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Vendor Briefing: Zoho Workplace

Following Info-Tech’s coverage of Zoho’s global enterprise platform Workplace surpassing 15 million users across 150+ countries in July, Zoho briefed Info-Tech on current and upcoming products that challenge Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite. Indeed, since March 2020, 25% of Workplace’s new customers are previous users of Office 365 and G Suite.

Important features of Workplace are driving users toward Zoho. Major examples of these are:

  • A unified interface for all Workplace applications, combining productivity, communication, and collaboration all in one place. This prevents the user having to switch between applications – a well-documented pain point for using several collaboration tools. Both Google and Microsoft are moving in this direction, especially with Gmail’s recent updates and Microsoft Teams being the front end for multiple Office 365 applications. However, Workplace has a more mature unified platform and readily integrates with organizations’ CRM and helpdesk software – which can all still be accessed through the one interface.
  • Contextual Zia Search across Workplace and connected applications. Given the tight integration of Workplace’s applications, users are also able to search across the whole suite and connected applications without having to switch between different applications to find the right information. This includes Workplace’s Mail, Connect, WorkDrive, Calendar, and more. Such broad reach is still lacking in Office 365 and G Suite.
  • Security is not a feature – it is standard across all Workplace plans. Whereas Google and Microsoft licensing becomes more expensive as more sophisticated security features are required, Workplace’s data privacy and security is standard for all users. Workplace is compliant with GDPR, SOC 2 Type 2, ISO 27001 & 27701, and S/MIME, alongside offering file encryption and multifactor authentication (MFA).

Other new features that users can take advantage of include:

  • Zoho Mail: Make audio/video calls within Mail (one to one and one to many), access all email accounts within Mail, and edit document attachments in Writer. Enterprise features offer flexible storage, mix and match plans, flexible storage, and a comprehensive control panel with eDiscovery, backup, and recovery.
  • Zoho WorkDrive: WorkDrive offers data templates to build a structured data repository, search for images and scanned documents, label organization for files, and TrueSync for cloud-based storage. Enterprise features offer a comprehensive admin control, custom reports to monitor teams’ activities, and an integration with Zoho Directory.
  • Zoho Cliq: Set custom presence status, collaborate with external users, connect via group audio or video calls, and know your message read status. Enterprise features include module-level configurations and customization, role-based permissions, integration with enterprise mobility management (EMM) providers, and user-based availability reports.
  • Zoho Writer: Convert documents to fillable forms, restrict comment visibility, use an AI-based writing assistant, and see document engagement insights. Enterprise features include template-driven automation and APIs, form-driven automation, and automatic signature and approval.
  • Zoho Show: Show offers a wide range of templates, the ability to add explanatory notes to slides, an editor app for iOS devices, and integrations with Atlassian, Unsplash, and Humaans. Enterprise features include an organization-wide slide library, data linking to connect live data to slides, and delivery of slides with audio and video broadcast.
  • Zoho Sheet: Visualize historic data with race charts, create drop-downs with predefined values, link cell ranges, and use new functions for lookup and match. Enterprise features include track changes while collaborating, contextual data from both Zoho and non-Zoho apps, and ability to convert images to spreadsheets.
  • Zoho Connect: Connect offers integration with Zoho People, custom event types and task fields, ability for employees to generate positive exposure and brand awareness, and gamification. Enterprise features include moderation of content and modules, fine-grained permissions and user policies, and custom domains and SAML-based single sign-on.
  • Zoho Meeting: Schedule recurring meetings, schedule meetings from the mobile app, and set multiple email reminders. Zoho Meeting supports 16 languages. Enterprise features include co-branding, the ability to manage organization-level webcam and meeting settings, and integrations with Zoho Projects, CRM, Bookings, Connect, and more.
  • Zoho ShowTime: ShowTime allows for guest trainers and hybrid training, and participants can share their identities. Enterprise features include setting roles and privileges for your training team, gathering training insights, and branding/white labeling.

An important upcoming product that will enhance the user experience of Workplace is the addition of Zoho Directory, to be fully rolled out in the last quarter of 2020. Zoho Directory is a centralized user directory that synchronizes with Microsoft’s Active Directory account. Zoho Directory enables admins to manage permissions that cover the entire domain of Workplace through a single admin console.

Our Take

Full office productivity suites are few and far between in the marketspace, with Microsoft and Google dominating with their Office 365 and G Suite offerings respectively. For those organizations – especially small to medium-sized businesses – that want to look outside of this duopoly for a less expensive and better-integrated interface, and decent security features regardless of license plan, consider shortlisting Zoho Workplace as a viable option. Indeed, with Zoho now establishing a foothold in North America and Europe, the company is seeing 35 to 40% growth year over year. This growth is not slowing down, with dramatic increases in Workplace’s usage since March 2020.

SoftwareReviews’ data helps pinpoint Workplace’s strengths. Zoho Meeting, for instance, performs well in our web conferencing category, winning an Info-Tech award alongside Webex Meetings, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Join.me.

Source: Web Conferencing Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews. Accessed: September 5, 2020.

For those organizations also looking beyond office productivity suites, bear in mind that Workplace is just one component of the broader Zoho ecosystem that encompasses almost every facet of an organization’s needs – from sales and marketing to HR and analytics. This ecosystem is titled Zoho One, and it’s an operating system that covers all Zoho applications, services, and platforms.

However, be sure to gather requirements on the key aspects of this system you want to perform well to meet your organization’s needs. For instance, SoftwareReviews’ data shows that Zoho Projects (project management software, not part of Workplace) is not yet a market leader in the project management space. For organizations that need sophisticated project management software controls beyond table-stakes offerings, Zoho Projects may not appear alongside the likes of Wrike, Monday.com, Trello, or Asana. Of course, as with Google and Microsoft’s offerings, a jack of all trades is a master of none. But (as we often forget) they are often more useful than a master of one.

Source: Project Management Data Quadrant at SoftwareReviews. Accessed: September 5, 2020.


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