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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Zoho – A Great Bet for Mid-Market firms

In October 2022, Zoho reached US$1 billion in revenue. Zoho was founded in 1996 to deliver easy-to-use and deploy CRM solutions to the SOHO market segment (Small Office, Home Office). Even the Zoho name was a spin from SOHO. Zoho has transformed from a fledgling startup to an enterprise serving small, midsized, large, and public sector organizations globally. In recent years, Zoho has successfully moved upmarket from helping small businesses to midmarket firms and enterprise customers. Mid-market firms are measured, thoughtful, agile, and rapidly digitally transforming, focusing on cloud cost optimization and business process automation. These firms are building a longer-term strategy for an integrated, flexible approach to incremental cloud expansion. In direct contrast, small businesses move from point to point, working first on one discrete solution and then on the next. This dichotomous approach is a real challenge for suppliers as they need to differentiate solutions for the small business market and demonstrate that their offerings are essential components of broader strategies for mid-market firms while attracting attention to their products and building brand preference in both segments. While the expectations of mid-market buyers about SaaS providers are similar to large enterprises, the budgetary limitations create challenges in supplier selection, deployment, and management.

Techaisle research shows that midmarket firms invest in their employees and are social responsibility advocates. As a result, they want their vendors to share these characteristics and mindsets. Therefore, serving the mid-market segment necessitates a distinct culture that is not characterized by high prices and lengthy sale cycles.

Midmarket technology DNA and role of Zoho

The positioning of the solutions within the midmarket is essential. It requires in-depth information on business benefits and the process steps needed to capture those benefits targeted at BDMs, and information on how to assemble, deploy, integrate, and support/optimize these solutions targeted at ITDMs – and an understanding of how to position and convey the messages to each audience.

Its extensive portfolio of cloud business applications includes 50+ products, ranging from traditional office suites to analytics, finance, sales and marketing, collaboration, customer service, HR, and many more business processes at competitive pricing. Zoho has a deep engineering culture immersed in R&D, along with maintaining its cultural ethos without having to cope with any interference from either external investors or the public market. Zoho believes that instead of spending heavily on sales and marketing, it would instead invest in software development efforts or let its potential customers access the limited-feature platform for free. This strategy has proved to be very successful for Zoho and its customers.

Simplicity, flexibility, and value for midmarket firms

Zoho One, the flagship product, is designed for mid-market businesses. With Zoho One, customers have access to 45 business, collaboration, and productivity applications, of which over 20 applications (across functions) are used by more than half of Zoho’s customers. The solutions are a part of a unified technology platform with built-in search, messaging, and AI services. It runs on a unified database with a unified data model with data pillars that enable seamless integration to deliver single truth for the business empowering users with a unified experience. The collection of apps running on a single database architecture and purpose-built on Zoho technology stack - services, software, hardware, and network infrastructure - deployed on Zoho’s own global data centers ensures performance, availability, security, and privacy. All these solutions and features come at an affordable price, which makes the package suitable for mid-market firms as it significantly reduces the total cost of ownership, deployment, and integration timeframes.

Raju Vegesna, Chief Evangelist, Zoho, once said, “the market is littered with features masquerading as products.” Zoho One provides single sign-on, single subscription, and a fully integrated platform. It is common knowledge that app-specific experiences drive infrastructure-level optimization steeped in Zero Trust, AI, distributed file structure, and data center expansion driven by market dynamics.

More than 60% of Zoho’s workforce is devoted to engineering, developing new technologies, and keeping these technologies updated. Since the launch of Zoho One in 2017, Zoho has been innovating and updating its applications. With the evolution and maturing of newer technologies, Zoho has been adding AI/ML functionalities and improving user experiences.

In the past five years, Zoho One has grown considerably and has acquired over 50,000 businesses as customers in 160+ countries. Over the past two years, the platform has grown 150%, with 37.5% of new customers from mid-market and enterprise segments. License upgrades have increased by 92%. These figures spotlight the strategic commitment by Zoho to deliver end-to-end solutions that empower organizations to be agile, scalable, and adaptive to changes in their industries. Even the midmarket developers are taking notice as they can access Zoho Tables, RPA, and Test automation tools. Zoho Finance suite has seen tremendous growth. As per Zoho, it is processing 100M invoices per year.

Zoho One is wholly developed in-house on a single technology stack and is a unified, end-to-end platform that offers plenty of integration points across applications. Well-grounded unification enables organizations to link functions such as sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, human resources, and others. Moreover, the platform can be easily integrated with third-party solutions, allowing organizations (especially mid-market enterprises) the flexibility to manage complex systems, large amounts of data, and dispersed teams.

Techaisle’s latest midmarket research shows that 42% of firms are increasing their spending through cloud marketplaces. Over 500K Zoho users use 1500+ apps from the Zoho marketplace (e.g., Twilio for Zoho CRM). Recognizing the need for verticalization, Zoho has purpose-built industry apps such as real estate CRM, travel agencies, IT services, field services, and many others. Most importantly, Zoho enables midmarket firms to develop and deploy custom apps.

zoho unified dashboards widgets

Zoho addresses the need for high-velocity custom apps

It is relatively easy to adopt a single SaaS solution, connecting its inputs and outputs to relevant internal systems and processes. It is possible to adopt a handful of cloud applications, hand-wiring the interconnections between them and adjacent applications. But this craft-built approach to the cloud differs from longer-term visions of scale, flexibility, and agility. It creates IT management overhead and performance and security risks. Even worse, disconnected systems affect relationships between companies and their customers: workflows that lack cohesion create unnecessary gaps in service. Unable to link all inputs to achieve a single view of the business reduces visibility into individual customer preferences and broader market opportunities. Zoho One provides midmarket firms with tools they can use to develop their applications and automate their business processes by creating workflows. For example:

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Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is a phenomenal multitasking notebook for the discerning SMB user

Occasionally there comes along a compelling, impressive, persuasive, and differentiated notebook design that astonishes you. Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is that design. The new Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 has a 17.3-inch ultrawide 3K display AND an additional 8-inch color display beside the keyboard. It is built for multitasking. And I love it.

I first fiddled with Thinkbook Plus in November 2019. The notebook gripped my attention because of its “Think” pedigree, focus on the SMB segment, and unexpected E-Ink screen on the lid. It was an intriguing design. Fast forward two years to September 2022. The innovation difference between the Gen 1 and Gen 3 has been nothing but exponential. I distinctly remember quizzing engineers during analyst council sessions with many PC OEMs about a notebook with multiple or extensible screens. Two models with dual screens have been introduced, and Lenovo ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is far better than its competitor.

techaisle lenovo thinkbook plus gen3 image

I have been using a fully configured (1 TB SSD, 12th Gen Intel core i7-12700H processor, 32 GB memory, a fingerprint scanner on the power button, TPM 2.0) production model for most of the last month. It is an innovative and practical notebook that exudes the quiet confidence of imaginative applied design. When I powered on the notebook, my synapses fired on all cylinders. Lenovo still has one of the cleanest setups and installs of any PC OEM. Lenovo Vantage is one of the best apps to personalize device settings, update drivers and software and manage security configurations.

Dual displays are more productive than one

The touchscreen 17.3-inch main display of the ThinkBook Plus Gen 3 is ultrawide and has a resolution of 3072 x 1440 with an aspect ratio of 21:10 and 400 nits brightness. The ultrawide display in a laptop makes multitasking more accessible and allows users to see more content with less distraction. The massive and roomy display is a visual treat, a productivity enhancer, and ideal for Windows 11 snap layout. Straddling the line between business, work, and life, ThinkBook boasts Dolby Vision for lifelike images, blue light reduction, and 2 X 2W Harman Kardon audio for superior sound. The Lenovo Integrated Pen is a bonus for the secondary display. There is a built-in pen garage in the right corner of the chassis rear. I found the pen responsive on the 8-inch display when using Microsoft OneNote. I have extensively used the secondary 800 x 1280 multitouch LCD display for email, note taking, meeting calendar, WhatsApp desktop, skype, web browsing, file explorer, and Teams chat. Its 10:16 aspect ratio works very well, in my experience. It is one of the best examples of multitasking. Although the screen resolution is not the best, it is very productive to have an additional display. The high point is that I can drag and drop most applications and snap windows from the main to the secondary display and vice versa. I have effectively used the screen to glance at my talking points during presentations. The two screens combined optimize my productivity. The backlit keyboard is helpful.

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Mitel evolves its UC growth strategy and gains momentum with RingCentral UCaaS

Mitel’s overall philosophy for unified communications (UC) is enabling customers with broad flexibility to deploy what they want and purchase solutions how they want. A key differentiator of Mitel’s has been its belief that one size does not fit all. That belief is supported by a recent Techaisle global study revealing that 44% of firms use multiple communication platforms. On-prem unified UC solutions dominate in 88% of firms, but in 56% on-prem capabilities co-exist with cloud solutions. All these options are choices that Mitel supports with its Customer Lifecycle Management approach, recently bolstered by its exclusive UCaaS partnership with RingCentral.

Mitel - RingCentral UCaaS momentum - “A Differentiated and Evolved Partnership”

Mitel is not just partnering with RingCentral but doing even more by optimizing the complete migration experience through collaborative processes, migration tooling, device transfers, and exclusive incentives providing Mitel customers a world-class UCaaS solution and a clear, flexible path toward the future. Mitel is actively integrating numerous capabilities with the RingCentral MVP (Messaging, Voice, Phone) platform to enhance the whole experience for customers. The first example of this broad integration was evident just five months following the RingCentral partnership when Mitel launched its first set of certified devices – the 6900 series phones – which work seamlessly with RingCentral MVP. Customer choice and experience extend into a well-thought-through onboarding process, enhanced by Mitel’s Migration Assist Package, which introduces automation and accuracy while migrating customers 75% faster than industry standards. Customers migrating to less than a hundred seats can take advantage of these free implementation services. The free service is very generous as it includes access to an Implementation Advisor who also schedules discovery and training sessions and unlimited access via toll-free number for follow-up questions and assistance on system setup. Mitel partners or RingCentral provide professional services for customers with more than a hundred seats.

Mitel’s partnership with RingCentral has seen significant momentum, migrating over 100,000 seats in the first six months of the exclusive relationship.

The RingCentral – Mitel partnership is highly differentiated from others in the market, including RingCentral’s relationship with Avaya. From the outset, Mitel has distinguished itself from Avaya and others with superior pricing and purchase flexibility, ease of deployment and migration, professional services, and training. Although Avaya is widely considered to have a composable CPaaS offering, Mitel’s CloudLink technology with APIs and integration capabilities are yet to be fully utilized by developers and partners. Additionally, the compensation received from RingCentral fuels investments in core Mitel unified communications R&D and innovation and potential future merger and acquisition activities.

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SMBs Make Cloud Calling and Collaboration a Priority – Webex Gets it

Historically, remote work solutions have been the domain of large enterprises equipped with processes and technology resources needed to support workers in the field. However, driven by short- and longer-term factors, flexible work options are now available to employees in businesses of all sizes. Moreover, as social distance health requirements forced the temporary closure of public office spaces, remote work became a matter of survival for many organizations. The pandemic has also crystalized recognition of the productivity benefits of technology-enabled remote work – measured in output rather than hours – which is sure to have a profound and durable impact on workplace behaviors. Today, working from anywhere is the new normal, enabled by powerful communication and collaboration tools, which draw together workers regardless of physical location and are becoming the catalyst for change in large and smaller businesses. What are the primary enablers of this flexible work trend? Data shows a growing commitment to leveraging the power of the cloud and adjacent technologies of mobility, cloud calling, and collaboration - technologies that allow workers and teams to connect, reflect, and share insights and output. Techaisle SMB and Midmarket Hybrid work and collaboration adoption survey, N=1810, shows that:

  • 93% of SMBs have prioritized remote and hybrid workplace technology solution adoption
  • 58% of employees in the SMB segment are likely to work remotely
  • 79% of SMBs are prioritizing cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions which show evolving recognition of the value of cloud calling and collaboration

The simultaneous commitment to cloud calling and collaboration solutions and future planning around a return to the office suggest that something deeper is at play in the SMB communications solution marketplace. Cloud calling and Collaboration are central components of virtually all SMB business activities. The need to communicate anywhere, anytime also means any type of communication and collaboration – synchronous/asynchronous, serendipitous/scheduled, on-the-go/fixed location, within a virtual workspace/within a specific app, with employees/partners/customers. As the lines of demarcation between tasks have been eroded by the increased pace and changing nature of business activities, SMBs have moved past linking discrete actions through linear, sequential processes. Instead, in today's business environment, SMBs interact at all points in the business cycle: in cross-functional planning and management, within a single co-created document, in the stages and connection points defined by their business processes, in delivering better customer experiences, and enabling improved employee productivity.

There is value in adopting unified cloud calling and collaboration. The use of traditional collaboration tools by SMBs is well-established. However, cloud calling solutions are rapidly gaining attention from SMBs. With nearly a hundred percent cloud priority, shifting from on-prem solutions (acquired through CAPEX budget) to cloud-based as-a-service offerings creates a sort of inflection point. As the name implies, cloud calling is cloud-based and available as a subscription. It supports remote work and mobility, provides cash flow predictability, easily integrates within the employees' workspace, and improves IT manageability and efficiency.

A significant collaboration technology shift is SMB's use of a cloud-based communications platform with integrated telephony (audio/video/web conferencing), IM/chat/presence, unified messaging, and mobility. Techaisle data shows that today, just under a third (27%) of SMBs are using integrated solutions, while over a third (35%) plan to adopt the platform in the coming year, a likely adoption growth of over 100%.

The Webex integrated collaboration platform

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