Google's burgeoning suite of applications for business, Google for Work, may seem like a hodgepodge of tools designed for disparate functions, but the end goal of each is always the same: collaborative productivity.
The idea of putting all of an organization's data, communications and workflow under one umbrella is understandably worrisome for many CIOs and IT managers. Any disruptions, service changes or policy updates can wreak havoc on a company and hang IT staff out to dry. However, the concept can be just as promising as it is concerning.
The total shift to cloud-based infrastructure is still years away for many companies, if it happens at all, but those that take the plunge early often see greater employee satisfaction (particularly among younger generations) and many more potential benefits, according to companies who've embraced Google for Work.
CBS Interactive Goes All-In With Google for Work
Steve Comstock, CIO and senior vice president, CBS Interactive, says Google for Work embodies the very nature and objective of his role at the network's division for online properties, which includes well-known sites such as CNET, CBS.com and GameSpot.
Comstock's team is now a fully functioning Google for Work shop, and it uses Google infrastructure for everything from data centers to video streaming and encoding. Comstock says his IT staff is composed of the same types of people CBS Interactive targets with its online content. The CIO called this demographic the "cord-cutters" or "cord-nevers" at last week's Digital Entertainment World event in Los Angeles.
These people want and expect rapid collaboration, wherever they are, and Comstock says he does everything he can to get out of their way, while also giving them the tools they need to share information and deliver on their responsibilities. Google for Work lets him to do just that, by connecting teams on conference calls via Hangouts and making it simple to share spreadsheets in real time via Google Sheets.
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When CBS Interactive teams gather for meetings there's no longer the typical lag that used to bring productivity to a standstill, while someone coordinated a roll call or waited to make sure everyone saw the right documents or data. All meeting participants see everyone who is on a call and who's viewing documents in real time.
"We can solve problems that much faster," Comstock says. "Instead of dealing with all that 'cruft' of waiting for technology to burden us, it's a blessing." And Comstock no longer has to designate a "spreadsheet czar" to manage, update and maintain constantly evolving documents.
Corporate data sources change rapidly and CIOs need to adapt as they develop new ways to coalesce all this information, Comstock says. "As we're developing our productivity tools and moving toward this we have to look at how [employees] are going to use these tools and how they're going to filter it all out."
Going Google for Work
Technology ecosystems should be a determining factor when deciding whether or not to embrace Google for Work, according to Tom Shawver, CTO, TechnologyAdvice, a technology consultancy. "By going with Google you're not only open to Google's products and services, you're also buying into Google's APIs and full integration with many of the Web's fastest growing online services."
Business tools that aren't compatible with Google as a sign-on provider, for example, are becoming the exception rather than the rule, Shawver says, and more cloud-based collaboration offerings use Google Drive as a storage solution.
"If an organization has a focus on real-time collaboration and has a culture that directs it more toward bleeding-edge cloud services and products out of the Silicon Valley startup scene, Google is a clear winner," Shawver says. "More traditional businesses that put real value on tried-and-true methodologies with a deeply ingrained Microsoft Office workflow may have a more difficult time making the transition, as it is less about the tools at hand and more about the ecosystem being tested."
Likewise, departmental workflow will largely dictate how well employees receive Google for Work tools. "Engineering and IT are more apt to celebrate the introduction of Google for Work, as integration with tech industry online tools is superb and much of the day-to-day work becomes more streamlined and automated," according to Shawver.
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On the flipside, people working in data analysis or legal might cringe at the introduction of Google for Work, because Microsoft's Excel and Word platforms are "industry-standard staples … that Google's offerings can't fully replace," Shawver says.