Capgemini Will Watch Your Back on Google Apps

Consulting powerhouse will offer backup help and custom tailor Google’s enterprise suite, answering enterprise IT concerns about support and security.

Capgemini announced today that it will offer services supporting Google Apps, bolstering Google’s efforts to sell its Web-based software to large businesses and companies with workers like shop-floor personnel who have limited access to corporate systems. This new option could also help companies who want to rein in “rogue” use of Google Apps and bolster security for key documents and e-mail. But don’t expect businesses to trade in their Microsoft Office suites, say analysts and consultants.

“Larger enterprises have very complex and specific requirements and they often prefer to have the assistance of a trusted adviser,” says Kevin Smith, head of enterprise partnerships for Google. “Capgemini can help clients develop a strategy for the most effective use of Google Apps, whether as an enterprisewide collaboration solution, or for employees not served in a traditional desktop application environment.”

Today's news comes on the heels of two major announcements signaling Google’s desire to bring its suite of e-mail (Gmail), Calendar, and Docs & Spreadsheets from the small and midsize business market, where it boasts more than 100,000 customers, to large-scale companies—where Google has been criticized as lacking the security and support necessary for wide-scale adoption.

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First, in February, the $10 billion Internet company announced the launch of its “Enterprise Premier” version of Google Apps, which mirrored the free consumer version with a couple notable exceptions: For $50 per license per year, customers received 24/7 support (including phone support), with an interface free from ads. This version also offered more storage per user, as well as the ability to add corporate logos to customize the interface for specific businesses. Then in July, Google acquired security vendor Postini for $625 million, hoping to convince more large businesses to trust Google with corporate e-mail.

Today's Capgemini services deal will help Google push its suite into the large enterprise space, says Kyle McNabb, a principal analyst with Forrester. But McNabb doesn’t think the software will gain much traction with anyone other than manufacturing workers and other “non-power users.”

“This is a milestone, but it’s not going to force a lot of large companies to look at Google Apps for the whole enterprise,” he says. “The non-information workers in the plants and factories are the low-hanging fruit.”

Indeed, Google sees real potential in the manufacturing sector and other businesses where companies would like to get employees basic access to tools like e-mail, but don’t want to spend money equipping each worker with PC hardware to access it, says Steve Jones, Capgemini’s head of service-oriented architecture. Now, using Google Apps and Internet kiosks in a break room, for instance, those workers could be connected by simply accessing a Web browser.

“This helps us bridge that corporate digital divide that’s grown up between the haves and have-nots,” Jones says. “It will really help companies engage more users.”

But there is another market for Google Apps: A growing number of information workers, frustrated by traditional corporate IT systems, have flocked to the consumer version of Google Apps covertly (forming their own “Shadow IT” department). When this happens, Jones notes, companies can put themselves at risk of breaking compliance rules.

“The covert use of Google Apps is almost becoming ubiquitous,” he says. “Companies can try to shut it down, but the reality is the business users will go on using it,” he says. “The implications if you don’t do this in a controlled way are huge.”

Capgemini’s support of the Google suite will legitimize its use, allowing business users to come out of the shadows and use it in an open and controlled way that doesn’t endanger businesses’ compliance requirements or compromise corporate data, Jones says.

Customers who signed up for Google Apps’ Enterprise Premier suite will still have the 24/7 support, with or without a decision to enlist the services of Capgemini, which will customize its pricing based on customer needs, as with other consulting services, says Google’s Smith.

Capgemini says there was no exclusivity agreement in the Google Apps deal, and Smith leaves the door open for pursuing more partnerships with consulting firms in the future. “While we don't discuss any specific future plans, we do see enormous benefit for our customers to exploring more partners for this program,” Smith says.

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