We get asked frequently about integration of some Zoho service or another with a third party service, often with that of a competitor. As one recent example, see this thread on Zoho CRM integration with GMail/GTalk. The question often is “Is Zoho all or nothing? If we like and use one Zoho service, would we be forced to use all of them as a bundle?”
The categorical answer is “No, Zoho is not an all or nothing proposition. We fully respect user choice and will fully support mixing and matching Zoho services with competing services.” We have intentionally architected the Zoho suite so that each service stands on its own, and can be mixed and matched with third party services. This “depth-first” architectural strategy, whereby each service is useful by itself (independent of integration with other Zoho services), enables a style of loose-coupled – RESTful, in the technical lingo – integration that makes it just as easy to integrate a Zoho service with a third party as it is with another Zoho service. We believe in customer choice, interoperability and data portability, and we do not want to lock-in any user. And we fully recognize the reality, particularly as a smaller vendor, but even true for very large vendors, that customers do not want to put all their eggs in one basket.
Specifically, to answer the specific question asked in our forums, Zoho CRM will interwork with the Google suite – including the all-important GMail, but with other Googe Apps components as well. But this extends beyond Zoho CRM – all of Zoho services will interwork with third party vendors wherever it makes sense, regardless of whether Zoho competes with that vendor in one aspect or another. As an example, if 37Signals would let us, we would be happy to integrate our Zoho Invoice or Zoho Wiki with their Basecamp project management offering, in spite of the fact that Basecamp competes directly with Zoho Projects.
It is that philosophy that guided us in our integration of the Zoho productivity applications with Salesforce AppExchange – an integration we nearly completed when they decided it wasn’t in their interest, something I actually disagree with; I believe it would actually make the Salesforce ecosystem stronger to let Zoho services in, but then again, perhaps it is in our best interest that they won’t let in Zoho! It is a different matter, of course, that it is their customers who lose.
Zoho a la carte is a fundamental guiding philosophy for us, not just a tactical competitive move. It brings numerous architectural benefits to us, enabling us to move faster in our own development.