What is Zoho Connect?
Zoho Connect is a collaboration software solution that enables people to connect with colleagues, disseminate ideas, and share information. With the system users can post messages, share files, leave comments and conduct discussions with each other in real time. It functions, therefore, as a de facto private social network. Furthermore, it can be used to create external networks to bring together all the external stakeholders in a business – customers, suppliers, partners, and more.
Connect is part of the Zoho product family that includes more than 25 applications, including CRM, project management, HR, invoicing and meeting programs.
The benefits offered by the solution include:
With Zoho Connect, employees have visibility as to what is happening across an entire organisation; users can share milestones and accomplishments, both within and outside the workplace, and the platform makes it easier for people to get to know each other in an online sense, even if they are geographically remote, and in different time zones. The volume of company email can be drastically reduced when all internal communication is concentrated within the system.
With Zoho Connect, ideas can be crowd-sourced from across a network, whether it is internally from employees, or externally from customers and other stakeholders.
Users can choose to add their company logos to Zoho Connect, irrespective of subscriber level – this is available even to those on a Free Plan. There is a set of pre-loaded logos and favicons available, but users can choose to upload their own instead.
Improves Learning and Development
The solution can help users’ access knowledge in an easy manner, and supports informal and less structured learning. With internal networks, employees can get access to a range of internal documents, guides, articles and tips, as well as being able to interact with colleagues for the sharing or ideas and files. With external networks, the tool can be used to create customer self-help solutions such as a Knowledge Base, or a Resource Center.
In addition, it can also assist with the onboarding of new employees by giving them curated training guides and materials, and help reduce training costs.
Zoho Connect helps break-down information silos within an organisation. By encouraging open communication and the free flow of information, companies can benefit from a greater pool of innovation and expertise, which makes them more productive, and projects more effective.
In addition, it offers a number of ways to automate processes. Through custom forms with a simple drag-and-drop interface, users can design and create tailored apps to suit the needs of their specific team. Form-based apps can save time, for instance, by asking new staff members to fill in all their contact details, or register their work devices.
Furthermore, the application enables companies to build their own customised workflows, so that an event triggers an action. For example, if a customer makes a suggestion or leaves a comment, an automatic thank you is emailed to them, or their ideas are copied directly to relevant team members.
Reporting tools like charts and spreadsheets enable date to be interpreted; views can be customised with filtering options.
Helps Cultivate an Open Culture
With Zoho Connect, organisations can create an open, collaborative corporate culture in the workplace. Non-work related groups and channels can be created so employees can get to know each other on a personal level, or forum posts can be started about topics of common interest, such as sports, music, or literature.
Communications can also be personalised. Colleagues who have done a good job can be sent a thank you email, and congratulations sent to somebody who has earned a promotion, or is celebrating their birthday.
Key features of Zoho Connect include:
With Zoho Connect users can create groups of various types – public groups when they want to give everyone in the network transparency as to which projects are being worked on or smaller private groups when sensitive or proprietary information is being shared. There are actually three group types:
Open: In an open group all network members can join and participate.
Public: This is similar to an open group, except only admins can add new members to the group, and only those specifically invited can access the apps within the group.
Private: Only those members who are part of a group can view, access, and participate in discussions and share content.
Customised App Builder
This module allows users to design their own applications according to their specific business needs, using drag-and-drop functionality. No technical expertise is required and no additional plug-ins need to be installed.
Zoho Connect offers a number of conversation tools to facilitate communication and collaboration within a network.
Feeds: These can be used to share ideas and discussions, and provide a curated view of conversations most relevant to users’ so they can stay up to date with what is happening in the workplace.
Walls: With Walls, users decide who shares specific information. Network walls allow everyone in a community to view and participate, whereas group walls are for specific communities. And then there are private conversations which are by invitation only, or are role specific.
Attachments: Files can be uploaded from the cloud, or attached to posts using drag-and-drop capabilities.
Social Mentions: The solution uses social media conventions, so users can like, comment and share posts, or utilise the @mention functionality to draw individuals and groups into private conversations. They can also add hash-tags to posts, and follow which is trending, with notifications sent automatically when those tags are used.
Initiate Chats: To speed-up the decision-making process, users can start a chat from within a post itself. Everyone who has participated in a post can then be invited to join a group chat as well.
Updates: Team or group administrators can post major updates in a network group as an announcement, and, until a specific date, they can be set to appear at the top of the page. Everyone in the group will then be sent an email notifying them about the announcement.
Search: A simple but powerful search feature enables users to find old posts, hash tags, blogs that they may have missed, and a wealth of other content.
Polls: Zoho Connect also allows individuals and teams to create online polls, with as many answer options as they need. Images can be added to make options more attractive, whilst bias in voting can be eliminated by hiding results until a person has cast their vote.
Task Assignment: Connect is not just about conversations but actions as well. Managers and supervisors can assign tasks to individual employees directly from posts. Each person can find work assigned to them under the “My Tasks” section of their dashboard.
Communication channels helps teams focus their efforts in real-time. Group-specific channels can be created for discussions relating specifically to the work of a team; independent channels for broader subjects which are beyond the remit of an individual group.
Channels can be turned into virtual conference room, so that different people with alternative perspectives and ideas can be involved, facilitating better and faster decision-making.
Forum discussions can be initiated to foster the exchange of ideas across an organisation. Tools to facilitate this include:
Rich Text: Posts can be made more attractive with the assistance of rich text support and formatting options, as well as the ability to add inline images and videos.
Categories: By associating forum discussions with relevant categories, appropriate context can be provided for users. Categories can be configured so that important posts related to them can be pushed to everybody’s feed.
Follow: Users can opt to follow categories related to their interests to get relevant posts delivered to their feed. In cases where a user has found a post that has piqued their interest but they do not have the time to read it now, they can always bookmark it, and come back to it later.
Events enable users to stay up to date with important meetings, deadlines, and scheduled appointments.
Calendar View: Via the calendar view, individuals can see, at a glance, their daily, weekly, or monthly commitments, as well as those for their team, or group as a whole.
Invitations: Users can invite other team members to attend a meeting, track RSVPs, and send reminders and follow-ups.
Calendar Integrations: The program’s integration with third-party applications means that calendars can be synced with programs like Google, Microsoft Outlook, and iCloud.
Boards can be created to manage work more effectively, with sections helping to break down plans into simple, manageable tasks.
By choosing the Kanban view, managers can get an overall perspective on project progress, and the status of individual actions. Sections can be reordered, tasks moved across boards with simple drag-and-drop tools, or reassigned, and key areas colour-coded so that they can be highlighted.
Every task has a detailed view – this means that it is always clear when it is due, who created it, who it was assigned to, and its current status. Every change made to a task is presented in a timeline format, so that all actions relating to it have complete visibility.
The program’s analytic capabilities lets managers see which grows and members are the most active, how many posts and comments have been made and which are the most popular, and a range of other key metrics.
Zoho Connect offers a free plan and 4 pricing tiers, which are sub-divided – three for internal networks, and one for an external network. It is a pay-as-you go subscription service, with monthly or annual billing options, so subscribers can make changes to their plans whenever needed.
The Free Plan offers basic functionality such as manuals, tasks, events and forums. In addition users can have up to 10 Boards, 15 Groups and Channels, and 5 custom apps at the company level.
All paid plans offer a number of standard features, which include, beyond the basic tools, unlimited public and private groups, and channels, feeds, a one-on-one chat facility, company and group level permissions and moderation, data export, and integration with third party apps.
External Network (US $100 per network per month monthly; US $83.30 per network per month billed annually): This is for an unlimited number of users.
First 100 Users (US $1 per user per month billed monthly; US $0.80 per user per month billed annually).
101 – 500 Users (US $0.80 per user per month billed monthly; US $0.60 per user per month billed annually)
500+ Users (US $0.50 per user per month billed monthly; US $0.40 per user per month billed annually).
There is no free trial offered, but prospective users can register for a product demo through their website.
Zoho Connect is a cloud-hosted web-based platform that supports Windows and Mac Operating Systems. It offers a separate Zoho Chat mobile application for Android and iOS devices for remote usage.
The solution does not offer an API but supports native integration with other Zoho products, as well as a host of third party applications like Trelio, Asana and Google Drive. Moreover, through its integration with Zapier users are given access to more than a thousand other apps and programs; these include HubSpot, Slack, Gmail and WordPress, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Zoho’s data centers are hosted in geographically disparate locations that are protected against physical and cyber-attacks, as well as from natural disasters. Using state of the art scanning protocols, all traffic coming into the company’s servers is automatically scanned for harmful viruses.
The vendor has been certified as meeting the most widely recognised independent security standards.
Support for subscribers is primarily available through a ticketing system; tickets are created within the Customer Self-Service portal. The vendor can also be contacted through email. In addition, many questions about the product can be answered from other community members from within the online forum; users can raise questions, leave comments, or initiate discussions. The most discussed topics are highlighted, and the top contributors recognised.
In addition, users have access to extensive FAQs, user and product guides, and frequently updated blog posts which cover a range of relevant topics about the solution, and its practical application. There is also a sample of customer stories featured on their website.
Zoho Connect supports nearly 20 languages – apart from English and the major European tongues, languages supported include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian.