Inside Zoho’s Zoholics 2024 Event: Key Takeaways and Insights

Zoho held its Zoholics 2024 customer conference last week in beautiful downtown Austin TX. In typical Zoho style, the vendor offered customers, analysts, and press a stellar experience in style and substance, with informative presentations, 1-1 meetings, and plenty of time to socialize. Zoho used its Backstage events solution to bring remote attendees in to join those of us who attended live. About 90 press and analysts joined over 1,500 customers that attended this conference in person, one of 24 locations where Zoho hosts annual Zoholics events across the globe.

Zoho unveiled updates and news across its CRM and collaboration solutions, enhancements to its security stack, and new tools and services for developers. No Zoho conference is ever complete without a keynote from CEO Sridhar Vembu, who reminded us of Zoho’s guiding principles and business model—which are unique and visionary in the IT industry. Zoho topped off the festivities by hosting us for a mouth-watering dinner at the world-famous Franklin Barbecue

Here are the key highlights and perspectives from the event.

Transforming CRM with “CRM for Everyone”

Zoho introduced CRM for Everyone, which updates Zoho CRM to enable everyone in a company who interacts with customers or customer information to collaborate and communicate within Zoho’s CRM platform.

Traditionally, CRM systems have been designed by IT teams for sales workflows, which can lead to communication silos and inefficiencies as information gets passed around from one system to another. CRM for Everyone aims to break these silos by offering a unified platform where sales teams can work together seamlessly with other collaborators across an organization.

This new capability opens up Zoho CRM to non-sales roles, such as engineering, contract management, customer onboarding, legal teams, and others that play a role in customer operations. The initiative represents a significant shift in the CRM paradigm, aiming to transform customer experience by centralizing customer operations on a single platform to improve visibility and coordination throughout the customer journey.

Some key capabilities include:

  • Team Modules: Enable teams to create customized data modules with specific fields, permissions, and workflow automation, all without needing IT skills.
  • Requester Profiles: Facilitate easy cross-team collaboration by allowing team members to request services or deliverables from others directly within the CRM.
  • New Interface: A redesigned, user-friendly interface that makes CRM more accessible and intuitive for all roles and functions.

Zoho plans to release additional capabilities over the coming weeks. Early access to CRM for Everyone is available now at no extra cost to current Zoho CRM users. Zoho has yet to determine pricing for more casual, non-sales users, but I expect this will align with the rest of Zoho’s extremely competitive pricing.

Turbo-charging Collaboration and Productivity with AI and Automation

Productivity solutions were the first applications that Zoho brought to market in 2005. Since then, Zoho has continually expanded and enhanced its productivity and collaboration portfolio. It now offers Async workflow collaboration to help further strengthen productivity with Zoho Projects, Workdrive, Sign and Notebook.

Over the past year, Zoho has enjoyed a 78% increase in migrations from top collaboration competitors Microsoft and Google, picking up business from customers who want a more unified experience across collaboration and productivity applications, stronger security, and more favorable pricing. 

At Zoholics, Zoho unveiled new updates to enhance AI, workflow automation, and industry-specific capabilities across Zoho’s core collaboration tools, including Zoho Projects, Zoho Notebook, Zoho WorkDrive, and Zoho Sign. These improvements aim to provide customers with more comprehensive, integrated solutions that support seamless workflow collaboration and drive better outcomes for managing flexible, asynchronous work environments.

New AI enhancements include:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Zoho Projects, powered by Zi, Zoho’s AI engine enables voice commands to search for information across Zoho’s apps.
  • AI powers for smart summarization, task management, and automatic tagging in Notebook.
  • Features to facilitate real-time brainstorming in Whiteboard.
  • Workflow automation capabilities for Zoho Projects, WorkDrive, and Sign. These capabilities use Zoho’s Blueprint visual workflow automation tool and allow users to create scalable, repeatable project workflows to improve accuracy and productivity. Zoho WorkDrive now includes workflow automation for content management, while Zoho Sign offers reusable templates and Knowledge-Based Authentication. 

Zoho is also deepening its industry focus in four target industries, including specific updates for:

  • Construction: Integration with Zoho Lens for augmented reality assistance, allowing managers to troubleshoot remotely.
  • Healthcare: Enhanced security with Data Loss Prevention (DLP) in Zoho WorkDrive.
  • Manufacturing: Workflow automation for process management and real-time troubleshooting with Zoho Lens.
  • Aviation: Custom dashboards and hybrid project management to ensure compliance and efficiency.

Doubling Down on Privacy and Security

Throughout the event, Zoho restated its long-standing commitments to user privacy and security, to maintain full oversight of customer data through its owned data centers, and to operate free from an advertising model.

The company highlighted investments in new security measures across its product portfolio, and announced several enhancements to its integrated security technology stack:

  • Ulaa, Zoho’s privacy-first browser, now includes machine learning-powered phishing and crypto mining detection.
  • Zoho Directory, a workforce identity and access management platform, includes new capabilities like Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) for data encryption, Cloud RADIUS for WiFi and VPN authentication, and device authentication for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • OneAuth, Zoho’s multi-factor authentication solution, now features Smart Sign-in, MFA enforcement enhancements, passwordless login options, and App-Lock and encrypted cloud sync for more secure access and recovery.
  • Zoho Vault, an enterprise password manager, now offers password generation, breached password detection, compliance reports, and secure storage for confidential data.

By integrating these solutions, Zoho aims to provide businesses with robust security against increasing threats, including those targeting generative AI services.

Expanding Platform Tools

Zoho also announced significant enhancements for developers, including new services in Catalyst, its pro-code platform. Catalyst is designed to streamline and ease custom app development with pre-built components, developer tools, a transparent pricing model, and integration with Zoho and third-party applications. New features include Signals for event routing, a NoSQL database for diverse data storage, Slate for building customized interfaces, and a CI/CD pipeline for automated testing and builds.

The vendor also launched Zoho Apptics, a pro-code app development platform. Apptics provides digital analytics for app usage, performance, user engagement, and growth metrics. It supports multiple platforms including Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and others, with web analytics coming soon. Apptics also features app rating prompts, review management, and robust data privacy and security measures.

Together, these capabilities provide developers with a secure, data-driven, and efficient app development environment that helps them bring their applications to market more quickly. Catalyst’s new features are available now, while Apptics is globally available with free and pro plans.

Zoho’s Secret Sauce

As prolific as Zoho is when it comes to developing new applications and capabilities. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Zoho is the constancy of its guiding principles and business model. I’ve covered Zoho since its inception, and written about the vendor many times over the years. Led by CEO Sridhar Vembu, the vendor has never wavered in its vows to secure customer privacy, provide exceptional value, and foster a culture of innovation.

Throughout its twenty-year history, Zoho has foregone external funding and remains committed to staying private, so it doesn’t need to change course based on investor and Wall Street whims. This allows Zoho to operate profitably but without the pressure to continually chase bigger and bigger margins.

The company has also remained true to its promise of never monetizing customer data. Zoho builds and maintains its data centers to help maintain its security and privacy pledge. Interestingly, it says that owning its data centers is also more cost-effective and scalable than relying on hyper-scalers, who it says mark up their service three to four times over cost. Zoho owns 18 data centers now and is considering offering its hosting services to the market.


Zoholics 2024 highlighted Zoho’s commitment to innovation, customer-centric solutions, and a customer-friendly business model. The vendor noted that out of over 30,000 software companies, only two provide collaboration, communication, productivity, and a broad range of business applications (yes, Microsoft is the other).

Zoho has continually broadened and deepened its product portfolio, which now spans over 55 products, including solutions for business functions, collaboration, security, and development.
Furthermore, the company’s approach to AI aligns with its commitment to provide value: Zoho integrates AI capabilities into its products and provides them to users at no additional cost.

With the introduction of “CRM for Everyone,” Zoho has the potential to transform how organizations manage customer interactions by breaking down traditional silos and fostering seamless cross-functional collaboration. Enhancements across its collaboration and productivity tools advance Zoho’s position in providing more integrated solutions than its big competitors, Microsoft and Google.

Zoho’s unwavering commitment to privacy and security is a significant differentiator. By maintaining full oversight of customer data through owned data centers and eschewing an advertising-based business model, Zoho has built and maintains a foundation of trust with its users.

The launch of new developer tools like Catalyst and Apptics showcases Zoho’s dedication to empowering developers with robust, scalable, and secure platforms. These tools will play a crucial role in enabling businesses to rapidly develop and deploy custom applications, driving innovation and growth.

However, Zoho also faces challenges. In the case of CRM, CRM for Everyone makes sense on paper, and the initial sales push will be in established Zoho CRM accounts. But old habits die hard—even when they’re inefficient. How ready are non-CRM users to trade in their email, chat, phone, and other tools for those on an integrated Zoho CRM platform?

The competitive landscape in the collaboration and productivity arena is also fierce. To accelerate migrations, Zoho must offer superior integration, enhanced security, and competitive pricing compared to its rivals, and increase market awareness in companies that are unfamiliar with its offerings. Along the same lines, Zoho must raise awareness among novice to seasoned developers for its development tools.

Finally, unlike many competitors, Zoho is responsible for end-to-end security, from applications to the data center. This means it must continuously invest in advanced security measures not only in the software realm but also to protect data and privacy across the spectrum as threats evolve and escalate. 

The opportunities for Zoho are vast, but the path forward is not without challenges. Zoho’s ability to remain true to its core principles, broaden market awareness, deepen customer engagement, and navigate competitive moves will determine how quickly it can grow market share in its focus areas.

© SMB Group, 2024

Note: Zoho is an SMB Group client.