Zoho bets on AI-assistant Zia to help compete against Microsoft Office

Zoho Corp. recently released four new applications for its Zoho Office Suite, as it looks to compete with heavyweights Microsoft Corp.’s Office Suite and Google LLC’s G Suite.

New to the lineup is Zoho Writer, Zoho Sheet, Zoho Show, and Zoho Notebook.

All of these apps come with Zoho’s AI assistant, Zia, built directly into each application. Zia is constantly using data from all the other applications Zoho offers to assist in operations within any given app; allowing it to provide improved integration.

Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist for Zoho.

IT World Canada sat down with Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist for Zoho, to talk about why Zoho believes it can compete with the other players in the market and what he believes sets them apart from the others.

Vegesna said the goal of Zoho Office Suite is to provide everything a business might need under one unified and integrated umbrella, a goal Vegesna believes they have achieved.

“Some say it may be ambitious, but we want to provide all of the tools to run a business,” said Vegesna. “You can run an entire business on our platform. Zoho runs on Zoho.”

Additionally, he believes that they have taken it one step further than anyone else with Zia and he wonders how far the possibilities could go.

“What happens when you integrate 40 platforms and then add AI?” ask Vegesna. “This allows us to do some beautiful integrations between our applications.”

One such example of the integration that Zoho provides is their email application. When using the app, because it can be integrated with your businesses HR tool, by simply clicking on someones name in the mail tool, it will not only tell you if they are in the office, but also present you with the hierarchy of their department; thus allowing you to contact their superior if you are having an issue with them or contact a colleague who functions in the same role if the original person is out of the office that day.

Another example, if you use Zoho’s CRM application, Zia will track the activity of a certain customer (such as emails sent to your company by them, or phone calls they answered from you) and begin scheduling the best time for you to follow up with them directly into the calendar application based on when they are most likely to answer the phone.

Vegesna noted that others may provide similar applications in their tool suites, but many of those applications are outside acquisitions, while Zoho builds all of its applications on the same underlying platform. Because of this, Vegesna says that other applications do not provide nearly the seamless integration that Zoho Office Suite does.

He compared this to buying all of your TV channels as a package and being able to access them all from the same user interface, as opposed to a fictional scenario where you would have to buy each channel separately, and then try to install them all into one central interface and hope that they work well together.

And for those who may not be as technically inclined, Zoho provides a free-to-use customer help line to guide you through any issues you might have with their applications. In fact, the service is even available to those that are not even users of Zoho’s free applications and can be used to discuss the applications Zoho offers and determine if it is right for your business.

Vegesna says he took inspiration for this service from the concierge service provided to American Express cardholders.

“Why can’t we do that for a business?” asked Vegesna. “If somebody is stuck in that technology jungle, this concierge helps guide them without expecting anything in return.”

Zoho Writer: This is a word processing application that allows you to collaborate with your colleagues. The addition of Zia not only allows it to track when you make mistakes, but will also present you with a “readability score” and point out more vague mistakes like run on sentences and cliches.

Zoho Sheet: Similar to other tools like Microsoft’s Excel application, this is designed for users to input data into a readable and digestible spreadsheet. Furthermore, Zia will suggest formulas based on the data you enter into the spreadsheet and write them herself.

Zoho Show: Similar to PowerPoint, this is a presentation tool designed to allow users to create visually stunning and easy to digest presentations.

Zoho Notebook: This application goes beyond what you would think a notepad-style application would do. For example, if you copy the link to a recipe into the application, not only will it create a shopping list for you, but recreate the steps provided in the recipe into a much simpler, and easy to follow step by step plan.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Buckley Smith
Buckley Smithhttps://www.itbusiness.ca
Staff writer for IT World Canada. Covering the world of technology as it applies to business. Buckley is an avid sports fan who loves travel, food, and music. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 416-290-2000.

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