I recently attended Zoholics 2019 in Austin, Texas. It was quite an event. The conference opened with the big news that was Zoho is moving its headquarters to Austin! This made headline news on the front page of the Austin American Statesman, and Austin mayor, Steve Adler offered words of excitement and encouragement during his Keynote address.
Zoho also announced two new product offerings. Zoho Commerce Plus offers a comprehensive E-commerce platform that provides an end-to-end solution for the commerce vertical. Zoho MarketingHub allows businesses to coordinate marketing with sales by integrating with a number of Zoho apps (e.g., Zoho CRM, Zoho Campaigns, etc), as well as other customer applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Given my focus on talent management and learning and development, two Zoholics topics were of particular interest to me. One was an update on the success of Zoho University, and the second was the announcement that Zoho has a Learning Management System (LMS) currently in beta.
Rajendran Dandapani, Evangelist and Raconteur at Zoho gave an enthusiastic presentation on the success of Zoho University. Zoho University offers a “crusade against academic credentialism”. It was built on the philosophy that the majority of new Zoho employees did not find their 4-year degree useful in their job, the necessity for good employees, and the realization that Product Managers were frustrated by how little new employees appeared to learn in college. As a former University Professor, the word “ouch” comes to mind, but when I take a step back and think about it, there is merit in this crusade, especially in the software development industry.
One of the main advantages of Zoho University, is that students (and their families) do not incur debt during the education process. Instead, students are paid to attend Zoho University, not the other way around.
There are also a number of learning science—the marriage of psychology and neuroscience—advantages of the Zoho University approach to teaching software development. First, the emphasis is on “learning by doing”. Students spend the majority of their time in labs working on real-world software problems, and very little time in lectures. In the end, developing software solutions is more about trial and error and behavioral learning than it is about learning facts and figures. Learning by doing targets these behavioral learning centers in the brain directly. Second, the learning is in teams, is highly collaborative, and centers around solving specific, current, real-world problems. The software development industry is becoming more cross-functional and collaborative by the day. Given this fact, it is highly efficient to instill this way of thinking and approach to problem solving directly into the educational process from Day 1. Finally, when lectures are necessary a “flipped classroom” approach is utilized. The lecture material is provided using videotaped content and the classroom setting is reserved for discussion and hands on practice. This integration of knowledge acquisition and behavioral training is ideal for software development.
Rajendran also mentioned that Zoho University plans to expand its curriculum to include Technology, Design and Marketing. Finally, the new Austin Headquarters will double as a new Zoho University campus. As an Austin local, I believe that Zoho University will be highly coveted by students in the Austin Metro area.
In my individual meeting with Chandrashekar L S P (Zoho Evangelist) and Raja Ramasamy (Head of Product Management for Zoho People Plus) I was delighted to hear that Zoho is currently developing an LMS. This is exciting news and is one product that is currently lacking from the Zoho One suite. I hope to obtain a detailed briefing and to learn more about the LMS in the coming months. Stay tuned.
- Final Thoughts
I was impressed by the enthusiasm and loyalty of the Zoho users to the Zoho product line. Whether from organized customer and partner panels, or one-off happenstance conversations, the message that I heard was clear: Zoho users like the products, feel “heard” when they have a problem, and find the overall customer service experience to be outstanding.
I will continue to follow Zoho, with particular interest in Zoho University and Zoho’s upcoming LMS. It will be exciting to have Zoho’s headquarters “right down the block” so to speak.