The ability to find and take action on information dispersed throughout all of your online applications just got easier. No longer will you need to open five windows and eight tabs to collect and integrate your data. Zoho, a provider of online business, productivity and collaboration applications, recently announced unified search across all of its applications. The product, Zoho Search, offers a search engine that can integrate data for companies running on all of Zoho's 24 applications, including CRM, Email, Office Suite, Project Management, Invoicing, and Web conferencing.
"If you're using all of Zoho's different services, you're creating a lot of information," says Brent Leary, cofounder and partner of CRM Essentials. "Zoho Search makes it easier for you to keep up with all the information you have along the products. [This capability] may sound trivial, but it becomes important when you use multiple Zoho applications and create mini data stores and you want to get to the data fast."
Based in Pleasanton, Calif., Zoho's suite of online applications serves more than 40,000 customers worldwide. The company was founded by Sridhar Vembu, who was named one of CRM magazine's Influential Leaders in 2008 and whose stated vision is to provide customers (individuals, students, educators, nonprofits, small and midsize businesses) with a comprehensive set of applications. No wonder, then, that Leary has dubbed the upstart "a little Google."
"The problem today," explains Raju Vegesna, who holds the role of evangelist at the company, "is if you need to search for a customer, you need to know what you're searching for and which application you're searching in. You have to go to your document management system or your email system but there's no single reservoir that searches across all of your different applications. Zoho Search will do this for you."
Unified search is just one of Zoho Search's capabilities. According to a blog post by Vegesna, the product will:
- Search across an entire business' data, across multiple business applications;
- Provide a deeper understanding of the inter-working of these business applications to display relevant information; and
- Offer integrated and contextual action items relevant to what you are searching for [without simply providing] a bunch of links that redirect you to another apps
Perhaps most impressive about Zoho Search is its actionable search capability, which allows users to take action on found content. For example: if a user performs a quick search and finds an email, when the user clicks on the email he will no longer be redirected to the email application; instead Zoho Search will allow the user to open the email right within the search application, and the user can perform email related actions within the search application.
Also, if the user finds a shared document, Zoho Search knows if the author of the document is online so the user can chat with the author within the search application.
"We don't like switching context," says Vegesna, "because these days we can switch context hundreds of times. So we believe in contextual integration of all of these applications."
As for being compared to Google, Vegesna doesn't mind. In fact, he says Google was the best thing to ever happen to Zoho.
"They provided market validation," Vegesna recalls. "Before Google entered the market people were asking us why they should work online. After Google entered the market people began asking us how we are better than Google."
He argues that Zoho is a more business friendly organization and offers deeper applications.
"If you take one of our applications, like spreadsheets," he explains, "we don't just do the basic spreadsheet stuff. We go beyond."
[Editors' Note: Earlier versions of this article incorrectly described Raju Vegesna's role at Zoho. The text has been corrected, and the editors regret the error.]
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