Zoho Rounds Out Small Business Suite with Accounting App–Zoho Books

This morning Zoho, known for SMB focused SaaS offerings in the areas of productivity, collaboration, business processes launched an Accounting app: Zoho Books. I typically don’t do detailed product reviews, when I see the first good ones, will link to them – just a few points here and then let’s discuss how it rounds out Zoho’s overall strategy.

The following video introduction is a bit “cutesy”:

-and that’s quite intentional.  In fact simplicity is one of the key points in Zoho Books:

  • Clear, streamlined UI, tabs, easy terminology –i.e. Money In, Money Out. This service is clearly targeted at non-accountants, which is most of us in a small business – hey, even I can understand most of it.Smile
  • That said, Books offers the opportunity to share data and collaborate with accountants (Ouch, did I really needed that reminder for tax time?;-) )
  • Multi-currency support – this is typically a later add-on in many systems, but Zoho has a wide international presence with most of their other services
  • Integration with Zoho CRM, Invoice, Mail – somewhat basic now, will be improved as we’ve seen with the rest of Zoho’s offerings
  • Support for electronic payment systems like Paypal, Google Checkout, This is a “hidden treasure” inherited from twin service Zoho Invoice, which is a subset of Book’s functionality and can be easily upgraded. Why hidden? Because relatively few know that Paypal offers 50 cent (yes, that’s $0.50 per transaction) Business Payments NOT available through the Web, only via their API, i.e. apps like Zoho Invoice and Boooks.

Having said that, is Zoho Books a Quickbooks killer?

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)


Benchmarking the Benchmarkers

I’ve repeatedly praised Web-based Invoicing service FreshBooks for being innovators, unveiling the hidden business model enabled by SaaS: benchmarking.   But who’s benchmarking the benchmarkers?

Competitor Xero has just issued a call looking for benchmarking partners comparing metrics like:

  • Customer acquisition rates
  • Teaming model and allocation of spend
  • Sales and marketing spend
  • Sales quotas
  • Google spend
  • Pipeline conversion

CEO Rod Drury is looking for 5-10 partners, communicating either directly, or through a trusted third party.  Either way, its quite a challenge, as unlike the aggregate anonymous data Freshbooks provides to their customers, this level of sharing requires quite a level of trust.

Interestingly I contemplated similar ideas just a few days ago when Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu published his margin analysis of Google, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and a few others.  He drew a conclusion that since Google’s current revenue and profit per employee metrics were much higher than even the best players in the application space, Google has little incentive to move into this space forcefully. (He then followed up with a What’s in it for Zoho? post)

Specific conclusions aside, I thought it would really be interesting to expand this spreadsheet buy including Zoho and comparable companies as well as additional metrics.  Needless to say I ran into a similar dilemma that Xero is facing now: these are private companies that don’t typically publish their financial results, to get them participate we would need a relatively larger sample and it would still require a leap of faith.

Rest assured I’ll be watching Xero’s experiment with great interest.

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