Google Apps Fits Well at Italian Fashion House Roberto Cavalli

Italian fashion conglomerate Roberto Cavalli is rolling out Google Apps to streamline disparate e-mail systems and help staffers organize images and video. Here's a look at their decision.

Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli had an IT mess on its hands. In the last year, it reorganized internally, consolidating 27 assets into nine, and in the process, faced the challenge of streamlining its many disparate systems into one.

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"Everyone was on different systems, different servers," says Carlo Di Biagio, chief operating officer at Roberto Cavalli. "We needed to decide how we were going to manage the internal systems and get everyone communicating together," he says.

Roberto Cavalli's IT team analyzed and tested several solutions and ultimately chose Google Apps as its new communication and collaboration technology. One factor they weighed heavily: Some Roberto Cavalli employees were already using Gmail for personal use and were familiar with the Google Apps suite, Di Biagio says. Plus, they estimated it would save the business more than $50,000 per year in overhead costs and via increased productivity.

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Roberto Cavalli recently deployed Gmail across the business—replacing its FTgate e-mail servers—giving staff members the flexibility of sending and receiving e-mails from any Internet-enabled device. This also gave Roberto Cavalli's 500-person team access to shared calendars, making scheduling appointments on the road easier than before.

The next phase of adoption, expected to be completed in the next few months, involve using Google Sites to create an intranet that will organize, search and share picture archives of collections and catwalk shows. Previously, picture archives were very disorganized, Di Biagio says.

Until about 10 years ago, all Roberto Cavalli images from events, fashion shows and photo shoots were stored in hard-copy only. When the business started digitizing the images, it lacked a categorization method. The result: multiple copies of the same image were stored in 10 to 15 different places, eating up valuable space on the servers.

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"One of the things with fashion that's really important is the patrimony of images," he says. "You have vintage stuff that goes back maybe 40 years, and sometimes it's really important to be able to get some creative ideas to replicate or modify old styles and make them new to improve the DNA of the brand."

In using Google Images, photos will be tagged appropriately—down to the most detailed descriptions. "We'll be able to categorize a photo from a collection by typing in something like, 'red, stripes, bottom of leg,'" Di Biagio says. "The designers or retail departments will be able to find what they're looking for easily—they won't have to send big images back and forth to each other. And you can stay right in the Google system while you work."

Also on tap for Roberto Cavalli: migrating catwalk videos to Google Video, making them instantly searchable and available to all Roberto Cavalli boutiques across the world.

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Di Biagio says that they're taking a measured approach to training Roberto Cavalli employees. Employees will be trained in Gmail first. As the company adds more apps to its suite of tools, it will hold training sessions for individual departments. The key, he says, is to ensure employees aren't overwhelmed by the tools, increasing the odds that they'll actually use them frequently in the workplace. The company expects the deployment and training to be complete in six to eight months, Di Biagio says.

"We have been very pleased to work with Google. [Google Apps] has a lot of features, and I think we've only just seen the surface of what we can do with it," Di Biagio says. "I expect [our migration to Google Apps] to inject life into the business, as it is making it easier to collaborate and communicate."

Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

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