CRM getting more credible now

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Paul Greenberg mentions that CRM is getting more credibility now and the credibility has come over a period of time. Companies like Cisco (non-traditional vendors – the not-necessarily-CRM vendors or not-really-social media vendors) are jumping into the pool as they find that they need to tap into the unstructured conversations happening and mine that for information thereby helping them provide better services/products. This is good news for all around.

Paul also says the following :-

“… mega-giant companies like Oracle and SAP are integrating those tools because they see it makes good business sense. I’m excited that NetSuite went public and was successful as was salesforce when it went public a couple of years ago as was RightNow when it went public in 2006. Meaning that not only has the on demand market arrived but it has its own suburbs. There is a real place for software as a service or even simpler for data and applications being hosted on someone elses servers that is being provided for an affordable price. Its the real deal fo’ shoh, Jack.”

You will find the full post here :- http://the56group.typepad.com/pgreenblog/2008/01/signs-of-life-d.html

Integration with social tools is something that is going to happen across the board. The line between CRM and the social networks are getting more and more fuzzier. CRM is gerrymandering into the social networks now on the pretext of mining the data to get a more wholesome customer experience for the company (primarily) and the customer next.

What do you think about these changes?

What does SaaS mean?

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SaaS:  Software as a Service

It means, to put it very simply, software available for use online. There is no need to download it. Just signup on the internet and use it. It is similar to using yahoo/gmail; both are email programs running online and one just has to signup to them and start sending/receiving emails. You do not download gmail/yahoo to your system  do you?

Now, why this whole noise about SaaS?

Earlier on, software used to be of the downloadable kind. Big bulky softwares that used to burn holes in your pocket since one had to regularly upgrade their Hard Disk size. And, how can one forget the bandwidth issues – to download a 6MB software, it used to take ages, the dial-up connection used to click only when it wanted to or God wanted to.  Now, there is no need to do any of these acts.Things have improved on the bandwidth front, the speeds are faster, one is able to download software a lot faster but also at the same time, one does not want to maintain software on their own. So the shift is towards (re)using software that is already available and hosted somewhere.  Now, hold on, Saas did not come up just yet.

Once people wanted to (re)use software developed by others, there came the time for the ASP or the Application Service Providers. These were something similar to middlemen in the sense that A would develop the software, B will host it for a set of users ie he will provide the infrastructure where he can install A and start it.  B is now called as an Application Service Provider since he is providing access/Service to an Application. But hey, this sounds same as Saas, is n’t it?  Smart! Yes, it does but the key difference is that B will have multiple installations of A running to cater to a wider audience (perhaps, B will have 20 customers/logins in a single installation of A. So when 100 customers are needed to be served, B will have installed 5 installations of A each serving 20 customers).

In a typical Saas setting, there is ONLY one instance of service running and that ALONE caters to all the customers. This concept is called multi-tenant architecture as each tenant is a set of users who belong to a particular company/entity. The data for each tenant is secure from the other.  In the ASP model,  sure the data is secure from the other but you needed to have multiple installations too remember? So scaling up was a problem.  Saas was the evolved answer to the problem.

Hope that solves some queries at the least ;-)

Zoho Meeting : Skype Integration and more

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A lot many new features have gone in to Zoho Meeting since its Beta launch. A few of them below.

Skype Integration
We have added the ability to do Skype conferencing in Zoho Meeting. This allows you to converse with your participants.

When you click on Create Meeting, there is a ‘Skype’ checkbox (beside the Presenter’s section). Enabling it will get you a new column. Just enter the Skype ids of people whom you want to include in the conference.

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You can also decide when you want to start the Skype conferencing. After you create a Meeting, you will get a button, Skype Conference. zmstartskype.JPG

On clicking that, users will be automatically dialed on Skype and included in the conferencing system!

Buddy List Auto Fill
Zoho Meeting also remembers the names/email addresses of the participants you have recently invited. When you type in the first few letters, there is an auto-fill/suggest box which helps fill the names easily.

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Inviting Users to your Meeting Session
One feedback we receive quite often is, ‘How do I invite users to a meeting?’. There are multiple ways you can invite people to a Zoho Meeting session, at various stages of the meeting session.
1) When creating a meeting, you can specify their email addresses in ‘Participants’ section
2) After creating a Meeting, there is an link to ‘Invite‘ people. Clicking on that will give you multiple ways to invite people – standard Zoho Meeting invitation through email, sending a link using your Mail Client or IM, or using the Meeting Key to join

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3) After installing the Agent/Presenter, there is an invite icon in the toolbar. Clicking on it will enable you invite people, giving their mail id.

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For comments or suggestions, my id is srk(at)zoho(dot)com

Do give Zoho Meeting a shot and let us know what you think!

Recap: Zoho in 2007

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While we start a fresh year, I’d like to take a few minutes to recap the past year for Zoho which has been a great one. Similar to 2006, we rolled out several new applications and many major updates to our existing applications. In the graphic below, I summarized major updates (yellow blocks) and new releases (red blocks) for 2007. Each block is linked to the appropriate announcement. There are close to 100 important updates for 2007 (and many more un-announced ones).

We have also noticed that the average time spent on zoho applications went up month after month which is a good sign for online business applications in general. We hope to see this trend accelerate in 2008.

What’s next in 2008? I can say that this year is going to be even more exciting.

Zoho in ‘End-2007′ and ‘Begin-2008′ Lists

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We blogged about Zoho being part of PC World’s “Most Innovative Products of 2007” and Lifehacker’s “Top 10 New & Improved Apps of 2007” lists recently. Here’s more appreciation for Zoho from bloggers & analysts.

TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington puts Zoho in his “2008: Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without” list.

Zoho, particularly the spreadsheet application, has become an important productivity tool for us here at TechCrunch. We used it extensively to organize and discuss the hundreds of startups that applied to launch at TechCrunch40 last Fall. Whenever I open Office on my desktop to edit a spreadsheet, I feel the lack of collaborative features keenly. Frankly, Google Docs is just as useful, although Zoho was quicker to launch offline functionality, which gave them the edge on my list. Either product suite is a huge improvement on basic desktop office software.

It is nice to recall that last year we were on his ‘right on the edge‘ list and have moved up this year :-) Barry Dahl chose Zoho Notebook as Number 3 in his Top Web Tools of 2007.

A notebook can have as many pages as you choose (unlimited? I’m not sure), and those pages can be single stand-alone items such as a webpage, word processing (Zoho Writer) page, spreadsheet (Zoho Sheet) page, or a mashup of any of the items shown on the left-side panel below. For audio and video you can either upload completed files, link to files stored elsewhere (YouTube, etc.), or record on the fly.

Basically, I think that the value of this service is limited only by your own imagination. No bull.

Barry also has included Zoho to his ‘Hall of Fame’ list. Rick Broida at BNET picked Zoho Writer as one of the Top Web Services of 2007.

Zoho Writer  Sure, Google Docs gets all the glory, but if you want the Web’s most robust browser-based word processor, look to Zoho Writer. This year brought a wealth of new features, including a Word plug-in for easily importing and exporting Zoho Writer documents.

Ryan and Ashley Wagner at CyberNetNews have chosen Zoho Show among their ‘Most Powerful Websites‘ of 2007.

Zoho has developed an incredible suite of online office applications. In all they offer 18 different products and services, many of which are completely free for users. You can write documents, manage spreadsheets, create presentations, organize notes, and more with a single login.

Personally I do enjoy Google Docs because the interface is a little nicer, but when it comes to sheer power Zoho wins hands down. It’s the most complete online office suite available.

TIME’s featured Zoho as one of the ‘50 Best Websites 2007‘. We are at Number 22 (thanks to our users for voting!) and joined by sites like Netvibes, StumbleUpon, Twitter etc. Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb lists Zoho as one of his favorites of ’07 as well.

Marc Perton makes Zoho a part of his Best of ’07 list.

Zoho Writer
Google Docs may get all the glory, but Zoho feels a lot more like a real word processor, and includes such niceties as a tabbed interface, ad-free interface and, most impressive of all, a seamless offline mode—powered by Google Gears, which has yet to make an appearance in its parent’s online editor.

Craig Owens says, he “will definitely be using Zoho in 2008

I recently started playing with Zoho Suite and I’m convinced that it is head and shoulders above Google Docs in terms of features and usability. Zoho (still all web based and free) has the spreadsheet, document and presentation tools, but further includes a whole bunch of other stuff.

Thanks to all our users and admirers for making Zoho a part of your life! Wishing You All A Very Happy & Prosperous New Year!!

Zoho Notebook Among PC World’s Most Innovative Products of 2007

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pcworld.pngPC World announced a list of 25 most innovative products for 2007 and we are honored to see Zoho Notebook included. The list includes both software and hardware products.

PC World Says…

Innovation: Web-only app stores just about any kind of content and allows you to share it with anyone.

Benefit: More full-featured than competing online tools.

AdventNet‘s Zoho tools include everything from wiki software to customer relations management and project management applications, many of them free. Zoho Notebook (free, in public beta) continues the winning streak. You can enter text, graphics, audio, video, and embedded content from other sites onto your notebook’s pages–or use the page as a single word processing document or spreadsheet. Put together everything on a certain subject, and you’re ready to share your work with online compatriots.

As some of you may recall, Zoho Notebook was announced in Jan at DEMO conference and was open to public in May. Over the last seven months the application has been maturing rapidly with several updates and lots of regular users. Over the next few months you’ll see several updates enhancing the functionality of the application further.

We will be talking about Zoho Notebook and other Zoho applications at the Show Stoppers event in Vegas.