Zoho has just unveiled the next generation release of its invoice product. The two most notable changes are the inclusion of a nice business-logic dashboard, and the addition of expenses to the offering.

zoho inv2

Generally the UI has been greatly improved – there is nice use of tabs as opposed to separate boxes for further information on a particular invoice (payments, history, emails etc)

tabs

The expenses module is what you’d expect – I was particularly please to see that it allows for billable expenses to be on-charged to customers – an eminently logical and time-saving feature that is inexplicably missing in other offerings.

expenses

I talked with Zoho evangelist, Raju Vegesna to get Zoho’s perspective on what these functional changes mean in the long term. Vegesna was quick to articulate that the product will not evolve into an Accounting app but that they did fully intend to keep adding features to this app though. 

Behind the scenes Zoho has included much-needed support for multi user access – currently there are two permission levels: administrator and staff. Hopefully with time more granular permissioning will become available.

Zoho has previously been more about integration with its own internal products that about creating open APIs to let the world integrate with it – it was a strategy directly opposite to that which the The Small Business Web folks are pursuing with their call for open APIs. Interestingly in this release Zoho has opened up the application with an API – it’ll be fascinating to see what third party integrations that delivers.

In the case of their own internal apps, Vegesna advised that Zoho Invoice will integrate with other Zoho apps tightly. CRM will be the first followed by Zoho Mail. Specifically the Email History feature in Invoice 2.0 integrates at a high level, but apparently it will go deeper with Zoho Mail going forward.

Interestingly Zoho recently (and pretty much silently) rolled out CRM & Quickbooks integration it shows something of a desire to play with the outside world, and to accept that integration with external apps (especially such stalwarts as Quickbooks, is an imperative. Zoho intends to also integrate invoice with Quickbooks – and in doing so will be going head to head with the other SaaS invoicing providers.

Finally Zoho intends to offer its invoice product to Google Apps users moving forward in a similar way to how they offer Projects, CRM & Meeting for Google apps.

All in all this iteration of Zoho invoice is a far more intuitive one, the addition of expenses really rounds out the product and makes it a viable option for freelancers and small service and product businesses.

(Disclosure – CloudAve is solely sponsored by Zoho, however I cover all accounting applications, have previously reviewed Zoho Invoice 1.0 and as such need to update my information. Suffice it to say this is my own opinion untainted by any commercial bias.

On another note, we’ve been planning to publish this at 6am PST, the planned release time.  But now that the news is out, there’s no point in holding back. Oh, the fun of embargoes)

CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by
Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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