From Vision to Reality – How my misguided Zoho journey taught me the power of project management

From Vision to Reality – How my misguided Zoho journey taught me the power of project management

It all started with my first maternity leave; I offered to help my husband out with a little bit of office work, when possible, for his landscaping business. Imagine spending days scanning and printing hundreds of physical receipts for bookkeeping at the end of the season between your newborns naps. Or spending hours trying to find a customer worksheet because your CRM is a mishmash of your invoicing system and flat file worksheets which you can only query by name (and for which there was a typo in the name by the way). Or invoicing hundreds of paper worksheets over the course of a business season, by manually adding every single new customer into the invoicing system and writing the invoice number onto the paper worksheet to ensure that it could be traced back if necessary (which means, sifting through stacks of paper worksheets to find the one that corresponds with a given invoice).

Sure, I wanted to tear my hair out, but I didn’t think much about the existing inefficiencies at the time because my husband had taken the time to build a system that worked over the past decade. He spent every winter looking at how he could improve the business and streamline operations, including looking at IT software and applications to improve operations. Though he had looked at a full system implementation in the very early days of starting his business, as is the case with many small start-ups, you face many other competing cost considerations that tend to take priority when you’re first building a business.

It wasn’t until I landed a new job upon return from my maternity leave that my eyes were opened to the power of digital transformation with enterprise software solutions for businesses. I joined a team that was overseeing a project to implement a CRM for the first time ever for a newly stood-up government center. I saw the challenges from the client perspective of gathering and articulating the requirements of a large and diverse set of stakeholders; of managing a digital transformation project while managing ongoing operations; and the sheer difficulty of change management when it comes to user adoption. 

This powerful experience resulted in me realizing that there was a significantly better way to run business operations. While pregnant with our second baby, I took the experience gained from my new job and suggested to my husband that I spearhead a project while on my second maternity leave to help him completely overhaul his disparate suite of business applications and develop a fully integrated and automated system to streamline his operations, to which he agreed. 

After researching a variety of cloud-based CRM and business application solutions, I landed on Zoho’s suite for its competitive pricing (particularly for small to medium sized enterprises), its scalability for growing businesses, and its excellent range of business applications. We then hired our first software development company which resulted in huge lessons learned. The initial attempt at building our system with this company was an absolute fail. The company failed to conduct a proper system design with the appropriate schema to properly integrate and synchronize the various systems and databases. We literally hit a roadblock where information from one part of our system couldn’t flow to the next part of our system due to the poor design. Among other things, the company failed to check-in with us to keep us on time for project delivery; we had been clear that timing was critical since we were adamant about not disrupting operations by going live with the new system during our peak operational period.


Figure 1: Aligning business workflow mapping with the playbook process to do a full system and schema design will provide the roadmap needed for your project. 

While a hard pill to swallow, we ultimately cut our losses and decided to start fresh with a new company. That’s where Hero Technical Solutions (HTS) comes into the picture. I started off as a client of HTS and from the get-go, the team immediately instilled confidence in their ability to execute our project with their playbook and schema design process. Once the project was rolling, we on the client-end failed at times to provide the required inputs to keep the project going due to the realities of juggling the business, my actual full-time job and our young family; even still, they gently nudged us and often helped to keep us on track. They were careful to manage our expectations and help us identify the actual priorities needed to go live, versus allowing us to get lost in the ever-evolving wish list of requirements that tend to pop-up as you start to see your vision come to life. 

Even when we fell short and then asked them to speed up the project delivery date before the next big peak in the business season, they prioritized our project, worked with us to conduct end-to-end testing, and delivered on-time. They played a big part in successful user adoption by tailoring the training to each of the different user roles within our organization. While many of our employees still had a strong desire to cling to the old paper-based ways, the excellent system design and user training resulted in their full conversion, such that they can’t ever imagine going back. Overall, the results of the project for my husband’s company have been phenomenal.

Today I’ve flipped the coin and joined Hero Technical Solutions as a project manager. Given my experience as the client on more than one occasion, I now have VERY high expectations of what I as a project manager need to bring to the table to empower clients to seamlessly implement and deploy their Zoho solutions. I could give you the standard Coles Notes or ChatGPT overview of what a project manager does, which are of course all important aspects of the job; instead, I’d like to share four key aspects of a project managers role that I believe have to be nailed to take your Zoho project and overall experience as a client to the next level:


 1. Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe Abraham Lincoln

From the outset, scoping and designing the entire system architecture is critical. Would you start building a house without a blueprint of all the different systems that go into building your house? From the actual layout to plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc.? Alongside gathering your requirements, budget and timeline, project managers need to spend a good amount of time upfront learning your business, its existing systems and pain points to then research, design and architect a comprehensive solution for building your system.  “Sharpening the axe” will ensure that expectations are managed, and that project planning and development tasks flow with greater ease once you kick-off the project, helping you to stay on budget and on time.


2.If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. – Henry Ford 

You’d think that it wouldn’t be difficult to convince someone to move from their standalone excel spreadsheet to a powerfully integrated CRM tool, but one must never underestimate the power of habit. The power of cumulative advantage that underpins the decision making habits of consumers is equally as powerful when it comes to workplace habits and technology adoption. We humans crave automaticity and are geared to prefer consistency above other potential factors that motivate decision-making. This is why user adoption is a big make or break for digital transformation; the cost of implementation will only achieve the desired cost savings and increase in efficiency by successfully helping employees transition from legacy systems to your new systems. A stellar project manager follows the user over the course of the project – they take the time to understand how the various users of an organization will truly interact with the system. In doing so, they work with the customer to customize a simple, intuitive, user-friendly interface and reinforce it with customer-centric training and documentation. Overall, it’s about creating an incredible user experience that aligns with existing work habits (with some additional bells and whistles of course).


3. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

We’ve talked about system design and architecture at the front-end of planning a project, but for those familiar with projects of any type, the reality is that projects never follow a linear path. Unexpected issues and blockers arise, business requirements change, priorities shift, stakeholder needs evolve, and sometimes expectations simply don’t align with reality. Above all else, transparency and informed choice are fundamental principles that project managers should aspire to when communicating with clients about expectation management, change requests, priorities and project scope. This empowers project stakeholders to make informed choices as the project progresses to keep things on time, within budget and within project scope. Furthermore, empathy for a client’s position goes a long way in communication over the life of a project – while many clients have a strong desire to contribute to the project’s success, the time and effort required to do so is often weighed against the realities of the business’ ongoing operations.


4. “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” – Henry Ford 

We live in a world where companies face intense pressure to keep up with and/or deliver  the latest advancements in software and technology. This can often come at the expense of inadequate quality assurance (QA) and testing processes that can often lead to several negative consequences in terms of performance and security. As we move up in project scale, a lack of adequate QA and testing processes can have far ranging effects in terms of cost and impact on the lives of others, resulting in reputation damage. Leaning on the communication skills mentioned above, a skilled project manager will maintain sight of the short, medium and long-term impacts of your project based on the decisions made today. They maintain and advocate for rigorous standards with QA and testing processes to save you the headache post-project implementation.

By sharing my mistakes as well as the qualities that I believe separate good project managers from the pack, I hope you can learn a little bit from my misguided Zoho journey. A well executed project can truly elevate your business and help you regain lost hours in cost and efficiency – take it from me, I witnessed it first hand. The impact was profound, which is why I’m ecstatic to have joined Hero Technical Solutions – I hope to help others on their journey of business transformation with their Zoho deployment.


Linda Dang

Customer Success Specialist

Zoho Customization

Zoho Customization

Zoho, a renowned cloud-based software suite, offers a plethora of applications designed to streamline your business processes. However, one size doesn’t fit all, and this is where customization becomes crucial. Customizing Zoho to meet your unique needs can transform the way you work and make your operations more efficient.

Case Study – Putting the Custom in Customer Portal:

At Hero, we often set up Zoho systems solely for internal operations, but Zoho offers a customer portal as well. With the customer portal, you can put a front-end on your system. Your customers can log in and access, create, and update their own data.

Zoho handles a lot of customer operations that you might take for granted, such as a login system or user security mechanisms. Consider how you, as a website visitor, can read this blog post, but our site admin can read it, update it, or delete it. This isn’t something the average user thinks about, but it’s necessary for everything to function properly. Just like Zoho streamlines everyday business operations, it also facilitates these must-have customer operations. As a developer, this is huge because it means I spend more time developing custom solutions for clients, instead of a login system for the 100th time. This also saves the need to create a custom integration between a third-party site where all your customer data is input and Zoho, where all the data will eventually end up.

The Customer Portal looks good out of the box. It has a clean and intuitive user interface with a subtle bit of flare. And this look makes sense when appealing to a wide market of businesses. When this doesn’t always make sense, however, is when your business has a strong sense of brand identity that you want to convey to your customers. The default look doesn’t always work for everyone.

Zoho understands this and provides you with the options to use a custom domain, update your portal title and logo, and even offers a built-in editor for the user authentication screens and emails. But it doesn’t have to stop there: with a bit of custom development, Zoho provides you with a variety of tools to completely overhaul the front-end if that is what you’re looking for.


The Challenge:

One of our clients works in the packaging industry. They provide events & seminars to their members with a focus on sustainable yet stylish packaging. As a result, they wanted their member portal to convey the same look and feel as their website. Chunky 70’s inspired fonts, Angular geometric borders and accents, and lots of color. Hero worked closely with them and their design firm to get the exact look they wanted.

The landing page featured a banner carousel with members of the month, a dynamic list of events and courses, and also a preview of their networking space. It’s features had to be able to be managed from within the Zoho App. Just like with a WordPress site, for example, it needed to be easy to manage the page content without any development experience required. Not only did we overhaul the Zoho front-end, but we turned the back-end into a full-blown content management system for both the client and their customers.

Site admins could add course and event listing information into a form and, using a custom Zoho Creator page (similar to an HTML template), it could be displayed nicely as a standalone web page. Similarly, VIP Portal members could edit a business profile page that would be featured on the home page. They could embed image and video content to advertise their latest products and packaging innovations, link to their website, and list their key personnel and contact information to network with other members.


The Outcome:

They had a successful rollout of their portal to about 500-ish members, and we have worked with them since the initial launch to make updates to allow for metrics tracking. In addition to updating and maintaining their member portal, they now have reporting insights on visitor/click-through metrics made by individual members.



Customizing Zoho can be a game-changer for your business. By tailoring Zoho modules, automating workflows, creating custom reports, integrating with other tools, controlling access, and even writing custom scripts, you can transform Zoho into a powerhouse that meets your unique needs.

Remember that customization should be an ongoing process. As your business evolves, your Zoho setup should evolve with it. Regularly review and fine-tune your customizations to ensure that Zoho remains a valuable asset for your organization. Embrace the power of customization, and unlock the full potential of Zoho to drive efficiency, productivity, and growth in your business.


Peter Babb


Making the Shift: Migrating to Zoho From Other Platforms

Making the Shift: Migrating to Zoho From Other Platforms

Zoho’s flagship app is Zoho CRM, a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system that aids in capturing leads, nurturing them through the sales funnel, and analyzing data to improve customer relations and boost revenue.

As Zoho certified consultants doing CRM implementations, sometimes it’s a customer’s first time using a proper CRM system.  Many other times, they are moving from other systems and are looking for a better solution that meets their specific needs and alleviates challenges they are facing with their current system.

Zoho CRM has a lot to offer, and here are a few top reasons why someone might make the switch:

1. Comprehensive Features – Zoho CRM is comparable or better than many other well known competitors in the space, being a mature system with many enterprise grade features that offers the ability to start simple and grow into it.

2. User Friendly Interface – Zoho is easy to use, can be highly customized, and navigating and making use of dashboards is a breeze.

3. Customization – Zoho is insanely customizable –  from the ability to customize modules to creating entirely custom user interfaces with the Canvas builder to embedding web development through the use of widgets.

4. Affordability – Zoho is really reasonably priced. One of the key reasons we’re all in is that it offers a system that has the capabilities we need as a professional services team to be able to build out solutions that meet just about any requirements we’re up against at an amazing price .

5. Platform – with Zoho’s growing suite of apps (the Zoho One bundle is now up to 55+ apps) there are offerings within the platform to do many of the functions a business needs and that means integration is either turnkey or a whole lot less work than trying to integrate different systems from different vendors.  You can have your sales team use CRM, create an Estimate with Books, generate a contract for digital signature with Zoho Sign and store needed project files in Zoho WorkDrive. 


Moving systems isn’t always easy though. Generally the team who is moving off of a system will range in enthusiasm from the champion who can’t wait to move over and ditch that system that is the bane of their existence to the employee who does their thing and is used to what they know and isn’t particularly interested in change.

Here are the things to keep in mind when migrating from another system to Zoho CRM:

1. Migration Challenges – Moving data over can be daunting.  It’s something that requires planning, a test run, and patience.  With Zoho CRM’s migration tool this becomes easier and is something that you may want to enlist some help with from a Zoho partner.

2. Training and Adaptation – You’ll want to be familiar with the core operations of the system and specifically those things that you need in order to carry out business as usual. There will be a lot of time to learn other capabilities and grow, but to hit the ground running you’ll need to learn the basics, cover training with your team, and make sure that you have the necessary resources in place to get support as you get started.

3. Downtime – Inevitably, the migration is going to take some time.  If you’re simply moving a list of Accounts and Contacts, this might be relatively short, whereas some migrations might require a day or two of downtime. Plan on how your team will access and update information during this period. Often we can have customers reference their old system and then find a way to record things to update as soon as we’re live. This can also provide a great way to reinforce training right away, having users enter their information that they’ve recorded elsewhere (sometimes on paper, other times digitally) once training is done.


At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be gained from moving to a system based on Zoho CRM. With consideration, planning, and possibly involving the professional services of a Zoho partner, disruptions can be minimized, ensuring a smooth and speedy transition. We at Hero Technical Solutions can be the trusted partners you need to make the move. 

Len Kamerman


The Power of Zoho Integration

The Power of Zoho Integration

At Hero, we’re all in on the Zoho platform and especially since the launch of the Zoho One bundle, our customers have been finding ways to use multiple apps within the suite of apps. No longer just using Zoho CRM for their sales teams, they are building their entire sales, marketing and operations with Zoho as the hub.

One of our big focuses at Hero is the development of integration between systems. We do this frequently between Zoho apps – sometimes using native integrations, and other times writing scripts and workflows to connect things in new ways. We also do this between Zoho and external or “third party” apps, so that customers who are using tools outside of the Zoho platform can continue to use them while getting the benefits of an integrated system.

Integration allows you to do things that would otherwise be too time consuming or error prone to justify doing them, but can come with significant results. It can also enable otherwise inconceivable options and build things that are bigger than the applications themselves.

For example, it allows you to take phone numbers and validate them before having your sales team call leads. Integration lets you get metrics back from multiple systems to get a complete picture of your customers and glean insights about customer retention from analytics you can now run. Integration lets you send out a proposal and then have a contract signed, a retainer invoice sent, and a new job dispatched to scheduling all without any delays or manual steps.

Let’s consider a practical scenario: one of our customers is a dealer that is part of a corporation that requires them to use a proprietary order management system. This system has a list of their customers and it is responsible for processing every order that is put in, containing data about the products that are ordered and the AR information for each account. However, the system is limited in its extensibility and doesn’t provide much in the way of a CRM or the ability to automate.

With an integration we built, we are able to pull in the data from their order system on a daily basis. Having this order data within Zoho CRM means that we can now do things like:

  • See customer order history, knowing what products they have purchased in the past and with what frequency
  • Understand what categories someone has bought from and know what potential cross sells to offer
  • Have AR history and send automated reminders to follow up on overdue accounts
  • Easily see the dates of last orders and order amounts
  • Get notifications of customers who have bought in the past but have stopped or decreased their business

We at Hero would love to have a conversation with you about the systems you use and explore if there are opportunities to take advantage of what integration has to offer.


Len Kamerman

CEO & Zoho Architect