Why Enterprises Are Moving to Google Apps, Gmail

Google continues to win more enterprise fans for Google Apps, with moves like this week's announcement that users can now access Gmail via an Outlook client. Here's a look at how and why one customer, JohnsonDiversey, just made the switch to Google Apps.

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Just how much money will Hoag save? He says a "substantial amount," but it's also early in his process, so ROI may be hard to prove just yet. Other companies who have moved might provide him with some indication, however.

At the CIO roundtable, Avago's Rudy said his company has saved $1.6 million a year. In the U.K., not long after implementing Gmail and dropping Exchange, Taylor Woodrow, a construction firm, claims to have saved $2 million.

"The number one reason [for switching to Google] is economics," says Gartner's Cain. "$50 a user a year is a compelling price point. Plus, access to a lot more storage is a big issue for a lot folks. IT also gets off the upgrade treadmill."

By "upgrade treadmill," Cain is referring to the traditional model of software updates. Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes would take years to add new features to its e-mail systems; Google tweaks Gmail and Google Apps every week or two. For some companies, though, this can also be too much, too fast — something Google has become more conscious of during the past year.

"It is a bit of adjustment for some," says Rajen Sheth, a Google Apps senior product manager. "Anytime we roll out a change to Google Apps, we roll it out to millions of users, whether it be enterprise or consumers. So then they get a call in their help desk the next day. So we've added the capability to the administrative control where they can select whether or not they want the new, bigger things added immediately or not."

How to Move

Back in January, after Hoag decided on Gmail, he and his group thought about the best way to roll it out to users. Initially, his IT group thought about releasing Gmail in phases, as they would for many traditional IT projects. They were going to start with 150 users, primarily leaders and managers, and then move the remaining employees gradually.

The problem with that approach was familiar: If you have people of different platforms, the information traded between them doesn't talk as cleanly as you would like.

"That was our biggest lesson learned," Hoag says. "Get them on the same tool as quickly possible. So in March, we changed our approach. We scheduled to go live in May for everyone."

One question that often arises is what you do with old e-mails. Hoag says JohnsonDiversey deployed a tool that enabled users to choose which e-mail they would like to migrate over to the new system. Meanwhile, as the transition occurred, he said Google had people on site to help with the implementation.

For now, the ultimate goal is to get users acclimated to Gmail and chat (instant messaging). Eventually, while Hoag has no plans to ditch Microsoft Office, he hopes to use Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Google Sites (a wiki tool), to sunset old folder structures that were used for enterprise collaboration.

Hoag admits moving to the Gmail interface, which people have become used to in the consumer space, has put him in an unfamiliar place with regard to IT's relationship with users.

"Users feel like we've giving something to them rather than doing something to them," he says.

C.G. Lynch covers Google, Facebook, Twitter and Web 2.0 technologies for CIO. You can follow him on Twitter: @cglynch.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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