Zoho Pushes AI for BI with Zia

Like many SaaS companies, Zoho, the 25-year-old software maker is pushing forward with a business intelligence offering called Zoho Business Intelligence. We’ve tracked a lot of what Zoho has been doing over the past couple of years. Most recently wrote about the company’s wholesale move to the Austin, TX area in this piece. 

So what’s business intelligence mean anyhow? From our perspective, it is the technology that helps us extract the “so what” out of data or charts or presentations. And this “so what” is often what companies miss when looking at data or other forms of business information.

According to a variety of sources, the Business Intelligence Market was valued at $20.5 billion in 2020. Estimates say the market will hit $40.5 billion by 2026. And it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12% over the 2021-26 forecast period. So it’s no surprise that Zoho, and others, would pursue this market opportunity. 

The Zoho Business Intelligence Platform is intended to make it easier and more straightforward for business owners to build and share analytics via a dashboard. According to the company’s press release, the new platform will put together a couple of existing modules into a single offering. Those individual modules are Zoho Data Prep, Zoho Analytics, Zoho Show, and Zoho Sites portal builder.

Then, in theory, business owners launch queries against the data sets. Therein lies the conundrum, in our view. Business owners — of all shapes and sizes — need the knowledge and expertise to know what queries or questions to ask the data. That’s the challenging part. 

Zoho’s Going Back to the Farm

Enter Zia

Zia is what Zoho calls its AI-powered assistant for your business. Whether you’re collecting customer data, writing a document, or just looking for some sales numbers, Zia works hard to make your job easy.” And maybe that’s the real play here, to drive more overall use of Zia. 

Here’s what Doug Henschen, a research analyst in the space, said about what Zoho’s up to with Zia. “Self-service data preparation, computer-augmented analysis, and in-context storytelling are three important, emerging capabilities that set industry-leading BI and analytics platforms apart. The ability to build and share analytic apps is yet another differentiator. So I’m particularly excited to see Zoho enabling customers to publish breakthrough, data-driven applications.”

Sounds like Zoho is on the right path. We just wonder how much of the company’s primary customer base — small businesses – -can really make use of what sounds like fairly sophisticated technology.

Since we’ve been following Zoho, we’ve observed a considerable shift from a point solution-centric strategy to a platform and integration-centric strategy. This new effort seems to fall squarely in the integration mold. The business intelligence platform apparently comes with 250 data sources pre-loaded. Some of those data sources include including Zendesk, HubSpot, Microsoft, Mailchimp, Stripe, and Google. 

Zoho’s press release suggests that more than 50,000 organizations are already using Zoho Analytics. The business intelligence platform costs $8 per user per month. That’s a pretty low price point for the power of business intelligence. But again, that requires the users to be able to benefit from the power of the platform. So we’re just not sure that Zoho’s non-enterprise customers are really ready to make use of the capability. 

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