Early May, technology vendor Zoho conducted its annual signature event Zoholics in Austin, TX. During this event, Marshall Lager and I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Jason Yoffy, director of engineering at RJG, a training and technology company that on one hand trains plastic injection molders how to make better parts with less waste and on the other hand also provides technology to support better production processes. RJG exists since 1985. It mainly serves companies in the automotive and medical industries that create safety critical and precision parts from plastic with close to 200 employees.
We were interested in learning the good, the bad, and the ugly about their journey with Zoho; the needs they had, the experience on the way and, of course, where Yoffy sees scope for improvement.
You can watch the complete interview on YouTube.
RJG used an “antiquated, server-based”, i.e., an on-premise CRM system that the company wanted to replace as it left much to be desired. The chief concern was “enabling our sales team to sell better.” A lot of processes still were manual, which did not keep pace with the company’s fast growth. Reporting was difficult, of low accuracy, and slow. Lots of relevant data didn’t even make it into the system. Given that, there was lacking transparency in the state of the business; the teams did not get an understanding where everybody was, what the state of initiatives was. Creating a quote for a customer took far too long.
While all this is not uncommon, “we wanted to grow up and find a solution that would help us move into the future.”
Naturally, one of the contenders for the new system was Salesforce. After all, Salesforce is the undisputed industry leader; it simply is not prudent to not at least consider Salesforce. In addition, RJG assembled a group of people to do some research additional options. This is, where Zoho piqued their interest. Why? Because of the usability and UX implications that Zoho One, built on a single consistent platform, can have as an operating system of the business.
During the final assessment, RJG started to partner with regional consultancies to help “us do some initial discovery and understanding of some high-level needs, for each part of the organization and then helped us with the process and looking at our projected return on investment.”
As a result of this evaluation, the company chose Zoho for the reasons stated above plus an ROI advantage. As Yoffy maintains, “with Zoho it was all under one cost. So, if we wanted to end up using, you know, instant messaging or Zoho Writer or other aspects of the Zoho suite, we didn’t have to pay extra. And with Salesforce everything seemed to be an add-on and an add-on, add-on; and we liked the business model that Zoho had to give us you know, more bang for our buck and allow us to grow into different applications.”
RJG started with the implementation of Zoho CRM and Zoho Desk, as these applications cover the most pressing needs. From there on, the company moved on to also implementing marketing tools. These implementations
Being a 30-year-old company, RJG already had a lot of established processes that, however, were poorly documented. Consequently, to get value fast, the first implementation was done without much configuration. From there on, RJG underwent a detailed process discovery with the individual teams and their partner AspenTech. “AspenTech helped us understand our business needs and map it out in the software as a solution. They would say you can do it this way, or you could do it this way. And we looked at how putting our processes into software can then grow and scale for us later on. And I think that was a big advantage of having a partner like AspenTech. They were really good at understanding our business needs and requirements and helping us kind of see that in the application.”
What also became visible during the event is that AspenTech and RJG personnel managed to create not only a trusting relationship but also a personal one. This combination of three parties that mutually trust each other and build a good relationship makes a winning team.
Fast-growing companies share a number of challenges for an implementation project. These range from a lack of documented processes to integration with other systems. Not surprisingly, RJG encountered them, too.
How to deal with them? How to overcome them? Especially, if the company has offices in several locations and countries.
The solution is actually as simple, yet profound, as involving people early, to work with them on the system, and to talk with them. That way, processes can be modeled and later implemented, that are efficient and to the needs of the users. While this has the appearance of creating an extended project, it is actually the faster way, as it reduces the number of time-consuming issues in the course of the project. Yoffy has some best practices to share.
“Making sure your processes are good before you put them into the system, because you know it’s kind of garbage in garbage out. So, that was our biggest issue. Our second issue was we have offices, you know, we have 150 people, we have offices in seven countries. […] So, we took the strategy of getting them on the systems and then work with the individual country offices to do that. And so that was a bit challenging, you know. They wanted to be included in the first wave and understand what we’re doing.”
This approach works for system integration, too. Not every system is as good at integration as Zoho’s.
“I think, our approach is that we got together in the beginning, you know. We had representatives from each department, sales marketing, customer support, training and consulting and then international offices.”
Lastly, as after the project is regularly before the project, it is important to keep a core team of key users closely involved to keep the ear on the ground and to be able to continuously improve the systems for the users. The original implementation team forms a “core team of people that still exist today. It’s not their full-time job, but we named ourselves the Zoholics, just like the conference, because we’re, you know, imbibed on Zoho; and they continue to optimize the system and update our business processes and connect things that haven’t been connected before.”
There are some good lessons for us to learn in the RJG journey. For one, a think big – act small approach based on a slim start can bring value fast.
Second, it is important to get the users on board early and make them part of the solution. Third, Zoho can very well be a solution for startups and small companies, as it doesn’t need much configuration and can run right “out of the box” – if there is something like a box for SaaS software – but also cater for the more complex requirements of an enterprise thanks to broad and powerful configuration abilities and available customizing tools ranging from no- to pro code.