Notably, this has been accomplished while remaining privately-owned, with no VC funding).

At last count, Zoho offered over 40 integrated functional applications in a suite they style as “Zoho One”, the “operating system for business”.  Raj articulated the ethic driving their product evolution as the desire by SMBs for apps that are more integrated and easier to use — findings consistent with research by LSA’s TAI (Tech Adoption Index).

According to Raj, SMBs typically use “tens of apps” to run their daily operations. Most of these apps are provided by different vendors, which can lead to “integration spaghetti”. (By way of comparison, Raj said that the average Zoho user is currently using about 4 of the apps in the Zoho One suite – i.e. about 10% of the full roster).

Raj spent some time analyzing the chain of processes for a typical SMB. As examples, he deconstructed the cumbersome processes of contract signing and hiring. He said Zoho is seeking to address these complex tasks holistically, rather than via individual apps. (Within Zoho One, “smart directory services” are tasked with matching the right set of applications to the particular business process.) He noted that this process-centric approach requires a change in mindset, by both the SMB customer and the vendor.

Raj also made several pointed observations about customer onboarding and training. He acknowledged the importance of these functions, and mentioned innovations by Zoho, including a “genius bar” pilot about to start in San Francisco, for SMBs wanting in-person help with Zoho One apps.

At the same time however, citing a price point of $30/month per seat for Zoho One, he said “we need to hold true to the products we’re providing at the price point we’re providing”.

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