Zoho Projects: Comprehensive Project Management Tool Focused on User Security, Privacy and Affordability

Zoho Projects: Comprehensive Project Management Tool Focused on User Security, Privacy and Affordability


Zoho Projects is an online task and project management tool designed for small businesses scalable enough for enterprise use.

Projects enables users to organize project activities, assign tasks, and manage resources to reach goals on-time and under budget. It also allows collaboration among team members, clients, and outsourced providers, granting access to information on an as-needed basis. The platform can be simple to use or as comprehensive as business needs require.

“Our company’s aim is to minimize the amount of work needed to use Projects and increase collaboration among businesspeople by making an accessible and affordable productivity solution,” said Aravind Rajkumar, Product Marketing Manager for Zoho Projects, in an interview. “We think a project management tool shouldn’t be too complicated for people to use or too expensive. You have to strike a balance. That’s what we’re trying to do with Projects.”



Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is replete with features that make it one of the most all-inclusive project management tools on the market.

The product is:

Comprehensive – Projects has nearly everything needed for effective project management and collaboration, including task management, in-depth reporting, chat, and a social media style feed.

Highly Customizable – Users can customize nearly every aspect of the platform, from user interface (UI) colors to views to reports and more.

Scalable – Zoho Projects can grow with the customer’s business operations. “They can use it as a simple task management application or choose to use it as a full-blown project management application to manage their entire portfolio,” Rajkumar said.

(It’s worth noting that Zoho tracks all of its operations in Projects, including product development of the company’s vast ecosystem — more than 50 applications.)

Task Management

Projects started its life in 2006 as a stand-alone task management tool used internally by Zoho employees. (Self-reliance is a core part of Zoho’s ethos, so it develops the tools it needs in-house rather than using third-party applications.)

Since then, Projects has gone through six different UI revamps and is on the verge of going public with the seventh iteration, set for release in January 2021.

“Projects was first called Challenger, and then Tasks,” Rajkumar said. “We then brought in advanced features and rebranded it to be much bigger than just a task management tool.”

Security

Because Zoho provides software to millions of users worldwide — 50 million at last count — it places special emphasis on securing user data and privacy. That includes locking down everything from the organization (e.g., conducting employee background checks) to the physical plant, from its network and data to operations, and each of its more than 50 applications.

All of Zoho’s products, including Projects, is GDPR and CCPA compliant. HIPAA compliance is currently in the works to enable use by healthcare professionals.

A dedicated security team closely monitors all aspects of development, workflows, and user data. User’s emails, even those on the free plans, are not used for advertising.

On the product side, Zoho ties security and privacy to Projects in various ways.

Customized roles and profiles (including client profiles) allow complete control over what information users can see or activities they can perform.

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Workflow security via Blueprint (a workflow automation component) enables people to work on various facets of a given task, specifically the part where they are involved.

Fields marked as PII (Personally Identifiable Information) ensure data is encrypted, and administrators can create a log file to check access details.

(Learn more about how seriously Zoho takes security by visiting this page.)

Affordability

Affordability is another key feature. The platform is free for up to three users and two projects. Premium pricing starts at $3 per user per month for the Standard plan and goes to $6.00 per user per month for the fully-loaded Enterprise edition.

Additional Features

Other key platform features include:

Social Project Management

Zoho has added social elements to Projects, such as feeds, forums, a knowledge base, and chat rooms.

Time Tracking

Projects has several tools to help users stay on schedule and account for work hours. These include timesheets, invoicing, and a planning calendar.

Task Automation

A new drag-and-drop interface makes automating tasks easier to visualize and deploy.

Third-party App Integration

Zoho may not rely on third-party apps to run its operation but does allow Projects to integrate with apps like Slack, Google, Dropbox, Microsoft Office, and many more.

New Version Set for January Release

Zoho has set the release of the newest version of Projects (the seventh) for January 2021. Currently, in beta, it features a complete UI makeover. It provides a seamless, consistent user experience across all devices: web and mobile. It also incorporates artificial intelligence (Zoho has its own AI platform called “ZIA”) for forecasting and reporting. Current Projects users can request early access by filling out the form on this page.

Visit Zoho.com to learn more about the company and its product portfolio.

Image: zoho.com


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Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: Spiritual Economics Goes Beyond ROI, It’s About Balance, Symmetry and Harmony

Sridhar Vembu of Zoho: Spiritual Economics Goes Beyond ROI, It’s About Balance, Symmetry and Harmony


Earlier this week I cohosted a unique livestream event, alongside Small Business Trends publisher Anita Campbell, with Zoho CEO and cofounder Sridhar Vembu and Chief Evangelist Raju Vagesna.  It was unique because we spent the vast majority of the hour plus event talking about everything but what the company is mostly known for – cranking out 50+ business apps that 60 million people use on a daily basis.  It was also unique because it was the first time in about a decade that Sridhar and Raju sat down together (virtually in this case with Sridar being in India and Raju in Austin, TX) for a conversation like this.

The end result of this discussion demands that another decade not pass before another one of these conversations take place.  As bringing these two gentlemen together provided us a glimpse into what has made Zoho the success story it is, allowing us to go beyond the numbers to get a better understanding of the culture, strategy and heart of the company.  In this hour long conversation they talk about why it’s important for Zoho to be an asset to the communities they operate in, the concept of familiarity capital, the ills of “consumeritus”, and why spiritual economics is just as important as traditional approach to economics – and maybe more so.

Below is an edited transcript from a portion of our conversation.  To hear the full conversation click on the embedded SoundCloud or watch the video above.

Anita Campbell: How does a small business owner integrate that kind of commitment to the community together with the need to make payroll and pay the expenses and keep the business going. I mean, how do you balance that? Any suggestions or thoughts?

Sridhar Vembu: Yeah, in fact, it starts with your workforce. That’s where it starts, because before we think of the product, you first have to think about recruitment. You have to have a workforce. Where are we going to get the workforce? For a small business owner, this is the challenge because bigger companies have[resources]  – most of the people are going to work for prestigious companies and that’s common. So you have to figure out how are you going to hire that talent you want, and you need, and how do you get them with the skills you want? So the skill development is a first step I would advise any small business owner to focus on, and invest in your people. If there’s a couple of people who are trusting you with that at all, and coming to join you, think of that as not only that I’m trusting them, but they’re also trusting me.

So if you take responsibility for upgrading their skills, then you’re actually going to have somebody who is very skilled for your business too. They’re also going to have that because you’ve taught them, there’s going to be actually a loyalty factor that comes in. Hey, this person is investing in me. And that is how the community engagement begins. That is the way it actually began for us.

I actually encourage our employees to participate in community life actively. That’s something that I keep pushing. I say, your job here is enormously enhanced when you are active and participating in your to communities. We don’t want to lump Zoho into a community and be an island. We want to be very much part of the community. So that is the second part.

Raju Vegesna: The goal is to be an asset to the community; participating.  And the way you participate also varies by the region, by the company. The way you participate in India could be different from U.S., different from Mexico or Japan, and what that community needs and where the employees are interested in participating. All of those play that role. Nurturing that talent is the key. What percentage is that. Maybe lack of a better term, exploit versus nurture. Where are you just hiring a bunch of graduates or are you investing in nurturing people, particularly in the context of the community? Surely you can go hire all the people out there, but there are more talented people that may not have a college degree.

And what are you as a company doing, to invest and nurture that talent out there because end of the day, it is not… When someone becomes successful, the key really is not about the talent. It comes down to opportunity. The reason for success is opportunity. If you give an individual an opportunity and nurture them through that. So you’re polishing the stone to become a diamond and you’re nurturing them. And there are a lot of talent out there that are not given enough opportunity. And if you can give them that opportunity and nurture them, that will… And it’s not just financial. And I mentioned this earlier, what’s the point of being financially successful if you’re morally bankrupt. And then similarly, this is an important point. It is that that psychic kick that she was talking about that is equally important when you nurture that talent, and there’s a human element to that.

Brent Leary: Raju, if you were in Anita and my’s position, what should we ask Sridhar? What question would be a good question to ask?

Raju Vegesna: How much time do you have, Brent?

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Brent Leary: We got all day, man!

Raju Vegesna: There are a lot of things we discuss internally more than we discussed externally, but Sridhar comes up with a lot of interesting things. For example, he came up with this rule revival, like earlier on this year, and similarly has come up with transnational localism. Maybe we can expand on that a little later. So like that, he comes up with a lot of these things. I would call these a group demander, maybe, or call them “Zoho-nomics”, the Zoho way of doing things, running your business. Maybe we’ll discuss something that he probably hasn’t discussed in public. So Sridhar, can you talk about spiritual economics?

Sridhar Vembu: The spiritual work, that actually has a deeper connection; it’s the opposite of pure materialist focus. It’s not the economics of GDP and numbers.  I’ll explain this a little bit as we talked about this in the context of what is the ROI of an effort like Zoho Schools. Yes there is an ROI number but the benefit is much bigger.  And even the familiarity capital Raju mentioned in the beginning, you cannot actually measure it. You cannot put it on a balance sheet. You cannot assign a number to it. That does not mean it does not exist. You see one of the problems, in economic spaces, is If it cannot be a put on a balance sheet, it might as well not exist in the business world, right? Likewise for economists in terms of GDP and all of that.

Philosophers have argued this point that this is not actually reality, because I want subjective satisfaction of something, of service, of a product. Those things matter as much as the objective ROI. And the biggest proponent of this idea in the tech industry, of course, was Steve Jobs, right? He actually talked about the aesthetic beauty of the product, about the product doing something beyond its objective features and functions. There’s an aesthetic subjective element to it. And that’s exactly the same concept applied in the economic realm. And I actually have three cardinal [rules] that I use, and that is I call them balance, symmetry, and harmony.

In fact I teach this to this village here because we are on the other side of… This village is like the other side of the world from us, San Francisco. What they sell is, rice, maybe some vegetables, okay. What they buy might include all the manufactured products. That includes your smartphones, your TVs, your fans, your tractors, all of them, all the benefits and products, even simple as simple products as clippers.

And if you look at the terms of trade, it does not balance the… In effect, having to buy more value than they can sell. So they bridge it by exporting their own labor, migrant labor, or by borrowing money, getting in a debt trap, or some government transfer programs, in some cases, which in most countries, it’s food. There are government programs to transfer resources to rural areas so that they can afford to buy products. They also sell off their lands. So steadily the farmers have to sell their lands because they can’t make ends meet. So this is the lack of balance in the economy, that what we export out of here does not meet our imports into the village. Okay. That’s balance.

The second idea is more subtle; It’s symmetry. The idea is the composition of what, the technical composition or the complexity of what you sell, must match what you might buy, and I’ll give you a classic example of that that is not met.

Take the oil exporting nations in the Middle-East, they sell oil and buy everything else. They could be rich until the oil prices crash, but then they suddenly become poor, right? So I could be a big exporter of rice, yeah? And buy everything using rice, but when the rice price goes against me, I’m completely screwed. And this happens to [economic] cycles, in developing countries like with Chile and copper, and beef with Argentina, where commodity prices crash. This is true around the world in developing countries. So the symmetry is an argument where the composition, all the complexity of what I buy has to match the complexity of what I sell on the group level, or a village level, or a county level, on a state level.  All of them.

And then harmony. There has to be a semblance of justice and fairness in your distributions system or else we are going to see the social conflict. The U.S. is a very rich country, but a lot of Americans are not feeling rich though, right? And that’s the social conflict. So these are the three foundational principles; the balance, symmetry, and harmony. And I just looked to get them on that, this spiritual economics topic. I hope that gives you an idea.

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This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it’s an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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