Zoholics 2019 day one – the largest user event in Zoho’s history – was marked by a flurry of news announcements and strongly-worded positioning.
Of the news announcements, notable highlights include:
But as I see it, the big story of the show is the increasing focus on Zoho One and its 40+ apps, based on a simple “all the apps you can eat” pricing model.
At the partner panel for media/analysts that just finished, partners talked about how Zoho One is a whole new ball game for them. It opens up sales channels to CEOs, bringing Zoho partners in sales competition with players they haven’t encountered before, like NetSuite – even though Zoho goes out of its way not to use the term “ERP”, preferring instead the “operating system for business” tagline.
The real zinger from the keynote stage was Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu’s impassioned pitch for Zoho’s privately-owned independence:
Zoho CEO on being privately owned and not subject to stock market volatility on SaaS companies – we will survive the present bubble too –
“We have built this company to survive bubbles”
“We don’t carry Wall Street on our backs”
-> don’t hear that everyday#zoholics19 pic.twitter.com/rPHi4xGC9u
– Jon Reed (@jonerp) April 9, 2019
Zoho’s leadership believes this independence allows them to build a different culture, go to market with a refreshingly different pricing approach, and essentially choose to leave money on the table at their discretion – in the interests of building long-term customer loyalty.
Whether that will prove out, time will tell. Vembu’s ambition of 1 billion global Zoho users will put that to the test. For now, year-over-year growth rates of 35-40 percent – and 45 million users – indicate Zoho’s approach does have traction.
Zoho One customer Purolite faces the CRM adoption struggle
As always, the best way to get a handle on this is from customers on the ground. That’s especially crucial for Zoho One, a 1.5 year old product where customer results are still a fairly new discussion – at least for media. During a day one media/analyst session, Zoho One customer Purolite shared their lessons learned so far. Analyst Esteban Kolsky took the mic to facilitate a group discussion with Purolite’s CRM Integration Manager Amanda Dolin.
If you’re not in the ion exchange business, you might not have heard of Purolite. But if you’re in that industry, you definitely know them. Based in Philadelphia, Purolite is the second largest manufacturer of ion exchange resin and specialty chemical absorbents in the world. They manufacture more than 500 different products, which address a key need: ion exchange resin are the little beads that go inside water softeners. Purolite makes those at a large scale.
Four lessons for cloud software transitions
Purolite started with Zoho CRM in 2013. More recently they have expanded into more Zoho One apps. Purolite’s team learned some lessons other companies making cloud software transitions can use.
1. Adoption is everything – especially for salespeople. Yeah, you bought your software license – doesn’t mean your sales team is on board. No data inputted, no CRM. Prior to Zoho, CRM adoption was a big issue for Purolite. As Dolan told us:
Back in 2013, our company decided to try yet another CRM. It was our third round. We had a number that were just not adopted at all and went by the wayside.
Kolksy asked Dolan for clarification: how many were using it? Less than 50 percent? Nope, lower:
Nobody used it? “Well, maybe one person.” Dolan added:
Management would push it at the beginning. Then there was never really any consequences for not using it, and it was not user-friendly for the most part. We used programs that were basically like plug-ins for Outlook. It was just clunky, it felt like double work to a lot of people. Our sales team learned quickly that if they didn’t do it for long enough, it would go away.
2. To push past the growth plateau, you need new metrics. Kolsky asked Dolan: after so many false starts with CRM, why did they keep pursuing new solutions? Weren’t they tempted to give up? Dolan’s answer: to take their business to the next level of growth, they needed a modern CRM, with a whole new set of metrics:
Our company’s always been very entrepreneurial. We have that spirit even within our own sales territory within the US. It was always, “This is your responsibility. Get it done. We don’t really care how as long as you make your sales numbers.”
That works great – except when you need to figure out the why’s, you need to figure out what you can do to get yourself to the next plateau. As I said, we’re the second largest manufacturer of ion exchanges. How can we get more market share than we have? What aren’t we tracking? What metrics should we be looking at? We realized we’re not really looking at any, or the important ones.
3. Always be prepared for user resistance to change – and be creative. No matter how wonderful your software is, there is always going to some type of resistance to change. Dolan had good tips on addressing this:
Advice on change from Zoho One customer Purolite:
-> hard part is getting adoption, getting users to change the way they do things. you have to get sneaky sometimes and get creative.
example: find out current pain points, and automate their new workflows for them #Zoholics19 pic.twitter.com/AOzE61y7s3
– Jon Reed (@jonerp) April 9, 2019
On the panel, Dolan added:
I try to find a way to take business processes and things that my salespeople do repetitively every day and create a workflow. All of a sudden, they’re like, “Hey, this makes sense. Now, I don’t have to do that every day 40 times.” Then they’re happy. Things like that really helped. Being able to do all the automation for them helped them see the magic.
During a sit down with Dolan today, we broke out her approach to change management in three parts:
- the incentive – know your users’ workflow pains and make them better on the new system.
- the rules – some enforcement of new processes by management.
- the new system has to work – if employees use the new system and input their data, the system has to come through for them. That means you resolve technical problems quickly. You make sure they have the training and support before trust in the new software deteriorates.
4. Analytics is a big part of proving cloud software value. Once you move to a new system, your workflows may improve. But that’s just the beginning of the value you might be able to extract, if you make better use of data. That matters because executives are notorious about software spend ROI – and rightly so. Dolan says their use of Zoho Analytics has deepened their value:
We have a new financial analyst in our company who has really taken to Zoho Analytics, and I’m so happy because I have someone else showing people that we’re getting something out of this.
That’s what management wants to see at the end. “What am I getting? We’re putting all this information in there; what are we getting out of it?” It was the president of our company’s birthday last week. We showed him this map, a graph that we created on Zoho Analytics of all of our global sales for the month. He was like, “Oh, that’s the best birthday present.” He can pull it right up on his phone and see that.
That’s a good note to end on. I’m knee-deep in day two meetings with Zoho customers and executives. I’ll break out those convos soon.
Image credit – Photo of Amanda Dolan of Purolite with Esteban Kolksy at Zoholics 2019 by Jon Reed. Disclosure – Zoho paid the bulk of my expenses to attend Zoholics 2019. Zoho and Oracle NetSuite are diginomica premier partners.
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