A couple weeks ago, I got myself pretty grumpy over the growing conflict between the use of technology in education and state regulation. Essentially, electronic archiving and discovery rules in our state (and plenty of others) came down to one notion: if you can't archive it, don't do it.
So we can email each other. Great.
Google's Postini services make email archiving and retrieval a snap. Microsoft Exchange also handles archiving of messages fairly well, or rather, it handles the archiving perfectly, but retrieval is certainly more of a chore than it is with Postini. SharePoint 2010 goes several steps further, enabling e-discovery of documents managed within SharePoint.
This is a major weakness of Google Apps: what if I want my users to be able to create and share documents, but not be able to delete them (or create a workflow that automatically archives items users try to delete)? No can do. Apps already does a great job of tracking changes to documents and enabling collaboration, but aside from turning features on or off for a domain, there isn't much granularity to the control an administrator has over Docs.
Same goes for managing feature sets for subsets of users. If I want some of my users to have access to all of the features in Google Apps, but others to have email only, then I actually have to create a new domain to enable that. For example, theelite.mygroup.com and theoutcasts.mygroup.com would give me the groups I need, but now I'm managing two separate domains. While Google expects to add group management this year, the lack of enterprise-class management for administrators is a real barrier to adoption.
For small and medium businesses, this isn't too big an issue. Even for schools, the free web-based groupware (Google Apps Educational Edition is free to schools) is so compelling, that the management issues can be overlooked. I certainly overlook them in my day job as a public school district tech director and my users have really embraced the tools.
However, as organizations get larger, their management needs for communication, collaboration, and documentation become far more complex (and legally rigorous). An overhaul of the management interface and capabilities would go a long ways towards making Apps an easier sell to larger and/or heavily-regulated industries. Will we actually see these sorts of features this year? I sure hope so, because cheap, powerful, app-driven, and cloud-based or not, organizations have a growing set of expectations and needs that may not be addressable by Apps in its current state.
On the other hand, a few tweaks would allow us to provide functionality appropriate to user roles and, more importantly, comply easily and cheaply with document retention requirements that are difficult in the average SMB file-server/document share environment (i.e., without investing in SharePoint).