Zoho – A True Unicorn

Zoho – A True Unicorn

End of January Zoho held its 2020 Zoho Days, an analyst summit, which I was happy to attend, along with more than 60 colleagues, as the only analyst from Germany, as it seems. Sadly, it took me quite a while to complete this – Zoho deserves a faster commentare. But hey, let’s look forward and get rolling. Zoho is a privately owned enterprise software company that has quietly evolved from a small software company in 1996 to an ambitious global player that serves the SMB- and enterprise CRM market with cloud applications. The company has a set of 45+ business apps with more than 50 million users, 10 data centres and counting, and is available in 180 countries. The company is profitable and maintained a CAGR of more than 30 percent over the past five years. But why quietly? Because Zoho managed its growth pretty unusually (almost) fully organically with only very minor acquisitions. Crunchbase lists one. Following this unique approach, which defies the traditional law of going big fast, the company managed to build a solid platform with a unified data model that allows it to crank out amazing software at an incredible speed, and with a track record of growth that is well in the double digits. Zoho offers a suite of business, collaboration, and productivity applications, supported by development environments, services and infrastructure. Besides CRM, the applications cover a good part of the value chain, including some ERP type of applications, like order management, warehouse management, or billing and project management, HR and accounting. These apps are built upon a services oriented soft- and hardware stack...
Customer Experience on Cruise Ships – It doesn’t always need AI to deliver

Customer Experience on Cruise Ships – It doesn’t always need AI to deliver

It is this time of the year. Both, my wife Nicole and I put in long hours throughout last year, and yes, the pre-Christmas-time was not exactly a vacation, too … So, we were looking forward to some downtime and a family cruise with the line that prides itself as being “the home of the smile”. But, hey, if you are in the customer experience business – you never really have full downtime. At the end of the day it is also impossible to not reflect your own experience. Hence, we also could not avoid to realise how simple things can turn something amazing into something mediocre – or even plain disappointing. The cruise industry is a highly competitive industry, too, with more and more customers having more and more choice. Cruise Market Watch predicts more than 27.6 million cruise customers in 2020. Ships are getting bigger and more comfortable – and the fleets are growing, too, with 25 more cruise ships being expected to enter service in 2020. At the same time, customer expectations are rising fast. And this does not only apply to the digital world, but also to the physical one. And a cruise is all about the customers’ experience, and nothing else. This is what they are selling with slogans like ‘premium all-inclusive’ (TUI Cruises). “After all, the best holiday feeling is: not being in the need to think of anything, but to be able to. Not needing to pay for it, but being able to try anything. Not needing to relinquish anything but being able to enjoy everything.” (original in German, translation by me)...
Clouds, Data Models, and Experiences – Three Entities, One Topic

Clouds, Data Models, and Experiences – Three Entities, One Topic

After having covered some press releases about new releases and commenting some interesting organizational changes it is time to have a look at another topic – the need for consistency in a suite of cloud products. Consistency not only in the most obvious part of a family of products and solutions – the user interface – but the more important aspect of consistency, namely the data model. If you wonder how this relates to customer experience I invite you to read on. This post is actually spurred by a brief conversation that I had with Jon Reed of Diginomica about this very topic during one of the recent CRM Playaz episodes. Btw, if you do not yet listen in to the LinkedIn conversations of CRM Playaz Paul Greenberg and Brent Leary, discussing important developments and current events in the world of CRM – then you should. Really! But I digress. Back to the topic. The question is about whether it is necessary to have a unique data model or not. And this question might be answered differently, based upon the definition of ‘data model’. There is no doubt that a unique data model across applications is very helpful, actually a necessity. Where there is doubt, is whether this data model needs to be defined on database level or not in order to be really helpful. My point of view is that it does not need to be defined on database level. This point of view might be contradicting some ‘common sense’ wisdom and the strategy that some very successful companies are pursuing, including Oracle – as it seems –...
Salesforce News on different Topics – But Hey, are they really different?

Salesforce News on different Topics – But Hey, are they really different?

The News In the past month, Salesforce made announcements around some interesting topics. First, beginning of October, the company introduced Einstein’s Guide to AI Use Cases, a web tool that is targeted at helping businesses identify viable use cases and provide some information about what it takes to support it. It starts with information and videos that explain AI, terms around AI and give some examples how AI can help improve different aspects of a business.  According to Sarin Devraj, Associate Product Marketing Manager Salesforce Einstein, for time being the site covers some fifty use cases but will be updated regularly to increase the coverage of relevant and interesting use cases. The website is intended to be top-of-funnel. The second and more recent announcement was about introducing Lightning Order Management, which shall enable brands to deliver end-to-end commerce experiences from shopping to shipping. Lightning Order Management is currently in beta and will be made available later this year. Right now it focuses on B2C processes. Based upon Lightning and enabled by Salesforce’s vast partner network, Lightning Order Management offers a low code platform that helps companies to easily create order management flows, including some partner applications. Salesforce expects the number of partner applications to increase steadily. Lastly, in the beginning of November, Salesforce announced its own Salesforce CMS, a hybrid content management system designed to help easily create and deliver content across channels. Salesforce CMS is designed to be simple, fast yet flexible, and closely connected to the Salesforce infrastructure. For time being Salesforce CMS is geared towards the Salesforce B2C e-commerce solution, but shall be extended to support...
Is SAP serious about CX? You bet, and here’s why

Is SAP serious about CX? You bet, and here’s why

The News SAP flexes its muscles. Bob Stutz returns to SAP as the new president of the CX group. In this role he becomes the successor of Alex Atzberger who held this role since January 2018, himself succeeding Carsten Thoma. In his new role Bob will report directly to Co-CEO Jennifer Morgan. The Bigger Picture Bob Stutz certainly is one of the creators of CRM, where Paul Greenberg is its godfather. He was instrumental to the success of Siebel, the company that basically created the industry and dominated the market in the early days of the millennium, till the company got acquired by Oracle. From there, Bob moved on to SAP in 2005, with the objective of making a successful business unit out of SAP CRM. Which he did. With CRM 7, released towards the end of 2007, he and his team created a very competitive product, functionally, and from a usability point of view. He also, with CRM on Demand, laid the foundation for an SAP move into the cloud. Not entirely successful, that one, as it the whole architecture was not cloud orientated, but it was the first step into the right direction. And an important one, as the whole market, led by Salesforce, went for the cloud. It was a hard transition; believe me, I was there. By then, Salesforce was hot on the heels of the then market leader SAP, with Oracle and Microsoft making themselves heard as well, Oracle hampering itself with the transition to Fusion and Microsoft at the start of its journey that created Dynamics. His tenure ended in 2010. He moved...
S/4 vs. C/4 – Is SAP finally getting CRM right?

S/4 vs. C/4 – Is SAP finally getting CRM right?

It has been a while since I last mused about things S/4HANA and C/4HANA (or Customer Experience Suite) at SAP. So, it is time to have a look at what happened since. Last year I concluded that “the differentiation between the old world transactional systems and the systems of engagement is more and more being sorted out” and that the “modularization of the various clouds into ‘Micro’-Services would allow for a seamless recombination of systems that allow for the definition of functional scope according to customer needs as opposed to only offering pre-packaged systems”. Has there been any change, since? Let’s go along the questions that I asked in my previous post. How reliable is the roadmap, or rather, are the roadmaps? At the end of the day there is the eternal dilemma between flexibility and stability. How to go ahead with multiple back end systems? How are engines and industry solutions dealt with? How is the differentiation between S4 including customer management and the C4 offerings? All these questions continue to be relevant, as they are touching the core of SAP’s strategy. What is the current answer to them? Let me give my take on them, as I see it evolving. Just to be sure, this is my observation and me listening to customers, not an official word of SAP. Just my interpretation. After all I am not on the distribution list of SAP’s internal strategy discussions. Being a CRM guy and a suite guy, for me the last question is the elephant in the room. The answer to where SAP sees the boundary between S4 and C4...