Insights Unveiled: Key Takeaways from Zoholics – Six Five On The Road

Insights Unveiled: Key Takeaways from Zoholics - Six Five On The Road

On this episode of the Six Five On The Road at Zoholics, join Six Five Media hosts Cory Johnson, Lisa Martin, and Dave Nicholson for a conversation on the latest insights and developments unveiled at Zoho’s annual Zoholics conference.

Their discussion covers:

  • The most impactful announcements made during Zoholics and their implications for businesses and consumers
  • How Zoho’s latest product developments and updates are set to shape the future of the tech landscape
  • Insights into Zoho’s strategic direction and vision for enhancing user experience and productivity
  • A deep dive into the customer stories shared at Zoholics, showcasing the real-world impact of Zoho’s solutions
  • Expert analysis on the evolving technology trends and how Zoho remains at the forefront of innovation

Learn more at Zoho.

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Cory Johnson: Welcome back to the Zoholics show here in Austin, Texas. We got Six Five — On The Road. Here we are with my favorite Futurum people. Don’t tell the other Futurum people. Are they watching this?

Dave Nicholson: Don’t tell us?

Cory Johnson: I’m glad Dave Nicholson’s here.

Lisa Martin: He is.

Cory Johnson: What’s your fancy new title?

Dave Nicholson: New title? Chief research officer.

Cory Johnson: There you go. Your fancy chief research officer. Cory Johnson, I’m the chief market strategist.

Dave Nicholson: That’s even fancier.

Cory Johnson: Also a fancy title.

Dave Nicholson: That’s even fancier.

Cory Johnson: I want your take on Zoho.

Dave Nicholson: I think I’m a good person to give a take on Zoho if you want a fresh set of eyes because, honestly, I didn’t know a lot about them. I’ve spent so much time working with companies that focus on, sort of, the larger enterprise space. I didn’t really have a good feel for the segment that Zoho plays in. So, just out of the gate, I was absolutely blown away by Sridhar (their CEO)’s presentation and their philosophy.

Cory Johnson: Yeah, a really unique guy.

Lisa Martin: Very unique. Yes.

Dave Nicholson: He talked about things that seemed to me to be self-evident in terms of the way that companies should treat their employees, so that employees will treat customers well, and things like that. Blown away by that. Also, a couple of things that I highlighted in my notes, having to do with this idea that a lot of companies stop engineering in the direction of innovation, engineering products, and instead focus on financial engineering. That is so true. So, so far, halfway into today, I’m pretty bullish on what they do.

Lisa Martin: Yeah. Yeah.

Cory Johnson: And to circle back to that idea, I think one of the reasons that we are generally… If you’re not aware of Zoho, our financial media tends to focus too much on stocks, and not on business. And here you have a giant business whose competitors also have publicly traded U.S. Stocks.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah. Well, now that’s sort of the pot calling the kettle black. Now, wouldn’t that be, Cory?

Lisa Martin: Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Nicholson: Prime offender number one.

Cory Johnson: I live with the financial markets, but I understand that there are other financial markets. It’s not the business world. And here’s a great example of a giant technology company that’s so important to so many, over a million users all over the world… I’m sorry. Over a hundred million.

Lisa Martin: Hundred million users.

Cory Johnson: … over a million customers, and yet unrepresented in the U.S. stock market, and all my financial media brethren of days past have never heard of it.

Dave Nicholson: Right, a real business. A real business, Lisa.

Lisa Martin: Yes, and he talked about that this morning, and the word that he used was “conviction”. One of the many words he used to describe his leadership of Zoho for the last 28 years now since the ’90s, 1900s. I loved how he talked about that. I think you and I kind of had similar takes on that. We see a ton of keynotes. We see a ton of CEOs. We get the great privilege of interviewing many. There’s uniqueness here that I haven’t seen, probably ever before, in a CEO keynote. When he talked about…

From a CMO advisor perspective, which is my title at Futurum Group, we talk often about the employee experience and the customer experience, and they have to be like this. We know that within marketing, for example. But what he talked about, it was from a company cultural perspective, which I really was impressed with. And he actually came on the show, and we had similar discussions. We’ve already had some customers on, long-time customers, who’ve brought Zoho from-

Cory Johnson: From job to job to job.

Lisa Martin: Exactly. And so, their philosophy, his work ethic, his determination to stay private really stood out, but the benefits that the customers are achieving are really tangible.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah. Yeah, I saw a free, grown man on that stage when he was talking. Just absolutely free from the constraints of the quarterly drumbeat of Wall Street asking you constantly, “What are you going to do about this thing that we think is a threat to your business?” so they can really focus on putting money towards R&D, in the direction of things that make sense — a sane, sensible, methodical deployment of AI, as an example, to enhance what people are going to do.

Cory Johnson: Let’s talk about that a little bit, because I think that their approach to AI is super interesting in that they want to have an end result of AI, or an end result of a better product, than an end result that is the AI product.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah. Well, one of the things that was mentioned was this idea that it’s an additional feature to charge additional dollars for. It’s the idea that it’s an enhancement to existing capabilities to increase productivity. There was a great citation about something like only 30% of even the beginnings of value are being teased out of a lot of SaaS that people-

Lisa Martin: Yes. 32%.

Dave Nicholson: … are paying for today, which I completely believe. There’s a lot of shelf-wear. Anyone who’s interacted with a big-time enterprise, SaaS platform, knows that very little actual value’s being extracted.

Cory Johnson: I think of it as the control-alt-delete problem. For all of the great things we talk about, the possibilities of technology and the cool things that CEOs think their products could do, there’s always a control-alt-delete somewhere in the weeds.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah.

Lisa Martin: On the AI strategy front, there were a couple of things that were said today by gentlemen who were going to be guests on our program, and one of them was Ron, who’s the head of AI strategy. And he talked about, I took this in my notes, that Zoho was committed to AI principles that matter, and those principles are contextual, truthful, privacy-focused, and value-driven. And then we also had Raju, who’s the chief evangelist who’s going to be on later, talk about, “The best use of AI is when a user doesn’t know they’re using AI, but they get value from that.”

Cory Johnson: Right.

Dave Nicholson: Sure. Yeah.

Lisa Martin: And I just thought that was such a clear, strong statement.

Dave Nicholson: Oh, yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, Lisa. It reminds me of a statement that those of us who are Apple fanboys that go way back used to say, and that is, we want to get work done on our computers. We don’t want to work on our computers. And it’s the same thing. It’s okay to be an AI hobbyist, and I enjoy tinkering with shiny objects and toys, but ultimately, you just want your software to work better. You want to get more value out of it.

I think that the focus on context is particularly important when you deal in this small-to-medium business world, because my business context, if I have a firm with a couple of hundred employees, with bespoke data that is very, very specific to my enterprise, that’s critical. I don’t care about AI reasoning over a bunch of garbage on the internet. I care about AI reasoning over all of this stuff that they’re proposing we now consolidate into CRM from a Zoho perspective in a way that teases out intelligence.

Cory Johnson: There also is a big focus on this conference of a new product that’s going to sort of have Zoho fill in the blanks and sort of have there be a connective tissue within an organization. And it strikes me that… It seems like a good idea. It seems like an obvious idea that a company would get to, and yet there’s a natural tension. I think you see this most in technology and security, where a fix to a problem is so important that having one security package for everything doesn’t work for most companies. They have little fixes, but they’ve also got this patchwork of solutions because of that.

And Zoho is confronting with that right now, where they’re trying to have one master solution for everything and have everyone in the organization using Zoho for everything that they want to do. But there’s always going to be a conflict, I think, within the technology organization, the stack, if you will.

Dave Nicholson: Oh, there’s been a tension between, at least, advertising the idea that you have a single pane of glass to control all things or do all things. I don’t necessarily associate that with the “CRM for everyone” sort of premise. Living through managing some business processes recently, boy, it really is frustrating to have to go through three or four different pieces of software and try and collaborate among groups of people. It would be nice to have people living in the same space, with various teams having various views. I haven’t had a chance to play with it to know just how realistic it is, but it’s definitely a worthwhile goal.

Lisa Martin: From a messaging perspective, what they’re talking about with “CRM for everyone” is this cross-functional collaboration. They talk about enabling all the groups that were siloed before — marketing, sales, finance, ops, customer service support — to be able to communicate within Zoho CRM with everyone to really ensure that the customer’s experience is as seamless as possible.

Cory Johnson: Well, and I hear it from Finance Guy, which is, oh, you’ve already got a customer. You’ve sold to 40% of the organization. Maybe now you can get to 70% of the organization. So, you don’t have to find a new customer. You don’t have to find a new contact. You just have a product that can help you upsell or more-sell within the organization.

Lisa Martin: Right. Yeah.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah. Yeah, if I’m hearing you correctly, I think that what Zoho is saying is customer-first holistic view. Back in my EMC days — a little tangential, but a little bit related — the idea was that everyone is selling. Everyone sells in the company.

Cory Johnson: That’s what he said to us: everyone sells.

Dave Nicholson: Oh, did he?

Cory Johnson: He literally says everyone sells.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah, I know. And so, when you think of it that way, it’s not necessarily selling, but it’s, if everyone is in the business of serving the customer, I see that as the same as selling.

Lisa Martin: I love it. This has been a really great, I think, program for us to be able to showcase just the uniquenesses within the organization. He was very adamant as well about, “We are not a software company. We are a technology company.” They’ve only grown organically. It’s been an interesting, successful ride for 28 years.

I’m happy to be at my first Zoholics. I think you are, as well. And excited to have your input.

Dave Nicholson: Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa Martin: Dave, thank you so much for joining us on the program, sharing what you’ve learned so far on day one. We appreciate your time.

Cory Johnson: And I’m happy to be with both of you guys here in Austin, Texas. But we have more from Austin, Texas, from Zoholics, when Six Five — On The Road continues.

Author Information

Cory Johnson is the Futurum’s Chief Market Strategist and the host of the Drill Down podcast.

His peripatetic career has seen him in prominent roles as a hedge fund portfolio manager and investor, technology journalist and broadcaster. Fundamentally he’s an entrepreneur -- helping to start media companies such as, the Industry Standard, Slam (the world’s best-selling basketball magazine) and Vibe. He was CNBC’s first Silicon Valley correspondent and later helped create the TV show Bloomberg West for Bloomberg TV and the radio show and podcast Bloomberg Advantage. He was a senior executive at the blockchain startup Ripple, a portfolio manager for Kingsford Capital and a principal at the Forensic Research Group.

Johnson is also an advisor to Braintrust,, Prolly AI, Provenance Bio, Stringr and serves as a delegate to the Episcopal Diocese of California.

Lisa Martin is a Silicon Valley-based technology correspondent that has been covering technologies like enterprise iPaaS, integration, automation, infrastructure, cloud, storage, and more for nearly 20 years. She has interviewed nearly 1,000 tech executives, like Michael Dell and Pat Gelsinger, on camera over many years as a correspondent.

David Nicholson is Chief Research Officer at The Futurum Group, a host and contributor for Six Five Media, and an Instructor and Success Coach at Wharton’s CTO and Digital Transformation academies, out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business’s Arresty Institute for Executive Education.

David interprets the world of Information Technology from the perspective of a Chief Technology Officer mindset, answering the question, “How is the latest technology best leveraged in service of an organization’s mission?” This is the subject of much of his advisory work with clients, as well as his academic focus.

Prior to joining The Futurum Group, David held technical leadership positions at EMC, Oracle, and Dell. He is also the founder of DNA Consulting, providing actionable insights to a wide variety of clients seeking to better understand the intersection of technology and business.


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