Zoho, makers of an online office suite and business tools, aimed mostly at small to medium sized businesses, made its best effort to make a big splash last week when it announced it was introducing an enterprise version of the Zoho CRM product. Unfortunately, Zoho’s announcement was timed in the same week that Google and Salesforce.com announced their partnership and Microsoft was having its MVP meetings. As a result, it got lost in the shuffle.
Zoho hopes to take on SalesForce in the Software as a Service-CRM space, and to hear Zoho tell it, it has a competitive product. I reviewed Zoho Office as part of an online office suite round-up in the April issue of EContent Magazine (requires a subscription to view online), but I was concentrating on core office functionality and didn’t get a good look at the CRM. At the time, Zoho told me it was taking aim at the small to medium size business market, and although Zoho had some nice features, my take was that it lacked the security controls for the enterprise.
That seems to be changing, however, at least where the CRM tool is concerned, because one of the primary enterprise features is the introduction of role-based security along with customization and data administration enhancements, both of which are designed to give enterprise IT departments greater administrative control over users and data. The controls appear to be well designed and enable you to control data sharing at a granular level. You can see a detailed overview of the role-based security feature in this video.
Meanwhile, Zoho has been doing its level best to let people know that they are the cheaper alternative to Salesforce.com while taking a shot at Salesforce at the same time. In a recent blog entry, Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu, claims that Salesforce spends more than 8x as much on sales and marketing as it does on R&D. He also claims that Saleforce invited Zoho to join the SalesForce AppExchange, then reneged at the 11th hour and that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff then offered to buy the company outright, bold claims all.
I contacted Salesforce, and they had no comment on these matters.
All this stuff, while interesting in a voyeuristic sense, is really about shouting for attention, and Salesforce (to its credit) won’t get dragged into it. But one thing is clear, Zoho at least deserves consideration if you are evaluating Saas CRM products for the enterprise, regardless of how it chooses to tell us about it.