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Google eyes the enterprise market

Martin Veitch | Sept. 3, 2008
We should know better having seen the likes of Lotus Notes and SmartSuite, WordPerfect Office and GroupWise, Corel and Novell fail to topple Microsoft, but it's hard not to get excited by the latest challenge to the Microsoft hegemony, Google Apps.

"We made a conscious decision not to refresh any of [the Microsoft infrastructure]. We're not going to remove it but we won't upgrade it. Some users might use Outlook as the client but we're moving to migrate people from Outlook onto Google by the end of the year. We're not going to rip and replace but we've decided not to refresh Office 2003 and we'll sweat that asset. Google Apps is good enough and rich enough for us to do what we need to do. Collaboration has been very powerful and as people use Google Mail and Calendar they'll naturally stray to use Google Docs.

"When I started the trial in February I probably wouldn't have forecast this as the result but the user feedback meant that it was an easy decision to make. It fits quite well with other business apps like Salesforce.com. Also, it lets our staff spend less time on disk upgrades and password refreshes and more time being productive."

With Taylor Woodrow and TMG on board, it is possible that other Google Apps prospects could be persuaded to put their heads over the parapet, especially among companies going through strategic change and changing work patterns. This is the case with TMG, which was seeing its employee profile change and also wanted to alter perceptions of IT.

"We're getting much more dynamic internally," says TMG's Cheesbrough. "Daily messages that 'You're over your mailbox limit' were the only communication from IT to staff, so the department wasn't seen as very strategic. Journalists are very collaborative and we had about eight people covering Wimbledon [the tennis tournament] but sharing information was quite cumbersome and mostly done over a mobile. The CEO's challenge to IT was to stop being a beat-up group."

So what are the key reasons to consider Google Apps? Fitting the working patterns and expectations of users is critical.

"Nine out of 10 users said they could work better if they could bring their home computer into work," says TMG's Cheesbrough. "That was striking and getting louder as we changed the kinds of people we were hiring."

Barbara Colledge, dean of partnerships for students at Leeds Metropolitan University (LMU), another Google Apps user that has 30,000 students and 3500 staff, says that students were already big fans of online services.

"Students today are very different to students 10 years ago. Even my daughter's class at school use search engines to do their homework and students expect to use technology in their learning, so you have to think carefully about what you make available," she says.

"We had Microsoft Exchange but we found that it wasn't being used by students. They preferred Hotmail or Google Mail. We're trying to be very contemporary and that includes our IT strategy. We believe in working together with organizations that complement us and can add value. That was a big part of moving to Google."

 

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