Our business was getting bigger, software costs were spiralling, and despite that, we were struggling to provide the great service that our company was known for.

A coach took one look at the spaghetti of tools we had and laughed. “You should start planning an integrated approach to your software,” she said. “How can you see what you need to in order to run this business? How can your staff see what they need to get things done efficiently?”

And she was right. Here’s the list of the great tools that we were using:

  • Better Proposals
  • Bitbucket issue tracker
  • Calendly
  • Drip
  • DropBox Files
  • Dropbox Paper
  • Google Apps / GSuite
  • HelpScout (Support Desk, Knowledge Base, Live chat/beacon)
  • Hotjar
  • Hubspot
  • LeadPages
  • Metorik
  • Parabola
  • Survey Monkey
  • Slack
  • WordPress & WooCommerce
  • Wrike
  • Zapier
  • Zoom / Zoom Phone

I want to say these tools are great! There’s just too many of them. We needed fewer bits of software, fewer logins, fewer systems to learn… and most of all, better visibility.

We started with a wish list, turned that into feature requirements, and we started to look. It took around two months to sort through a list of around 100 systems that promised to do a lot of what we needed. It took another month to shortlist two solutions: Accelo and Zoho.

Yes, we shortlisted the A to Z of software suites.

Accelo vs Zoho Review

Accelo is a specialist tool focusing on maximising billable hours and staff utilisation. They appear to be creating the sexy niche of “Service Operations Automation” and as a productised services business it seemed like a great fit.

A relatively new company, there were not a lot of critical reviews, but many of those focused on the complexity of mapping their business systems to the tools. I was concerned around the lack of chatter, but thought it was worth a go.

I liked their mission, and it seemed perfectly aligned with our core needs.

Zoho is a mishmash of dozens of inter-related tools that have been bootstrapped over the last 10+ years. Their story is one of scratching their own itch, first building a CRM and then slowly but surely building other tools and systems around it.

Their Zoho One package is a one-price “operating system for your business” which pulls almost all of them together. The offering seems quite new, and there is obviously much more work to be done in integrating everything – but the direction seems good.

Zoho has a long history: I found hundreds of negative reviews and some pretty obvious astroturfing along with positive reviews too. However, in recent years, Zoho seems to have taken on a new level of maturity, and Gartner now has them in the challenger segment.

Making a decision: Zoho or Accelo

We went through several weeks of testing with both tools. We talked with sales reps and systems folks. We tried mapping our business processes against each tool.

In the end, we all preferred the experience of Accelo, but that came at the price of flexibility. We couldn’t map our different products and services cleanly. The biggest strengths were in understanding the utilisation of team members and capturing ‘lost’ billable hours. As a business owner, I loved that visibility and reporting. But every operational aspect would take a hit.

So back to Zoho. It’s not as pretty. It’s a mix of different interlocking apps that talk to each other and fail to talk to each other in surprising ways. But it did allow us to consolidate a lot more information, and it gave every operational department the tools they needed to move forward in a better way than our current system.

The sticker price was at a much lower price point, but we realised that we needed professional set-up help to get things up and running. The last step before deciding to make the switch was to bring in a Zoho Partner as a consultant and implementation advisor. After a few interviews, we settled on Mladen Svraka to help us out.

The game was afoot!

Migrating to Zoho One

What software will we be replacing?

Current ToolZoho One Tool
HubSpot CRMZoho CRM
HelpScout Support DeskZoho Desk
HelpScout Knowledge BaseZoho Desk Knowledge Base
HelpScout knowledgeB (internal)Zoho Learn
HelpScout BeaconZoho Desk ASAP
MetorikZoho Campaigns / Zoho Analytics
DripZoho Campaigns
Bitbucket issue trackerZoho Bug Tracker
Better ProposalsZoho Sign
Surveys ToolZoho Surveys
ZapierZoho Flow
DropBox FilesZoho WorkDrive
Dropbox PaperZoho Notes
SlackZoho Cliq
Google Apps / GSuiteZoho Mail / Writer / Sheet / Show
CalendlyZoho Bookings
WrikeZoho Projects / Sprints
Zoom / Zoom CallZoho Meeting

That’s a lot of software!

Pricing that makes the owner happy

In our decision to evaluate software, we were happy to spend more in order to get what we needed. But our final decision should be something that did not increase the cost of software by more than 20%.

Zoho One?

Monthly cost… USD$35 per user, with the caveat that every employee must be a user. (Other price points exist for businesses that don’t want every employee to be a user.) It became even cheaper with current exchange rates since we purchased in Australian dollars, being closer to our headquarters in New Zealand.

We identified that by shutting down just one of our existing services we could hit break-even. If we shut down 50% of these apps we’d be saving over USD$800/month, at our current staff numbers. And if we shut down everything and went all in, we could double those savings.

Wow!

So how did we plan our move? And how is it going? Find out in our next instalment. You can sign up for updates on this series with the form below:


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