Zoho brings business intelligence to the mass market

Zoho's new business intelligence suite puts deep, data-driven business insights within reach of many smaller enterprises.

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Every 21st-century enterprise is — or should be — a data-driven enterprise. But like mining for gold, the raw data means nothing unless you know where to shine your light, and data itself can guide that decision. This is what Zoho Corporation aims to achieve with its latest announcement.

Business intelligence as a service

The company is touting an end-to-end, self-service Business Intelligence platform that makes use of AI-driven data analytics to help expose critical patterns and insights.

We’ve discussed the emerging importance of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) before; this is arguably an expression of that, given that the software delivers insights generated through data analytics. Of course, RPA doesn’t mean much if you or your colleagues don’t or can’t make use of it.

The consumerization of IT means that even the most complex enterprise-focused solutions must be intuitive and easy to understand, (unlike, for example, Safari in the iOS 15/macOS Monterey betas). We know that if software isn’t approachable, it doesn’t get used – or gets replaced with non-authorized applications that work better, placing corporate data at risk.

Zoho dashboards Zoho
Zoho Business Intelligence platform offers dashboards for mobile users.

Zoho seems to have taken the need to make tech usable to heart. In addition to delivering deep insights based on business data – and also on data brought in from other stacks – its solution lets users search for trends using natural language. You might ask for the top 10 sales in Washington state, for example, or ask the system to deliver data comparing those sales with products popular in San Francisco.

That’s great, as it means you don’t necessarily need to dig through dusty product manuals to figure out complex coding to yield such results.

In a Zoho statement, Andrew Archer, manager at record label, Global Underground, said: “As a record label, we deal with millions of micro-transactions across thousands of titles and hundreds of stores in dozens of territories. Zoho DataPrep gives us a deep dive into the data, enabling the creation of valuable analytics in seconds at a fraction of the cost of other platforms."

The Zoho BI platform combines Zoho DataPrep with an enhanced version of Zoho Analytics. The company says it "enables organizations to cleanse, unify, and analyze cross-departmental data, obtain an encyclopedic view of the company, and ultimately move toward a more competitive business strategy based on real-time insights.”

What you get

The platform provides pre-built, visual dashboards, comprehensive data integrations, data preparation, augmented and embedded BI, security and privacy capabilities, flexible deployment models (cloud or on-premise), and scalability.

  • DataPrep is the machine learning core of what’s available.  Use this to create and manage data before making it ready for analysis.
  • Data Stories combines site building and presentation software. This lets you embed live reports into websites and/or presentations.
  • Ask Zia, Zoho's conversational AI, enables business users to surface data through natural language queries. It also offers textual narration of key insights from reports and dashboards, and can run and analyze different scenarios to help inform better business decisions and crisis preparedness.

One component I find promising is that other companies can develop apps that integrate with Zoho. The Zoho BI Platform is extensible to more than 250 data sources, including Zendesk, HubSpot, Microsoft, Mailchimp, Stripe and Google. This makes it easier for businesses to integrate and analyze data sourced from diverse third-party systems.

“The ability to build and share analytic apps is yet another differentiator, so I’m particularly excited to see Zoho enabling customers to publish breakthrough, data-driven applications,” Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research, said in a statement.

That kind of multi-stack data analytics can yield actionable insights businesses might otherwise miss – it’s the kind of data-driven BI larger corporations have been using for a while, so it’s good to see this made more available.

The Zoho BI Platform, which includes Zoho Analytics and Zoho DataPrep, is available immediately in two versions, cloud and on-premises.

  • On a monthly basis, the cloud version is $8 per user, per month.
  • The on-premises version is $30 per user, per month.
  • For the annual option, the cloud version is $96 per user, per year.
  • The on-premises version is $360 per user, per year.

DataPrep is also available as a standalone product with pricing starting at $40/month. Let me know your experiences should you choose use it.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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