From Microsoft to Google Apps: Why We Migrated

Journal Communications had always been a Microsoft-based company. But when IT systems needed to be consolidated, they reexamined their portfolio and became a Google Apps-based business. Here's how they did it and why.

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Tue, August 09, 2011

CIO — When Michael O'Brien joined Journal Communications in May 2010 as its new CIO, he had a stacked agenda. Journal Communications, a media company with operations in publishing, radio and television broadcasting, understood the industry was changing and looked to O'Brien to spearhead the transformation.

On his list: Harmonize and consolidate disparate IT shops, break down silos and question every process in place.

"When I got here, we had an IT organization focused on TV, one on radio and one for publishing. There were multiple instances of PeopleSoft running different versions in different business units," he says. "We had three to four flavors of phone systems and routers and databases that weren't talking to each other. We needed to consolidate, so we started with people, then processes and worked our way to systems."

In the first nine months on the job, O'Brien successfully consolidated the IT groups into one. With the people part of the consolidation complete, O'Brien and his team looked next to processes and systems. That's when it was time to scrutinize Journal Communication's contract with Microsoft.

O'Brien, who was always a proponent of cloud computing, had good experiences in the past with Microsoft in the BPOS environment. Journal Communications was about halfway through its agreement with Microsoft when he and his team had to take a close look at it.

"We looked at its investment and what it was going to take to upgrade the legacy productivity tools and legacy email and collaboration systems, and it was substantial," O'Brien says. "There was going to be a lot of hardware and software to repurpose and replace."

[Microsoft Office vs. Google Apps: The Business Brawl]

With that in mind, the next step, O'Brien says, was to consider other possible cloud solutions. This included Google Apps, which, O'Brien noted, had made "substantial strides" with their cloud-based portfolio of productivity tools. He does admit, though, before they considered the Google option he was not necessarily a "pro-Google person."

"The first time I introduced my directors to the concept of Google and getting rid of Microsoft, they looked at me like I had three eyes and thought I was completely nuts," O'Brien says. "[They weren't initially sold on] the idea that within a legacy manufacturing company—newspapers and all—we could get by without Microsoft productivity tools. They thought I was crazy, but were willing to hear me out because I was the new guy."

O'Brien first tested the Google Apps suite with users inside the IT department. The main objective: Determine how they could use the tool and how it would fit within the company. During this 60-day period, O'Brien says they migrated the IT team at various levels—some only had the browser component, others had just the Google toolset and others had access to the entire Google Apps suite.

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