Zoho Offers Zoho Expense to Supplement Its CRM Package

Zoho, a provider of integrated business applications, expanded its offerings today with Zoho Expense, a software product that aims to save sales reps time when tracking the money they spend on various accounts.

Expense will enable users to automate several processes associated with finance management that eat into the time they could be spending selling. Users will be able to take pictures of their receipts and automatically upload them into the accounting system without having to enter the data manually. They can also tie their bank and credit card statements to the statement. Expense integrates with Zoho Books, making reimbursement processes easier for managers. Built-in mileage tracking will enable mobile users who do a lot of traveling to keep track of the distance they've driven for an account. The solution will also simplify the process of seeking expense approvals; sales managers will be able to approve requests to go over budget, if needed, and will be notified when someone has violated an expense policy. As with Zoho's previous releases, Expense will be offered on Google Apps.

The release of Expense is part of Zoho's goal of creating a CRM system that contains all the elements smaller businesses need in one place. The company's aim is to design a system that doesn't require users to switch between interfaces and learn new applications for each separate process. The company points out that not many vendors offer a CRM system that complements accounts and expenses. "To a lot of salespeople, it's important that the expense management system automatically integrates with CRM," Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegesna says. "With the first wave of integration...salespeople can start filing expenses within the CRM system.... Combine that with [our] twenty-five other applications [and] that's a powerful integrated suite."

Brent Leary, cofounder of CRM Essentials, comments that simplified accessibility to various functions is important to small businesses. "The more a business is able to do under one vendor will make it a little more efficient, a little more effective," Leary says. "[This way, companies don't] have to worry about learning a completely different interface."

"There are a lot of things we plan to do, moving forward, for CRM integration," Vegesna adds. In future rollouts, companies will be able to make conclusions based on the data tied to each account, including the data associated with how much money was spent on meals and travel, or which salespeople have been working on the account. Vesegna says this is an area beta testers wished to see sharpened.

Leary notes that further integrations with CRM will be interesting to see in action, as they will allow salespeople to better monitor how their expenses relate to the deals they are trying to close. Such improvements will enable them to make better decisions about what accounts are worth traveling for and which ones can be handled via phone, for example.

As of late January, Zoho CRM is free to up to 10 users, with a fee of $12 charged for each additional seat. Zoho Expense will be offered at $15 a month for 10 users, with an additional fee of two dollars a month for each added user. There's also an annual plan option, which begins at $150 for 10 users, with an additional $20 for each extra user.

Users are also entitled to a 14-day free trial, available through the company's Web site.


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