Zoho: Largest software provider in Google Apps Marketplace

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With 11 Zoho Apps integrated with Google Apps and thousands of companies with tens of thousands of users using our integrated suites, Zoho becomes the largest software provider in Google Apps Marketplace. 

Last month we said we will launch five new integrations with Google Apps. So we did – Zoho Creator, Meeting, Discussions, Wiki & Reports. These five apps join our long list of previously integrated apps – Zoho CRM, Projects, Invoice, Books, Recruit & Creator HelpDesk

These integrations are not just sign-on level integrations. They go deep. An app like CRM, for example, integrates with various Google modules like Contacts, Calendar, Docs, Mail, Sites, Spreadsheets and user provisioning apart from various open social and gmail contextual gadgets. Apart from the breadth of our portfolio, we also bring in the depth in integration as well.

For over a year, we have been stressing the importance of contextual integrations and have been focusing our efforts on both external and internal integrations. This will continue to be a key focus this year as well as next year for Zoho. We’d like to see application boundaries disappear as the data flows freely between the apps. 

Given the number of apps we offer, the possible number of integrations increase. We prioritize based on your requests. If you’d like to see any specific integrations, please drop us a line.

New In Zoho CRM: QuickBooks and Telephony Integrations

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Here are two brand-new integrations that make customer relationship management with Zoho CRM a lot simpler: Zoho CRM’s Telephony integration and the integration with QuickBooks. These two integrations have been top of our list when it comes to new feature requests from customers. So, here goes.

Zoho CRM for QuickBooks

Zoho CRM for Quickbooks will help you keep information in both

Zoho CRM
and your QuickBooks accounting system in sync.

Many of our Customers were helpful in testing this and giving us feedback. Based on their feedback, here’s what we have got for you in this update – it is now possible to integrate both Customer and Inventory data with your QuickBooks system.

What are the implications of using this feature? No more dual entry, complete visibility of customers and you can focus better on your sales cycle, from lead nurture to the close of a sales deal. This means that your Sales and Accounting departments can have a single version of customer data, even when they continue to work independently.

Here are some of the highlights of this integration. Zoho CRM for QuickBooks supports the Contacts, Vendors, Products, Quotes, Invoices and the Sales Orders modules in Zoho CRM and is available for the Premier and Simple Start offline Editions of QuickBooks. We also give you the flexibility to schedule your data transfer between Zoho CRM and QuickBooks at your convenience. That’s not all. You can avoid data entry conflicts between Zoho CRM and QuickBooks by setting your priority and also map any custom fields that you have created.

As a Professional and an Enterprise Edition customer of

Zoho CRM
, you can try this integration at a cost of $25/Month, per Organization. So, all QuickBooks users,

learn more
about this feature and give it a try!

Zoho PhoneBridge: Zoho CRM’s Telephony Integration

As the name suggests, PhoneBridge connects your telephone system(PBX) with Zoho CRM and allows you to interact with your CRM account during all your customer interactions through inbound and outbound calls.

Consider the case of a Call Center. Cold calling, telemarketing calls, telesales calls, customer care, customer support –  these are the typical operations of call centers. Now, how would it be to leverage the data from your CRM System during a call? Zoho PhoneBridge is the answer!

Here’s how you can make your outgoing and incoming call operations simpler with Zoho PhoneBridge:

Make outgoing calls with a single mouse click from the Leads, Contacts and the Accounts modules. All you have to do is to click on the telephone icon next to the telephone number in the record details page. For incoming calls, you have the key details of the call displayed as a screen pop-up (provided you have logged into your account). You can also capture all details of a call with the ‘log the call’ feature, instantly and simultaneously during the call. Logging a call inside Zoho CRM

has plenty of benefits

So, how does this work? It’s simple. As an administrator, you can configure PhoneBridge for your Zoho CRM account by entering a few details, such as users, their telephone extension numbers and dial codes for your outgoing calls. You can then install the adapter for your PBX system and you are done.

At present, we support Avaya, Elastix, Asterisk and Trixbox. And if your company has multiple contact centers that are geographically distributed, you can operate them as separate entities by creating a separate PhoneBridge group for each of them.

Learn more about this integration and give it a try. A 15-day Trial version is available in all editions of Zoho CRM and it is priced at $6 per user, per month. If you’re interested in this, and have a PBX system that we don’t support, please don’t hesitate to let us know at support@zohocrm.com.

How do these latest features work for you and what more would you like to see in Zoho CRM? Please write to us,and let us know. Or drop us a comment right here.

Zoho Tasks Integrates Tasks from Zoho Projects

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Our unified task module, available through Zoho Business, previously integrated tasks from Zoho CRM. In our latest update, Zoho Tasks integrated tasks from Zoho Projects, our online project management application. This means, Zoho Tasks can now be used to manage your personal tasks as well as tasks from Zoho CRM & Zoho Projects.

Projects Tasks are slightly different from tasks from other apps like CRM. Here, they are more focused on a Project. So, you’ll notice a ‘Project Portals’ section on the left that lists all portals you are part of. Selecting a portal and a related project will display all tasks related to that project.

Apart from viewing your tasks in a project, you can also view tasks assigned to other members in a project. In Zoho Projects, we have a concept of ‘Tasklist’ where multiple related tasks can be pooled together. Tasks in Tasklists show up as sub tasks. Ofcource you can add Tasks and Tasklists right from Zoho Tasks module. When you add a task, you can make it part of a Tasklist, assign it to a user in the project and give it a priority. Tasks added in Zoho Tasks will show up in Zoho Projects and vice versa.

The root of all these integrations goes back to our concept of contextual integration where data and context matters and not the apps. You’ll see many such integrations in Zoho as we move forward. We are very¬† excited about the possible integrations. Stay tuned.

The Next Phase in the Evolution of Office Suites

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This week, Microsoft is launching the latest version of its Office suite. These 3 year release cycles seem alien to us given that our apps are typically updated at least once a month. In case you are considering upgrading to Office 2010, you might want to give online alternatives a try. Our friends at Google listed several reasons not to upgrade to Office 2010 .

As Microsoft evolves its Office suite and moves online (finally), we see a new phase in the evolution of Office suites – Componentization. For the past five years, we have seen Office suites evolve from desktop application suites to online application suites, and Zoho has been at the forefront of this transformation. Now, we are leading the way again in taking the office suites to the next phase of its evolution.

Desktop to Portable Music Players

An analogy best makes this point. Not so long ago, we saw the evolution of music players from desktop models to portable models. We see these music players now becoming components of our mobile phones and several other devices. I’d compare MS Office to that old desktop music player. Web Apps like Zoho and Google add portability plus a lot more which can be compared to portable music players. The next step: Office apps becoming components within other apps.

Office suites traditionally have been standalone applications that are independent from other business applications. While there is clearly value in this, we think their usage and their impact on users’ productivity will be significantly higher when they are contextually integrated within other business applications and workflow.

Avoiding Context Switch

For example, if you are working on a project and want to create/edit documents related to the project, you currently have to quit the ‘Project Context’ and move to the ‘Office Context’ to create/edit documents. This context switching is expensive. When an Office suite is contextually integrated into a project management application, you’ll be able to work on your documents within your project management system without leaving the ‘Project Context’. This significantly improves productivity, especially when you consider numerous times we context switch every day. For something like this to happen, Office Apps can no longer be standalone as they are today. They have to be componentized and have to be part of user’s workflow.

We previously talked about contextual integration and avoiding context switch. This componentization of Office apps enables such contextual integration. In fact, a report from Forrester (subscription required) lists ‘tools not integrated into processes’ as the biggest challenge for MS Office – pointing to the lack of contextual integration in MS Office.

Interesting thing is, most of the challenges mentioned above are addressed by online apps. Even the componentization I have been talking about is an inherent benefit of online apps.

Contextual Integration of Office Apps

We not only preach this concept, but we are integrating our Office apps into our own business apps (check out Projects integration, CRM integration, Recruit integration, etc). We opened the same APIs we use internally to our partners, allowing them to integrate our powerful Office applications within their apps, and many partners did take advantage of these APIs.

Let me illustrate this concept of componentization and contextual integration of Office apps with the work of one of our partners – CentralDesktop. Our friends at CentralDesktop did a tight integration of our spreadsheet application into their collaboration app, contextually providing a spreadsheet app, offering a seamless experience to the user.

In the CentralDesktop screenshot above, the spreadsheet section is served by Zoho, but the data is coming from CentralDesktop’s servers. Multiple users can collaborate on a spreadsheet within CentralDesktop’s collaboration application, and when they save the spreadsheet, it is saved back to CentralDesktop’s servers (and not Zoho’s servers). In fact, users need not even have a Zoho account to do all of this. This is a great example of how a partner can contextually integrate our productivity apps, making them part of the workflow. We have several other partners integrate our apps in interesting ways.

At Zoho, we believe this approach will deliver productivity gains and the path Office apps will follow. Our team has been at work for months now componentizing our Office apps and making them easy to integrate. As Microsoft begins its journey into the online office space, we pave the way to the next phase of Office apps evolution.


It is not about our App, It is about the User's Data and Context

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The title provides a short answer to the question: Why do we integrate with Google Apps? An important emerging theme in cloud applications is the one-page or to be more accurate the one-browser-tab approach to design – i.e contextual integration of information across applications, so that whichever app the user happens to be, it pulls relevant information from other apps, and displays it in the right context. In the traditional desktop and client-server world, data is slave to the application that created it. In the cloud, data is liberated so it can contextually go where it is the best fit. We have used this as our architectural blueprint in Zoho, as we integrate Zoho services with each other (such as our CRM & Email integration), as well as in integrating Zoho with third parties.

Take the Google Apps marketplace announcement yesterday. At that event, there were plenty of demonstrations on how contextual integration works across vendors. Notable ones include Intuit Online Payroll integration with Google Calendar, Atlassian Jira.com integration with GMail/Docs/GTalk, and of course our own Zoho CRM and Zoho Projects integration with GMail/Docs. It is fair to say that every single case of integration demonstrated at the launch even yesterday takes the cloud based ecosystem functionality ahead of where traditional enterprise systems are capable of today. Even more important, we completed our integration with Google in under 2 months, even while they were still refining their APIs. We thank the Google team once again for inviting us to be a launch partner.

Why do we want to integrate with Google Apps? The most important browser tab, in a business context, is the one dedicated to email. Given that GMail is the cloud email provider of choice by far, it is natural for Zoho to integrate our suite with GMail and Google Apps. While we agree with Marc Benioff on enterprise apps taking design inspiration from Facebook (well, not too much inspiration, we are not sure we want to go around “poking” our customers!), we would also like to point out that email is where the majority of business users spend their time. Of course, given that Salesforce has no email strategy, it is natural for them to try to redefine the market away from email and towards social networking. This is Salesforce’s third attempt at making their CRM a business app platform, but unfortunately for them, email is a far more natural starting point than CRM – we say that as a company that has a strong CRM suite. Besides, to be a real platform, you have to have a degree of openness, and our experience with Salesforce demonstrates the opposite, and sets up a direct contrast to Google’s platform approach.

Now, what exactly is contextual integration? In a nutshell, contextual integration allows for the most relevant information to surface up to the user, regardless of where that information is stored. For years, if you wanted to get information on customers, you had to go to your CRM system. If you wanted to get information on employees, you had to go to your HRIS system, if you wanted to read email, you went to your email client.

The cloud is going to fundamentally change that. With contextual integration, everything comes together – emails, calendars, documents, CRM systems, project management, HR, accounting, all of it – all from within one single tab. In this new vision, application boundaries become fluid, in fact applications in the traditional sense take the back seat, and the user’s workflow and context dominate. The benefits are enormous, both for individual business users, as well as for IT organizations. Individual users can get more done faster, with tools that get out of their way. IT organizations reap enormous productivity gains in systems integration.

That second point, systems integration, is an important one. The vast majority of IT spending goes to systems integration/professional services. It is well known in the industry that in the old software model, licensing costs represent only 20-30% of the initial cost. But in the SaaS world, we are already seeing how much easier it is to share data among different, disparate systems. This of course, doesn’t mean that system integration costs will entirely go away. In particular, enterprise customers will still need to hire professional services to connect cloud services to their more intricate, legacy systems they still have in-house. While they might not go away, we fully expect them to substantially decrease. Small and Mid-size customers will even be able to do away with them, as cloud vendors are increasingly pre-integrating each other’s systems.

I will acknowledge that contextual integration is still in its infancy, but we (by which I mean the entire cloud ecosystem) are making rapid progress. The important thing to note about cloud applications is that, in the beginning, they were just about replicating the desktop experience. Want an email program? I’ll give you one, but instead of on a desktop client, on the web. That was step one. Step two was about improving some of the features that the desktop application provided: more storage, better scalability, better security, etc. But now cloud applications go far beyond that. Contextual integration is an example of how cloud applications – Zoho’s and everyone else’s – are bringing a whole new wave of productivity and innovation.