A powerful all-in-one software solution from a single vendor

A powerful all-in-one software solution from a single vendor

Even small and medium-sized companies operate on a global level, which requires a high degree of communication and visibility between the business units. When one hand does not know what the other is doing, a small business cannot grow. That’s why most modern small businesses can benefit from minimal CRM, data tracking, communication and calendar apps that work in sync to keep everyone aligned and on task.

While each program can work on its own, it is in their collaboration where true productivity lies. The effort to reconcile information across apps is significant and prone to human error—manual data entry is often required—and cobbled together or disjointed systems create silos. Only when solutions are unified and tools are integrated with each other can businesses benefit from cross-application services such as automation, AI/ML and comprehensive search, all of which serve to save time and energy.

There is more than one way to unify disparate programs across a business ecosystem, and not all are created equal. I believe that the concept of “unification” produces the strongest numbers in internal adoption rate, customer acquisition and ROI. Qualifying platforms, including Zoho One, offer dozens of apps where customers can customize the software package that works best for their business needs.

Read on to learn more about unification, its benefits and how to unlock its potential:

The problem of integration

Enterprise software is meant to solve problems, not cause new ones, and companies generally try to get the most out of their technology by assembling a suite of applications ad-hoc, which adds unnecessary implementation challenges, especially for small businesses that lack IT -support.

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This practice is actually quite common in technology, where it is known as integration through APIs, or the ability for systems from different vendors to communicate with each other. Perhaps a calendar app allows users to join video calls on a separate platform, or invoicing software captures payments using a secure transaction process developed by a competitor. Customers gravitate to integration because it often allows them to build a more responsive and communicative internal system without changing any vendors.

The main problem with integration is that there are no guarantees that programs will always work so well with each other. Often, a large vendor is more motivated to encourage migration to their own platforms than to continuously update the ability to include competitors in their ecosystem.

When these different pieces of software manage to fit together, the experience can be quite uneven. Issues range from issues as simple as different proprietary file types all the way up to a lack of accountability when security breaches occur.

What association looks like

At first glance, unification resembles integration in what it enables: disparate apps brought together to support all business operations. However, the digital ecosystem is composed of apps that all come from the same provider, as they would be on Zoho One. The concept produces an all-in-one platform instead of one that has to struggle to get everything in sync.

At best, unification seems seamless. Imagine scanning an invoice using a mobile phone, sending the file to invoicing software that pings the client and processing the payment, automatically updating client notes in a CRM and capturing actionable data at every step of the process. Although this workflow is possible under a variety of systems, a uniform one ensures that no information is lost in translation, nor does any piece of the puzzle become obsolete.

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Combined systems are adopted more quickly by employees than integrated ones. First, the UI/UX across all unified apps is pretty much the same – both because they’re all made by the same vendor, and from a brand perspective, it’s in their best interest to maintain a consistent interface. Elements of a unified system often interact with each other from the apps themselves, saving employees time from searching for what they need. For example, Zoho Workspace, a core component of Zoho One, acts as a customized dashboard and provides insight into how colleagues are working.

In addition, unified systems have security measures far superior to what can be put together between competitors – and software updates can be pushed to every app simultaneously.

What association enables

In addition to the more general benefits of unification, such as security and employee empowerment, the composition of unified platforms immediately enables teams to reduce redundant work processes and increase communication across the organization.

In particular, here are some noticeable advantages:

  • Automatic data collection and analysis: Integrated systems are composed of individual elements that are constantly fed with data, but often this data remains in silos and can only be used by one supplier. Unification corrects this undercommunication by offering full visibility across apps; data can then be collected and analyzed by all employees of the organization. In fact, some platforms, such as Zoho One, use AI to sort the process automatically, and present data as shareable visualizations.

  • Custom collection: Customers aren’t required to sign up for every single app in a unified system—growing businesses can’t anticipate every future initiative. Often, vendors will construct custom pricing models that include the functionality a business needs and the flexibility to add or subtract as needed over time. This process feels relatively painless compared to the hassle of tracking down a whole new vendor to improve an integrated system.

  • Fast bug fixing: Users can expect fewer bugs to persist with unification as well. When vendors have visibility into every facet of their customers’ CX/UX experiences, they can quickly troubleshoot issues and deploy fixes across the entire ecosystem. In some cases, companies that practice unification can anticipate problems before they occur—they know all the idiosyncrasies of their apps.

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A unified future for work

Technology vendors have been practicing diversification for some time now, meaning they add to their product line and expand current offerings to proof their business against a recession or seismic shift in the industry. Soon these companies will be able to let their customer relationships develop naturally while guaranteeing full, frictionless functionality throughout. Competitors will not jump to increase their products’ level of integration if they build their own apps, so the time to ditch an integrated system for a unified system is now.

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