In the Briefing Room: Zoho

It may seem obvious that the various software tools, platforms, and environments used by knowledge workers should work together, yet an examination of common tools used in the enterprise shows that this is often simply not the case.

Basex has codified the desktop metaphor of the future as a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  Three high-level tenets describe the ideal CBE, namely the One Environment Rule, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  This workspace should provide a single integrated environment to work in, remove friction-such as extra steps in a process or application or that caused by poor tools (search platforms that regularly deliver 564,768 results are suspect), and embed community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

For companies looking to build a CBE, there are multiple options in the market including offerings from some of the largest players including Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.  There are however, also many smaller players that offer considerable functionality in environments comprising rudimentary CBEs.

Zoho, formerly known as AdventNet, provides Web-based desktop productivity software.  The company  has ten fully integrated productivity and collaboration applications and nine business applications available.  Modules include standard productivity software for applications such as e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, document management, wikis, and chat, as well as business applications such as CRM, Web conferencing, reporting and BI, project management, and online invoicing.  The applications are available on-demand, or for on-premises deployments with over 10,000 seats.

All the applications work together: if in the document library, a user can open a document in a tab without opening up a separate word processor.  He can also initiate a chat with the author from within the document library through integrated chat functionality that moves with the users as they shift between applications.  E-mail can be sent from within applications, without moving to the actual e-mail application.  Attachments can be viewed without opening a separate application, i.e. a Word document can be viewed in the Zoho Writer application instead of opening a separate instance of Word on the desktop.

Zoho’s compliance with the three tenets of the Collaboration Business Environment is demonstrated by the tight integration between applications and the embedded presence awareness and instant messaging functionality that extends across applications.

Zoho may not be for everyone, but its simplicity and tight integration between applications makes it worthy of consideration for companies looking simplify their collaboration and knowledge sharing environments.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex

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