In recent months during many meetings with clients of all sizes I have seen a huge surge in curiosity and consideration for Google Apps for Business from organizations looking to bring a consumer centric user experience into their business workspace strategy to reignite their communication and collaboration capabilities by adopting Google’s feature rich mobile and social collaboration cloud-based productivity apps suite.
Google’s relentless innovative DNA has greatly amped up their enterprise collaboration solution stack over past couple years by releasing Google Drive, Google+ and Hangouts for meetings into the Google Apps productivity suites along with hundreds of ongoing updates every year to all of these applications already in use by millions of users. They also released a rapidly evolving browser based real-time communications protocol called WebRTC as an open source standard that’s going to put a dent in the collaboration universe, in my opinion, the only thing left for debate is how long it’s going to take WebRTC to sink its teeth into the market. The new Google Drive pricing and Google Apps add-ons just announced last week has already created waves around the industry and makes an already solid collaboration stack even more compelling for enterprise customers. On flip side, organizations love these productivity tools but many are now asking how they can they integrate Google Apps for Business into their overall communication and collaboration strategy to deliver a total collaboration experience for their users. This quickly raises many questions and confusion on how integrate Google Apps with existing enterprise voice aka Unified Communications (UC) investments. Fortunately, organizations can quickly implement the total collaboration solution they need while avoiding large capital expenditures by integrating cloud-based unified communications (UC) and collaboration tools, such as Google Apps and CDW Cloud Collaboration (CCC).
This exact need for a total and seamless cloud-based collaboration experience is why CDW started working with Google Apps because one of our first CDW Cloud Collaboration customers, a large existing enterprise Google Apps for Business customer, asked for help on how best to integrate their existing Google Apps productivity tools into our hosted CCC. This kicked off a flurry of activity on our side. The vision early on was to bring our enterprise UC and Collaboration integration expertise with our proven IP Telephony infrastructure to seamlessly integrate CCC with the user centric Google Apps. We quickly saw by bringing the two cloud-based platforms together we could deliver a win/win for the immediate customer need and future opportunities.
Here is what we found were the resulting portfolio of this integration:
Google Apps for Business would bring to the solution stack:
- Gmail – Intuitive and powerful email, already loved by hundreds of millions of users at home.
- Drive – Real time sharing and simultaneous editing makes collaboration as easy as creation.
- Calendar – Designed for teams, Calendar helps teams stay organized and find time together
- Google+ – Share ideas and build relationships across your business and throughout your ecosystem of customers, suppliers and partners
- Vault – Archiving, retention, and eDiscovery.
While our CDW Cloud Collaboration offered:
- Enterprise scalable call control
- PSTN Trunking
- Secure IM & Presence
- Unified Voice messaging
- Industry standard HD video
This led to an amazingly fun journey helping develop our new cloud-based total collaboration solution bringing together Google Apps for Business and CDW Cloud Collaboration solution offering over the past year and ultimately led to our recently announced Google Apps for Business partnership.
It’s been very interesting to observe the shift in customer discussions over the past few months while traveling across the country speaking at several CDW customer events and meeting with many enterprise clients who are using or will soon be moving to Google Apps for Business. Customers have brought to light many common use cases such as:
- Field sales scenario where remote sellers wish to use secure tablets and cell phones to stay connected to the data and expertise back at the mother-ship while meeting with the customers.
- Human Resources departments looking to leverage HD Video to make interviewing candidates easier.
- Marketing team working on new campaign with vendors outside of the organization.
All of these use cases sound rather simple on the surface and should be easily achievable with Google Apps for Business but once you start peeling back the layers, key design considerations start to pop up. Here are just a few initial design considerations that often arise as business look to leverage the Google Apps productivity tools:
- Every session on Google Apps is going to consume internet bandwidth which could have major impact on a large enterprise size business who has central internet services for multiple wide area network connected locations. Suddenly they are forced to consider adding local internet egress points for every location to reduce the WAN burden but this opens up its own can of worms from a security perspective since now there are even more external borders on the network which really complicates things for IT organizations that are already struggling to support a BYOD fueled field sales force. Not to mention a potential overhaul of their enterprise wide LAN/WAN Quality of Service design to prioritize the business critical Google Apps traffic.
- Hangouts sound like a great solution for use cases like our HR example but the caveats quickly begin to emerge again for large enterprise organizations. Every Google Hangouts+ session even when users are in same office attempting to collaborate peer-to-peer are each going to tail-hook back to Google thus consuming much more Internet bandwidth then many originally expect. Then most HR managers want to use existing HD video conferencing investments in the office but there are few solutions available today that’ll bridge between standards based HD video and Google Hangouts+.
- Hangouts also does not support XMPP federation like the older Google Talk and pretty much every other enterprise IM solution supports which greatly limits B2B collaboration such as our Marketing example where IM federation to contacts outside the organization would be rather difficult with Google Hangouts messaging.
In many situations Google Apps for Business on its own can solve many business needs while also raising some major challenges for enterprise customers. That said, I’m not looking to poke a bunch of holes in Google Apps rather I’m simply bringing up these important design considerations to underscore why its so critical for organizations who are looking to drive a collaboration culture with these consumer centric productivity tools to start by first developing an enterprise collaboration strategy framework tied to specific business line use cases. I’ve found with proper design and planning up front we can address and resolve just about all of the potential caveats while delivering on the original vision of a user centric cloud-based total collaboration experience.
CDW can help organizations fast-track their efforts to adopt a Google + UC total collaboration user experience and reduce if not eliminate many of the common caveats by migrating customers to our CDW Cloud Collaboration hosted platform and seamlessly integrating into Google Apps for Business. Let me know if you want to discuss more about Google Apps and the pro’s and cons and how you can integrate the robust productivity suite into your existing UC & Collaboration strategy to deliver that seamless total collaboration experience your users are probably demanding from you. You can comment or if contact your CDW AM to set up time to discuss about what your Collaboration Strategy!