Customer Speak: “We Use Zoho Projects to Run the Entire Company”- Abacus Concepts

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You might have read the earlier accounts of how different businesses are using 

Zoho Projects for managing their projects
. Today, we are glad to present the story of Mr.

Sudheer Marisetti, the President and Founder of

Abacus Concepts
, a specialized database and data analysis consulting company. He would be sharing his

Zoho Projects
 experience with us.


Over to


Mr. Sudheer Marisetti
:
————————————————-


Abacus Concepts’ Challenge



abacus
In our company, most of the technical team is in India. Our clients are primarily in New York and New Jersey, with some in Boston and Virginia as well. We work with our partners in Europe whose products we market, sell and maintain in South Asia and South-East Asia. 

With such a scattered nature of our operations, we needed an online project management tool to support the global nature of our company and clientele and the resulting time zone gaps.

We tried

Basecamp

, but it’s not quite mature enough. We also tried using our clients’ project management tools. Some clients use

JIRA

, for instance, which does a great job of tracking requests and bugs but not powerful enough to cover the whole gamut of project management. And any tool that relies on email to coordinate requests is just hard to manage. Emails get lost. People don’t know how to keep track of them. We’ve also tried using

Microsoft OneNote

and

Excel

to keep track of the work, but it’s not the most efficient way.

And we used

Microsoft Project

, but it fell short for us. One, other people are not aware of the project progress unless you publish it online. We don’t have the means to do that. So I’d send copies, PDF versions to people through email. If I made a small change, I had to email an updated PDF. In a distributed environment like we have – a dozen people in the U.S., a dozen people in India, five or six people in Europe, and me traveling – Microsoft Project is not a good tool.


Zoho Solution

Today, we use

Zoho Projects
 extensively, almost as much as we use email. We track a dozen client projects in addition to departmental activity outside of our development team.

We not only use Zoho Projects for our income generating projects with our clients but also to run our company.

We created projects for our company administration, finance, marketing, HR, etc. This way we are able to create milestones (long term goals) and tasks and assign them to appropriate individuals and track their progress.

Abacus-Concepts


Zoho Projects + Google Apps Advantage

Zoho Projects is tightly coupled with Google Apps, and that helps us a lot. It means, we don’t have to maintain documents in both locations. And the moment we define the dates for a task, it shows up in Google calendars of the people assigned to the task.




Continue to read
 about how Mr. Marisetti uses Zoho Projects in his company.





Want to add Zoho Projects to your Google Apps? C
lick the button below.









If you would also like to share your project management success story, do contact support[a]zohoprojects.com


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Zoho Support: New User Interface for Customer Support Portal

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Today, we are happy to announce an improved user interface for the customer support portal of Zoho Support, our

Customer Support and Helpdesk application
.

 

Customer Service Portal – Home page view

Apart from changing the look and feel of the customer support portal, we’ve also enhanced a few settings to help you manage your customers better.

  • You can now customize the widgets and sections. You now have the option whether to show to all users or to only those who are your registered users.
  • The Solutions view in the Customer Portal has been changed to display the list of topics. Clicking a topic will display the sub-topics under it.

     

    Customer Service Portal – New Solutions page view

  • When a customer searches for his/her requests, the requests which were re-assigned to internal departments have been made viewable too.
  • A new section called ‘Contact Info’ is now available in the right panel customization area. You can use this section to display the contact information of your support functions, and customize it further by adding more sections based on your needs.

You can read more about the new Customer Portal in Zoho Support at

http://www.zoho.com/support/help/customer-portal.html
. Try the new Customer Portal pages of Zoho Support and mail your feedback comments to

support@zohosupport.com
.

iCloud: It is Everything Microsoft Wanted to Be

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At first they ignored the iPod, and it looked plausible
Then they laughed at the iPhone, and it looked ignorant
Then they dismissed the iPad, and it looked ridiculous
Finally, the iCloud arrived
And the board woke up.

(OK, that last line was pure fiction).

It is a testimony to how far Microsoft’s stock has fallen – no I don’t mean just their stock price here – that no one seems to remember Ray Ozzie’s Software-plus-Services marketing slogan anymore. I was reminded of that when I watched Steve Jobs announce the iCloud and how that spells the end of the PC. I must say he didn’t just say the end of the PC – he helpfully added “the Mac” too, but he is just being polite and everyone knows what he has in mind. Of course, we at Zoho don’t have to tell you that the era of billions of cloud connected devices suits us very well, thank you. It is everything we have been working on for the past 6 years. 

With Apple training us in our capacity as consumers to expect our data to be just there in every device we work on, we as business users will expect the same convenience from all our apps. We are accelerating our R&D at Zoho to deliver that ubiquitous access, everywhere, in every device, through the web and through native apps when necessary. It is telling that the one platform where we are not planning any native apps is the same one that gave meaning to the words “software platform”.

The iCloud should be Microsoft’s dream, except that Steve Jobs has turned that into their nightmare. 
Some time ago, it used to be that Microsoft’s entry on a particular space validated it. But it was not Office365 that “validated” the cloud. Rather, it is Apple’s iCloud announcement what finally brought the cloud to the mainstream public. Of course, it took Apple to take a mouthful of a marketing phrase such as Software-plus-Services and turn it into something small, tight and cool.

How a company with so many strategic assets would manage to piss their seemingly insurmountable advantage away in a decade should be a business school case study. Hopefully Stanford Business School would award Ballmer his long unfinished MBA for showing us how it’s done. 

SAMTEQ Limited gets paid faster using Zoho Invoice and improves its cash flow

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Recently, I had a tete-a-tete with Ken Coley of SAMTEQ Limited, a Scottish Web development company. He had some interesting things to share on his company and how

Zoho Invoice
 fits into his fast growing business. Some excerpts from our conversation:


1. How did SAMTEQ get started?


SAMTEQ Limited was established in 2009 by Sam Coley, at the age of 16 and has enjoyed rapid growth to a successful web development company. SAMTEQ creates web solutions for small to medium businesses, based in Scotland but serving the UK and beyond. SAMTEQ specialises on making extremely easy to manage websites, with a unique CMS system developed in-house. SAMTEQ customers tend to be owner managers and have little time to do anything apart from concentrate on their business. As a growing business we do not have an accounts department so we have to manage our invoicing between our paid work.


2. How did you discover Zoho Invoice?


Zoho Invoice came to our attention through Google search for online invoice system, allowing us to have a genuine no commitment free trial.


3. What invoicing software were you using before and why did you decide to switch?


Before Zoho, we were using Microsoft Access, a template found on the web. It did the trick but was slow and time consuming. We needed a system that allowed us to have

recurring invoices
 and make sure we actually created and sent the invoice. We switched to Zoho because it had all the functionality we needed and was very affordable, now we have been using Zoho Invoice for a few months and have found it has improved [our] cash flow and reduced our time, well worth every penny.


4. How has Zoho Invoice helped your business?


Finding Zoho Invoice was a great break through for SAMTEQ in dealing with our invoices. What was a chore turned into an automated process. When we need to create a new invoice, it is a breeze. When we first trialed the solution we found the setup to be easy and intuitive, only bringing up a couple of questions which were answered in the forum and an email to support. We generally bill customers for setup charges then have recurring charges for ongoing services. We invoice customers when we complete work and they have approved the work, this means we sometimes issue an invoice while on the move, the iPhone App makes this easy and, to be honest, quite satisfying!


Ongoing invoicing had become an issue as we often forgot to invoice small recurring charges and chasing payments. Zoho allows us to have an automatic invoice and an easy payment option for these small amounts, we find they now get paid quicker with the Zoho system.


5. How do you see life beside work?


Owning a business obviously eats into spare time but at weekends I like to get out onto the water and sail or play the odd game of Golf, in the evenings I mostly watch films.


That’s how SAMTEQ Limited took advantage of Zoho Invoice. Click

here
 to read more such customer success stories.


If you’d like to share how Zoho Invoice has helped your business, write to us at 

support@zohoinvoice.com
 or connect with us on

Facebook
 and

Twitter
.

The Perils of SaaS

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You wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Zoho is a pretty hardcore advocate of SaaS. After all… that’s all we do! And there’s no question that SaaS will be the predominant way in which companies buy and use software for many years to come.

Still, some customers are apprehensive of surrendering their data to a provider that might go out of business or hold it hostage. For the most part, online software companies do a very good job of making it clear that data belongs to customers, and they can take it with them whenever they want. That has certainly been Zoho’s policy from day one. We provide multiple API and Export options, and will also work with a customers when s/he wants to take his business (and data) elsewhere. It’s not only good for business, but it is also the right thing to do.

The key phrase there is… “for the most part”.

As you know, Zoho Invoice competes head-on with Intuit’s Billing Manager. The other day we read in their blog that they are discontinuing the product, and we were a little surprised to learn that. Anyway, many other of our competitors have closed down shop, so that’s no big surprise. Companies may go out of business, products get discontinued… that’s just a fact of life. Except that… Billing Manager customers have no easy way to export their data OUT of the system.

They are stuck.

You can of course, export your data to Intuit’s other billing product, you know, the one that doesn’t offer a free option. Intuit is giving Billing Manager customers one free year of Quickbooks Online. After that, they’re going to be charged ~$13 per month. $13 doesn’t sound like much, but it is certainly a “nice” business move to get customer to pay (even if deferred by one year)… people that would have otherwise have been free.

This was not the intention behind the freemium idea! That’s too bad for customers, because they chose a seemingly solid player that at the end of the day, left them hanging.

Cost is not the only issue. Billing Manager customers are also loosing key pieces of functionality. For example, estimates and currencies-other-than-US-Dollars are not supported in the version of Quickbooks that Intuit is recommending customers switch to. Not only that, many customers have expressed their desire to use an invoice-only product. We understand that. 

You’d think that we’re happy with this, because it could only mean that customers would come over to Zoho Invoice – at least to give it a try. But turns out we are not. Why? Well, because it makes SaaS software seem like an unsafe choice.

So we’d like to suggest Intuit do the following two things instead:

- Make it easy for customer to take their data with them. Currently customers have no way to export their data out of Billing Manager. They can only migrate it to Quickbooks Online. Sure, it’s “nice” of you Intuit to make it easy for customer to give you data when they are moving from a free product to a paid product. But you also need to make it easy for them to take their data and leave should they choose to do so.

- Honor your commitment to customers. If you were going out of business, well, then not much you can do about it. But you are a successful company. You promised customers a free service. Honor that commitment. You can close Billing Manager, move customers to Quickbooks Online. That is fine. Just create a SKU that has comparable features set to what Invoice Manager had… and give it to them (and only to them) for free. At Zoho we have changed pricing for some of our products from time to time, but we have maintained the pricing to what customers signed up for (for as long as they remain a paying customer in that plan). 

That can only be good for customers and the SaaS industry as a whole. And it is also the right thing to do.

Finally, a piece of advice for customers. Before you sign-up with any SaaS vendor (regardless of their size and name) be sure to check whether you’ll be able to take your data out, and also make sure you check on your vendor’s reputation and history of handling these issues.

Rodrigo

Zoho Meeting: Corporate Branding and Organization Management!

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Zoho Meeting, the easiest and most effective online meeting tool recently added full support for Mac users. Today, we’re happy to share that we also offer customization for brands and organizations. Corporate organizations, educational institutions, consultancy firms and IT support organizations, who conduct online meetings can all benefit from this feature. Users who buy the Professional Edition of Zoho Meeting can avail the corporate branding feature. You can use your organization name and logo and your users will see it as part of your own service/brand.

Also, Zoho Meeting offers a custom portal URL for organizations. For example, Contours, Inc. can avail a custom URL like http://meeting.zoho.com/a/srk/. This custom URL will bear your brand name and logo, where your customers can join or login to a meeting. Cool, isn’t it? But, it’s not all. You will also have the following Administration features to effectively manage your organization.

  • User Management – You can add or remove users in your organization. You can view the added users along with their joining status, email ID and user name. These added users can also host meetings other than you, and they can invite customers or colleagues to the meeting.
  • Meeting Management – You can view all the meeting sessions, including the current sessions, conducted by your organization users, along with the meeting details. You will have three timeline view options to track your meetings.
  • Reports Management – You can generate detailed reports just by entering the respective user name and the respective time frame. The detailed reports will have the date, time, duration of the meeting, presenter and details. This could help you to analyze your meetings. Your organization users can also view the reports of their respective meetings.

So, why wait? Sign up for Zoho Meeting Professional Edition today. It starts at just $12/month. You can check out the step-by-step guide here.

Do tell us your opinions about this feature either by dropping a line below or you can catch us at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Zoho Creator automates order-placement and stock-maintenance for UCSF Medical Center

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University of California, San Francisco
 (UCSF) is committed to providing the safest and highest quality health care. According to the

US News & World Report
, the UCSF Medical Center, which operates out of two major facilities at Parnassus and Mount Zion, is one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals. To continually refine the care they provide, the UCSF had to monitor and measure the treatments their patients received and evaluate their performance against their own rigorous standards, as well as industry benchmarks. We had Alfio Levy, a project manager at UCSF Medical Center, explain how

Zoho Creator
 served their need.

Alfio says, “UCSF has many departments that frequently needed to interact and be in constant communication with each other. And that includes departments situated across the two facilities. For instance, the nursing units need to receive pharmaceuticals from the material services department. They would fax an order across, and the materials would be delivered. It was working fine, except that we faxed about 4,000 orders every month. And that was a lot of manual work in both departments. It was also not possible to track the stocks periodically, so we would sometimes be left with no stocks till the order is delivered.”

“Another major challenge we had to address was ownership; one person would place an order or initiate a transaction, but almost always, someone else follows up to close the order. And before any loop could be closed, we perform Quality Assurance related checks. Everyone needed to know who did what, so a detailed log at every point of contact had to be recorded. This collaboration demanded a complex workflow, and could never be pulled off using paperbacks.”

I
should admit that I have previous lightweight programming experience. I
should have fallen for the workflow approach, because I was able to
implement everything I had in mind with Zoho Creator.

Alfio first tried to implement this workflow using Microsoft SharePoint, but he soon realized it was pretty cumbersome. Just about that time, he stumbled upon a Macworld magazine that recommended Zoho Creator, and he opted to try the online system. Condition based email scheduling helped him in identifying those areas that required intense attention, decide quickly on what supplies were needed frequently, and ensure they never run out of stocks. They had a lot of tasks that required authorization, and access control logic was absolutely essential. He could easily make Zoho Creator handle it all.

By providing the automation, efficiency and trend-analysis at an affordable cost,

Zoho Creator
 effortlessly overthrew all other options for UCSF Medical Center.


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