Beyond Corporate Walls: Announcing External Networks and other New features

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We all know, organisations are made of people and processes. People play an essential role in getting things done. Every business, be it small or large have diverse goals and various internal and external stake-holders involved in the decision-making process. The business discussions and decision-making process is often complex. And the work certainly doesn’t just end with just discussions. Implementing work involves an execution plan, supervision and control to achieve the desired goal. Apart from employees, business alliances outside the company can also add value to attain this goal. And the key to successful implementation and innovation is better with collaboration involving these people too.

External Network

Cultivating External Collaboration:

Therefore, it is imperative to choose the right mode to collaborate. Understanding this transformation in the collaboration space, we’ve developed external networks. External networks are designed to enable businesses to extend collaboration capabilities to their partners, suppliers, agents, franchises or contract workers. Zoho Connect’s external networks are no different from the internal network for employees. We have made the interface consistent for both the internal and external networks. With external networks, businesses can leverage the collective knowledge and creativity of partners or vendors and arrive at smarter solutions.

Additionally, we’ve also added newer features to Zoho Connect to enhance collaboration capabilities for businesses. Chatroom, events, network analytics, AD integration are the new features.

Focused Conversations:

Zoho Connect believes in making team communication more focused and actionable. Keeping this in mind, we have added a chat room feature to groups. Chat rooms can be created within groups to hold real- time conversation on specific topics.

Time Management:

Calendars are staple in time management. Users can create events, send invites, track RSVPs of invitees. Don’t miss a single event in your company, stay up to date on upcoming events. We’ve also integrated with Eventbrite so that users can create social network for events, thereby aiding collaboration capabilities for the event.

Measuring Engagement:

It is important for community managers or network admins to understand how the users engage within the network. Network Analytics allows the admins of the network  to measure the overall health of the network, engagement at the group and company level.

Customisation:

Zoho Connect allows administrators of the network to customise the network to match the uniqueness of the company brand. The headers and footers are customisable and can be customised to reflect the look and feel of the brand.

Centralising User Access:

Most businesses leverage Microsoft’s Active Directory to centralize and to standardise user access to networks and other resources. Users can now directly login to their Zoho connect  network with their common organisation credential. It is advantageous in terms of increasing efficiency through convenience while improving access and boosting user adoption.

With the release of external networks, we’ve revamped our pricing plans too. We’ve made it simple.This new plan we believe will reduce the cost significantly to companies that work with a large pool of external users.

Simplified Licensing:

You no longer will have to pay per user for both internal or external network.  You can access most of our prime features like private groups, custom apps, document management and chat rooms in the Free plan itself. The additional features such as multiple admins, post moderation, custom domain, header and footer customisation and Active Directory sync will be under Enterprise plan priced at $49 per network.

To know more and how to use these features, join us at Zoholics: Productivity and Collaboration 2014 event at Pleasanton, California.

3 Sales & Marketing Tactics SaaS Vendors Need To Kill

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forced contracts

SaaS used to stand up for something much bigger than just software delivered over the internet.

At its inception, SaaS was the anti-thesis of big, stodgy software companies: IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP. Where big software companies had hefty prices, SaaS was affordable. Where big companies had convoluted pricing licenses (Microsoft’s Licensing, anyone?), SaaS promised straightforward per-user pricing. Where big software companies required upfront long-term contracts leading to “shelfware,” SaaS promised paying for only what you truly needed.

As both a SaaS customer and a SaaS vendor, I want to talk about three tactics where I see the industry veering off course.

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Say goodbye to unproductive workplace practices and build a culture of collaboration with Project Management apps – Part 2

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projects_blog2meeraThis is the second part of a 2-part blog series. Read the first part of the series here.

The myth of multitasking.

When you’re trying to get multiple things done with different sets of people, it might seem easy to multitask by doing everything together. But this can be counterproductive because your attention gets split between activities. You’ll take much longer to complete each activity, and this can negatively impact your overall output and quality of work. Several independent psychological researchers have established that multitasking results in reduced efficiency due to cognitive ‘switching’ costs.

Switching from a task before you complete it also causes the Ziegarnic effect – the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about unfinished tasks. The only way to resolve the cognitive dissonance that comes from a lack of closure on an unfinished task is by completing that task.

A good project management app is one that lets you simplify complex projects so that you spend enough attention and energy on each task.

To simplify complex projects, you can organize them according to a hierarchy of easily manageable units such as milestones, task lists and tasks. Split your tasks into the simplest sub-tasks that can be easily completed before you move on to the next task. You can also set task dependencies to help identify and complete dependent tasks. And of course, the sense of completion that comes from finishing these tasks can help avoid the Ziegarnic effect!

Encourage everyone in your team to restrict their focus to completing one thing at a time – complete one task or participate in one discussion or just catch up with activity streams in one project portal. Finish any one thing before you move on to the next.

Treat different project portals like separate rooms – you cannot be in more than one at the same time.

Resist the temptation of switching to another tab or project portal before you’ve completed what you wanted to do. Read more

Gantt Chart: The Incredible Story Continues

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We have already seen how the Gantt Chart was used in several projects, big and small, across industries over the last century. Its original use was to plan production in factories, to allow all components to be available when needed for subsequent production activity. Today, as we hear from our customers, they are used in a variety of other applications and this includes marketing! Find it hard to believe? Take a look at these examples.

Caldera Group is a company based in the Netherlands, that offers shared marketing services. It provides its customers the marketing department they always wanted, at an affordable cost. “As part of our work, we have to communicate with multiple companies,” says Leon Hamstra, a director of Caldera Group. “Our operations require our employees and our customers to be on the same page at all times. The Zoho Projects Gantt Chart helps us do just that.”

Moving to Johannesburg, South Africa we have Spaghetti TV, a company that produces corporate movies, presentations, TV commercials, documentaries and other content for broadcast and online distribution. “We work with clients all over the world and we use Zoho Projects as a means of not only planning the project for internal resources, but also for giving clients a view of project progress,” says its founder Andrew Lester. “The Gantt view is something they are used to interacting with and being able to edit tasks here was a real improvement for us.

We see that the Gantt chart continues to be an important tool for managers and we want to make sure they get the best out of it. So here are some more enhancements we’ve added to the Zoho Projects Gantt view. Read more

New in Zoho Survey – Analyze survey results in Real-Time with Google Spreadsheet

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Zoho Survey‘s new integration with Google Spreadsheet pushes your survey results to Google in real time. Now you can view and analyze survey responses to your heart’s content in that familiar spreadsheet interface.

ZSurvey-GSpreadsheet integration
Visualize the results in a variety of different ways as they are updated in real-time. Generate custom or personalized reports and share the sheet with anyone. Sharing the spreadsheet gives chosen individuals or teams the flexibility to collaborate with you and work on your reports.
In addition, your spreadsheet is saved on Google Drive so you can view survey results both online as well as offline.

Summarizing the benefits of survey data in Google Spreadsheets
•    View data in real-time
•    Easy to share
•    Access to data both online and offline in Google Drive

It takes only a simple click of a button to integrate your survey results in Google Spreadsheet. You can select whether you want the results in a new sheet or an existing sheet. Results pushed to a Google Spreadsheet lets you share, collaborate, and analyze data. Tell us how this feature helps you.

Document Review Made Easy: Introducing Track Changes in Zoho Writer

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Multiple users, one huge document and a lot of review comments to be implemented. Sounds like a nightmare?
Well, it can turn out to be one without the right tool. Collaboration is a breeze when you can keep a track of all the changes made to the document by each user. And what is the best way to do that? – Track changes it is!
Taking the popular demands into account; I am excited to bring you the announcement of our latest feature - Track Changes for Zoho Writer, the online document editor of Zoho Docs.

Track changes

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Say goodbye to unproductive workplace practices and build a culture of collaboration with Project Management apps – Part 1

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My colleague recently blogged about how project management apps can greatly help improve collaboration especially for geographically distributed teams or companies. As a remote employee at Zoho, I’ve experienced this a lot. My marketing role requires interaction with multiple teams, all based in other cities and time zones. And yet we all manage to collaborate seamlessly across multiple projects.

We do this by creating and reinforcing a culture that encourages collaboration.

That’s where project management apps come in to the picture. They work as an antidote to unproductive practices that could prove harmful for a collaborative culture. If you’re a growing start-up or company that’s trying to become more collaborative, these are the work practices that you might want to upgrade from:

Email ping pong.

Email Ping Pong

If you’re using email to make decisions or to discuss specific tasks that require inputs from multiple people, you could end up back and forthing and wasting time:

  •     creating email threads that are too long for people to follow through
  •     discussing the same topic over disparate email threads and have a hard time combining inputs
  •     just trying to get everyone on the same page

Not only is email ping pong unproductive, it is also unhealthy. In a recent research, occupational psychologist Dr Emma Russell listed email ping pong as one of ‘the seven deadly email sins’ that could have negative health repercussions for employees.

Sifting through piles of email to look for important tasks or trying to achieve a “zero inbox” state should never be a work goal for anyone. Read more