On July 13, 2021, Zoho announced its Business Intelligence Platform which combines data preparation, machine learning, analytics, presentation, and application development into a single suite of services. This platform brings Zoho’s new DataPrep capability and combines is with the existing Zoho Analytics product. The combined platform provides a single solution the clean, augment, analyze, and present data as a visual presentation, application, or as an answer to a question asked in standard English. This analysis is based both on briefings and discussions with Zoho customers.
To provide some background on Zoho, Zoho is a private company founded in 1996 to provide business applications in the cloud. As of now, Zoho supports a business suite of 45 applications available as an integrated suite called Zoho One. Zoho’s Analytics offering, called Zoho Analytics, was first launched as Zoho Reports in 2009 to help users understand their data. Zoho Analytics supports over 10,000 customers across both cloud and on-premises environments. Zoho also supports over 300 white-labelled embedded BI customers across telco, supply chain, and other enterprise environments.
Since 2009, Zoho Analytics has
evolved to build in-house capabilities to support data management, a data
warehouse, data discovery, collaboration, and a breadth of APIs all used to
help support a combination of self-service users and embedded analytics use
cases. Zoho’s analytic platform is based
on four key components:
Preparation through Zoho DataPrep, which is Zoho’s self-service data preparation
application to support data quality, enrichment, transformation, and data
modeling capabilities. DataPrep uses machine learning to provide guidance on data
enrichment and modeling
Zoho enhances traditional dashboarding, reporting, and charting capabilities by
providing both access and integration to Zoho Sites, Zoho’s website and portal building
product, and Zoho Show, which focuses on presentations. By providing the tools
to present and publicly share data outputs, Zoho Analytics extends beyond the
dashboard to provide standard access to the digital tools that are typically used
to share information: presentations, meetings, intranets, and the internet.
Analytics, where Zoho’s presentation of descriptive and predictive analytics is
enhanced both by the Ask Zia conversational AI (which will be described later
in this report) as well as by Zia Insights, which provides a conversational or
natural language processing interface for asking questions about the data.
where Zoho provides a low-code platform called Zoho Creator to build analytic
applications that can then be shared through Zoho Marketplace to share either
with internal or external customers.
As can be seen from this description, Zoho provides a number of applications in its business suite (including a recently released Zoho Contracts product focused on sourcing) that expand beyond analytics in providing a full business suite of applications for small and medium sized businesses.
Zoho Analytics includes native data
management capabilities including data preparation, cleansing, integration,
transformation, enrichment, and modeling. This combination of capabilities
allows Zoho to keep data relevant over time and to ensure that data is aligned
to business terminologies and taxonomies.
Zoho also has its own data
warehouse used to model data for analytics. This data warehouse is native to
Zoho and includes both in-memory and columnar services to accelerate access to
data. Although Zoho typically targets the SMB market, this warehouse has been
proven to scale to terabyte-sized data with billions of rows for clients that
have needed to grow their analytic environments. This warehouse is currently
only available as a part of Zoho Analytics and can be mapped to other cloud
data warehouses such as Snowflake or Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS)
through metadata mapping.
Zoho Analytics works with Zoho’s
applications, but also includes over 250 native integrations to other vendors
used by its clients including HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, Quickbooks,
Salesforce, ServiceNow, Shopify, and Xero with the understanding that some Zoho
clients may use other applications as well. In creating these integrations,
With these integrations, Zoho Analytics rivals many of its standalone
providers, which is demonstrated by 60% of Zoho Analytics’ usage being
associated with data outside of the Zoho One suite.
Zoho Analytics provides all of these services on its own cloud, Zoho Cloud, which has both GDPR and CCPA compliance. Based on customer demand, Zoho has also made Zoho Analytics available on-premises for specific geographies, markets, and use cases, which is an interesting departure from Zoho’s typical focus on cloud apps. Based on this combination of data management capabilities, Amalgam Insights considers Zoho Analytics to take a full-stack approach that allows companies to build an analytic environment solely within the Zoho ecosystem.
The pricing for a paid Zoho Analytics account starts at $24 per month as an entry point and can increase up to $455 per month to support up to 50 users, 50 million rows of data, and unlimited workspaces. Zoho Analytics can also be purchased as part of the Zoho One Suite, which brings almost all of Zoho’s applications into a single subscription which ranges from $37 to $105 per user per month depending on whether a company chooses to enroll every employee or seeks a more flexible model for bringing a portion of employees onto Zoho.
Zoho Analytics’ Support for modern analytic
All of Zoho Analytics’
capabilities across data management, integration, and analytic distribution
help to scale the core capability of visualization and analysis. Amalgam
Insights views these visualization and analytic capabilities to provide reports
and dashboards to be on par with the current analytic market, but today’s
market requires analytic companies to push forward to support natural language
queries, collaboration, and machine learning. In this light, Amalgam Insights
looked at Zoho Analytics’ capabilities across six areas: natural language
processing, statistical and advanced analytics, collaboration, mobility, APIs,
and future-facing roadmap.
Zoho has taken steps towards this
next generation of analytic delivery through its Ask Zia capability. Zia serves
as Zoho’s AI assistant. Initially launched in February 2017, Zia was originally
designed to be a sales assistant for the Zoho CRM product to help provide
reminders for contacting prospects and taking relevant actions at the right
time. Since then, Zia has evolved into an assistant that understands natural
language questions across multiple applications including the Analytics
product. The word “questions” is used here rather than “query” because the
inputs for Zoho’s Ask Zia are plain language questions and requests such as
“show me the sales for last year” rather than a query-based text string such as
“Search sum of sales amount where Year equals 2020.” Although the two phrases
are semantically similar, the prior phrase is based on a standard use of
language while the latter requires an understanding of querying logic that is
not natural. With Ask Zia, Zoho Analytics is a conversational analytics
solution that is capable of providing insights and results to any employee
based on the language they use in their everyday workplace.
Business analytics solutions are
also increasingly asked to support more statistical and advanced analytics
capabilities to help more advanced data users understand probabilities,
forecasting, data relationships, trending and regression analysis, seasonality
and time-series relationships, and model choices to support optimal forecasting
and root-cause analysis. Zoho Analytics first announced forecasting
capabilities in November of 2018 and continues to increase support for relevant
models to improve results for regression, exponential smoothing, and
seasonality trend Loess decomposition.
From a consumption perspective,
Zoho Analytics supports embedded analytics, web-based apps, as well as the
ability to share linked data through collaboration platforms such as Slack,
Microsoft Teams, or Zoho’s own Zoho Cliq. Zoho Analytics results can be
embedded in webpages, shared as a permalink, placed into slideshows, and
provided as public resources. Zoho Analytics also supports analytic storytelling
through its slideshows, which work similarly to storyboards that exist in other
analytics solutions and are used to present Zoho Analytics workspaces.
All of these analytic outputs are
available through the Zoho Analytics mobile app, which is designed to emphasize
the workspaces, dashboards, and reports created within Zoho Analytics. The app
also supports exporting and commenting on analytic views as well.
From a programmatic perspective,
Zoho Analytics functionalities are also available through an API which is
accessed by a variety of other Zoho applications, such as Zoho CRM, Zoho
Creator (a low-code application platform), Zoho Projects (project management),
and Zoho Books (accounting) and can also be used to build add-on capabilities
for third-party and custom-built applications. The API can be used with a
variety of commonly used programming languages including Java, C#, Python, PHP,
Go, and Google Applications through prebuilt “Client Libraries” created to
support each language and includes a variety of interfaces to access data,
modelling, metadata, collaboration, embedded analytics, and Single Sign-On
integration. This API includes SQL access to Zoho Services data for those
seeking query-based access to data, through what Zoho calls CloudSQL, which supports
ANSI, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Informix-flavored
Amalgam Insights notes that Zoho Analytics has stated that future roadmap items for Zoho Analytics include further improvements in self-service analytics, data catalog, and the analytic formula engine to increase access to computational tools needed for advanced analytics. Self-service analytics has been a key goal for business intelligence over the past decade, driven by solutions such as Tableau and Qlik. Amalgam Insights considers self-service analytics to be an intermediate stage of analytics between the analyst-controlled reports and dashboards that defined the initial generation of analytic solutions and the current era of contextualized insight where analytic outputs are guided by natural language, pre-contextualized for users through role definitions and machine learning and augmented by a combination of human judgment and third-party data sources to guide business-relevant actions.
The data catalog is increasingly important as companies seek to contextualize data for machine learning and data science. By creating a catalog that effectively categorizes and indexes the relationships within relevant business data, businesses can be more prepared for the near-future where they use advanced algorithms and neural nets to support better decision-making and automate high-volume transactional judgment calls.
And Amalgam Insights believes that access to statistical tools, machine learning algorithms, and production-ready machine learning models will provide strategic advantages to the quantitatively savvy organizations that realize that behind the math are opportunities to improve organizational processes, increase business transaction volume and size, and proactively support customer issues.
Amalgam Insights’ Recommendations
Based on the pricing and new functionality of Zoho Analytics, Amalgam Insights recommends Zoho Analytics both as a starting point for using business intelligence and as a tool to bring together data across small and medium businesses that are starting to bring together a variety of applications and have outgrown their initial data organization strategies.
The variety of capabilities Zoho provides across prep, presentation, and application development also makes Zoho a useful and cost-effective augmentation for organizations have already invested in visualization, self-service analytics, and data discovery. In large organizations, where it is not uncommon to invest in multiple analytics and business intelligence products as long as they drive productivity, Amalgam Insights believes Zoho Analytics should also be considered as an end-to-end analytics solution that can quickly bring new data sources from prep to scalable, cloud-based app.