Google Apps: How We Convinced the C-Suite

Dominion Enterprises CIO Joe Fuller faced the challenge of converting 280 magazine brands to one collaboration suite and persuading execs that the cloud was right. He shares advice, including how he won over skeptics on privacy and compliance worries.

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Thu, March 17, 2011

CIO — Joe Fuller, CIO at Dominion Enterprises, had a mess to clean up. Built through a series of 150 acquisitions, the marketing services company was burdened by inefficiencies, disparities and siloed data. As the economy continued to tank in 2010, the company started to feel the weight of hosting e-mail in 24 separate locations, which posed a multitude of support and integration issues, Fuller says.

In June 2010, Fuller bought an Android phone, which he says was his first foray into cloud. "Being able to access everything via a browser and posting e-mail in the cloud made me think that this could be the way to go [at Dominion]."

Because the majority of employees were using Microsoft Outlook, Fuller and his team examined cloud options from Microsoft (MSFT) as well as Google (GOOG). After visiting both vendors' headquarters, he determined that the Google Apps suite was a better fit from a product and price standpoint.

"The ease of accessing all the different aspects of the collaboration suite from one Gmail interface and the simplicity of the pricing model are what stood out," Fuller says.

While a migration to Google Apps was a relatively easy sell for him and many of Dominion's employees—65 percent of whom were already familiar with Gmail—other executives at the company were not as readily convinced.

"Moving to the cloud was a kind of change that was boiling up from the rank and file employees," Fuller says. "The C-level was harder—privacy and security were their biggest concerns. Outlook had become comfortable for them, and they were hesitant about making the change."

After months of conversations focusing on privacy and security with Google Apps administrators and CIOs who had already migrated to the collaboration suite—and after many conversations with Dominion's C-level execs—Fuller gave a "final push presentation" to Dominion's execs, including the CEO, CFO and legal counsel, and ultimately won their approval.

"Their sale element was that this was a technological advancement for the company, Fuller says. "We didn't have a reputation for being on the leading edge of technology and this was an opportunity to do that, to be recognized by employees and do something that was ahead of the adoption point instead of lagging behind it."

Successfully Deploying Google Apps: 5 Tips

Fuller's deployment of 4,200 Google Apps accounts—which began with a 150-person pilot group in June 2010—is scheduled for completion next month, and its reception has been positive, he says.

"The feedback we have is between 90 and 95 percent positive. We expected people to cling to Outlook more than they did—there are only 5 people still accessing Gmail through the Outlook client," Fuller says.

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