On September 10, 2020 Zoho announced Zoho Workplace, a new cloud based product bundle that is targeted at making a workforce more effective and efficient by bundling collaboration, productivity, and communication tools into one integrated set. As a part of this release Zoho enriched the applications that are part of Zoho Workplace with additional capabilities, following the vision of driving better business outcomes easier.
Zoho Workplace consists of nine tightly integrated applications that are built on a common data model and that share a common dashboard and AI based enterprise search. The bundle is “centered around a full-featured business mail and office suite”.
The nine applications Zoho Workplace consists of, are:
- Mail for business e-mail
- Cliq, as a messaging system
- Meeting for online conferencing
- Connect, a social intranet solution
- Writer for word processing
- Show for collaborative presenting
- Sheet for spreadsheets
- Workdrive as the cloud based document management system
- ShowTime for online training and/or webinars.
Zoho did a study together with Beagle Research on what the main issues with current collaboration and productivity tools are. Results of this study include that applications that employees work with are “not intuitive and difficult to integrate”. Additional findings include that businesses often use different technology stacks which hampers productivity. Instead, they want “unified solutions that streamline complex processes”.
Zoho Workplace is addressing this and as a result has seen a rapid adoption, “now supporting 2 million organizations, with 15 million users located across more than 150 countries. More than 25 percent of new Zoho Workplace customers have made the decision to switch over from G Suite and Microsoft”.
The Bigger Picture
It is interesting to know that many of the products that make up Zoho Workspace exist since at least the early days of the 2000s, with Zoho taking a first stab at Google already in 2007. So, we are seeing a renewal of a theme here, albeit with an important twist.
The most notable companies addressing the market that Zoho Workplace addresses are Microsoft with its Office 365 suite and Google with its G Suite. Then there are a few other ones, including Oracle, which owns Open Office or Salesforce, which acquired Quip back in 2016 and some other companies that complement collaboration, communication and productivity, or Apple, which has its own set of proprietary tools. This list, by far is not complete. As a consequence, the market is contested.
The by far biggest player in this market are Microsoft and Google, with according to Statista Google commanding nearly 57 percent of the office suite market and Microsoft 42.6 percent as per April 2020. This leaves 0.4 percent for all the other players. While these numbers may be correct or not. For instance I have access to, and use G Suite, MS Office, Zoho and Apple productivity tools and do not expect that I am alone with this. Still, these numbers clearly show how entrenched the leaders are.
With the exception of Quip, all these suites hail from before 2010, while Microsoft’s suite can even be tracked back into the 80s of the last century. One could say that Microsoft invented the productivity tool category with announcing Microsoft Office in 1988.
he trend over the past decade went to deeper integration between the various applications of the office suites themselves and to integrating them into business applications. The other trend is bringing them into the cloud.
The objective of all these moves is to make work more efficient and to avoid breaking out into different sets of applications.
According to Vijay Sundaraman, Zoho’s Chief Strategy Officer, “the nature of work has undeniably changed”. He continues to say that “businesses are not looking to solve a collaboration problem, they are looking to solve a custom invoicing problem or sales enablement problem or support problem. Collaboration platforms need to facilitate better business outcomes, not just improve productivity”.
This objective has come more into focus with the Corona pandemic, as more and more workers needed to work remotely, which adds to the benefits that cloud based productivity and collaboration suites offer.
My Analysis and PoV
David has swung his sling!
There are two trends that are important to look at.
For one, there is a strong trend towards tightly integrated, web based collaboration and productivity suites. The first ones to enter this market has been Google with what originally was dubbed Google Apps and what now is the G Suite. Microsoft for too long missed this trend and focused on installations and licenses. This is something, that the company is working hard to change, especially since the Corona pandemic. So far, from a technology point of view Google is ahead of Microsoft, which is something that might change once MetaOS emerges out of the cloud (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist). From an integration into business processes, Microsoft is the clear leader, although Oracle and Salesforce have capabilities in their own ecosystems.
Speaking of Oracle and Salesforce. Their platform efforts showcase the second trend: Collaboration and productivity have become crucial to business processes and the corresponding toolsets are more and more integrated into business applications, becoming inseparable parts of them. This is, what Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, and Zoho are doing, while Google relies on business app vendors to integrate the G Suite into their solutions.
Zoho, with Workplace is taking Microsoft and Google heads on and gives GoDaddy a kick, too. This is clearly evidenced by the comparison guides that accompany the Workplace main site.
As said above, the individual tools are by no means new. What they are now is deeper integrated into each other and into Zoho’s other products, which puts Zoho from a technology point of view at least equal to Microsoft, probably even ahead, since all of Zoho’s applications are built on the same soft- and hardware stack whereas many of Microsoft’s business applications have been acquired, which makes integration a complex endeavour.
Similar to Microsoft, all of Zoho’s cloud services are run out of own data centers. This, in line with the corporate philosophy of never being part of the problem and to also contribute to society, allows to offer Workplace at an extremely attractive price point that is even far below Google, although Google offers a set of additional tools as part of the G Suite.
What makes Zoho stand out is the combination of this strong and integrated offering with its privacy pledge: “Zoho has never sold your information to someone else for advertising, or made money by showing you other people’s ads, and we never will”.
Looking at all this, Zoho is addressing both major trends by seamlessly providing productivity and collaboration in a web based environment, thus strengthening its platform play.
If then, in a next step, Zoho does further the integration of its overall suite to a point that it provides one unified inbox covering all my conversations across organizations, accessible in their contexts, then there is something truly powerful.