Using Google Apps is a Potential Career-limiting, Company-limiting Move

Using Google Apps is a Potential Career-limiting, Company-limiting Move

Summary: I write this blog in partial defense of my friend and fellow blogger Mary Jo Foley, who had the temerity to post a blog claiming that recent analyst research may call into question the value of Google Apps for enterprise architects and other managers responsible for corporate-wide strategy. In her blog MJ cites a Burton Group report (which I unfortunately don’t have access to), and summarizes its main points, pro and con.

TOPICS: Apps, Google, Microsoft

I write this blog in partial defense of my friend and fellow blogger Mary Jo Foley, who had the temerity to post a blog claiming that recent analyst research may call into question the value of Google Apps for enterprise architects and other managers responsible for corporate-wide strategy. In her blog MJ cites a Burton Group report (which I unfortunately don’t have access to), and summarizes its main points, pro and con.

What follows are more than a few comments that are notable for their vindictiveness and just plain meanness. And more than a few exhibited an impressive inability to actually read and comment on MJ’s blog, though they were quite capable of launching ad hominem attacks on MJ in defense of their, mostly anti-Microsoft, position. And, more importantly, most of the critics, intemperate or not, were just plain wrong.

Indeed, the Burton Group only spelled part of the problem. It’s even worse than what MJ reported: Relying on Google Apps could be a company-limiting, not just career-limiting, move.

The reason Google Apps is limiting at the corporate or enterprise level is due to something I’ve blogged about before: the rise of Microsoft Office as the new interface to enterprise applications. This capability got its first big boost two years ago with the announcement of the joint SAP-Microsoft Duet product line, which was quickly followed by Microsoft’s own Office Business Applications (OBA) initiative, which similarly intends to front-end a tremendous amount of back-office ERP and enterprise apps functionality with Excel, Outlook, Word, and the rest of the Office gang.

But this trend has been building for a while, and is a fact that numerous start-ups have latched on to as well: providing an Excel or Outlook-based user experience isn’t just a good idea, it’s a recognition of where the market is moving with regard to expanding user acceptance and limiting training costs. It’s so much easier to get users to use the interfaces they use all day long – such as Outlook and Excel – then to try to train them up to a proprietary set of screens or portal-based windows that may be functionally “perfect” but still present a daunting learning and adoption curve for many users.

And herein lies the career-limiting, company-limiting aspects of Google Apps. So far as I can tell, Google Apps isn’t designed to fill these roles, and so far Google has no announced intention to do so. And even if they did, it would require doing a lot more than just posting a me-too suite on the Web. Linking Office to the back-office is a non-trivial task, and, in particular requires precisely the enterprise software chops that Google simply doesn’t have. And may never have….

So, you mean old MJ bashers, listen up. We all have reasons to hate Microsoft, some may even be valid. But Google Apps is not a one for one replacement for Microsoft Office, and to think, and act, as though Google Apps can fulfill that role is to be blind to the realities of Office in the enterprise. Providing productivity to the back office, as opposed to productivity on the desktop, is a lot harder than many, including Google, might realize.

Topics: Apps, Google, Microsoft

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  • Yes, you're absolutely right!

    I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. Even a small company which I recently started to help with their IT stuff were not too happy when they found out that their business materials (documents, e-mail etc...) resided outside the office.

    There is a far bigger picture and I think you have identified some of the key aspects of the integration between the pieces of a larger system that need to be taken into consideration.
  • So why the adoption of Office 2007?

    The UI is VASTLY different than all the previous versions.

    This creates lots of training costs. And at those costs, it becomes advantageous to look at alternatives.

    Unless MS is subsidizing the training, using the BS Training and familiarity excuse is pointless. If you have to retrain users on Office 2007, you may as well train them on Open Office or Google Apps.

    However, there are too many Brainwashed CIO's, and IT people to change. You don't need MS products to be successful.

    What you do need is someone that looks for the best solutions from a holistic view, not the one who goes for the most perks. MS sweet talks you, promises the world and delivers none of it.
    • I'm guessing...

      that you haven't overseen an Office 2007 deployment or worked as an Enterprise Architect.

      Fact is training costs related to Office 2007 deployments have been largely overblown. Users quickly find what they are looking for in their everyday tasks.

      Secondly, the fact that you are only looking at this from the client software perspective speaks volumes. The real power in the new Office System lies on the server side in providing a decent platform to provide document/information/services composition and to leverage their workflow technology to model business processes without having to roll your own.

      Combine that with the communications, reporting, etc. pieces as well and you will quickly realize that comparing Google Apps to MS Office System is a non-starter.

      The problem here and with MJF's blog on this is that people hate MS so much they are blinded to the good stuff they DO make.
      • MS Fud

        This is typical Microsoft FUD. If there is no training cost involved what has changed in Office 2007? Then why buy Office 2007 at all.

        But tell the same guys to switch to Open Office. Then they will say it will be more expensive because of training expenses.

        All these contradictory statements come from MS trolls to keep the Office as cash cow for MS.
        Van Der
    • Yes, Office 2007 is going to incur training expense

      Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't used it. I haven't used it beyond opening up each of the applications included in Office Enterprise Ed. 2007. Inevitably I'll learn Excel, Word, Outlook, InfoPath and Office Accounting 2007 from a delopment standpoint. Learning the standard interface goes along with that since I do often have to write UI code, and you want the user experience to be as seamless as possible.

      I do know people who have started using it though, long time MS Office users, and they've had trouble getting used to the new UI. No showstoppers mind you, but it is a steady learning process.

      As the story goes with people arguing that other office productivity packages could easily replace MS Office...a word processor is a word processor and a spreadsheet is a spreadsheet.. the only training involved is figuring out where things are. Microsoft is now in the position of having to use the same argument. This breaks down one of Microsofts primary arguments for continuing to upgrade to newer versions of Office rather than look at alternatives.

      The company seems to have waited until they were hooked into the current infrastructure strongly enough to be able to pull off this kind of move. The next few years will show if this calculation was on the money. I'm guessing that the office productivity software market is going to expand pretty rapidly with tier 2 and 3 ERP companies interfacing directly to MS Office and also to an open source office package. They'll do this because just enough companies will decide that if they're going to have trainng costs, they might as well defray some of those costs by getting the software for free. Even 3%-5% of the market would be enough to make that happen, and MS Office could concievably lose 3+% of market share because of a major overhaul of the MS Office UI. I don't think Google Apps is going to be the major competition, but somebody is going to step up to the plate. This is too big an opportunity not to.
    • Only if you have very simple needs

      can you use open office or Google apps. Sorry but the vast majority of corporate environments demand far more.
  • You're showing your age

    My daughters are very familiar with on-line apps. They don't use any desktop applications beyond a browser and AIM. They've grown up with GMAIL, MySpace, Facebook and the like. They will be part of the workforce shortly - to suggest that they and their generation will forever be locked into a MS-OFFICE interface is a bit shortsighted I'd say.

    Career limiting to use Google Apps?

    Nah, just ahead of the curve.
    Mike At VMI
    • PFFT...

      That's the stupidest reason I've ever heard for an architect to consider using Google Apps compared to MS Office.

      I can see it now. Yes Mr. CIO/CEO/CFO, we're going to use Google Apps to deliver our Enterprise LOB apps to our employees because my daughter's are using it and they seem to like it.

      Better get that resume up to date my friend.
      • That's kinda the reason...

        computers took over the workplace. Yes Mr. CEO/CFO (wouldn't have had CIOs then), we're going to start using computers now to handle the accounting because most of our office personel are learning how to use computers now and seem to like them.

        The sooner you learn this, the better. Technology bleeds both ways...both into the workplace from the home and into the home from the workplace. In almost every office I've worked in recently, some kind of chat application is always running on users desktops. People choose chat for quick communications over phone or email in the office. They'll use chat to talk to the guy one cubicle over. Most companies have just accepted this as a new form of communication. Right now the argument that companies are going to switch to Google Apps because their daughter is using it won't fly. If millions of peoples daughters start using it, that argument might have some merit. That millions of daughters are comfortable using web based apps may give it at least enough merit to consider. Maybe not be chosen at this point in time, but consider nonetheless.
        • That's BS

          Comeon, you know that's garbage.

          Try again.
      • Re: PFFT...

        Stupidest reason? Well thanks for your astute response, but I was contesting the blog's contention that nobody would move away from OFFICE since the "learning curve" is so steep. You must have missed that.

        So here's another, um, "reason": Hey Mr. CIO/CEO/CFO, I can get an Office-compatible word processor and spreadsheet for the new, fresh-out-of-college, employees. Instead of paying $400/copy for bloatware I can get it for about $50/year. That saves about ~$200K in software expenses for the next 1000 employees. And guess what? When MSOFFICE 2011 comes out, you won't need to pay extra for our internal IT staff to do the upgrade or for our people to be trained on the new interface. The online apps are upgraded constantly and seamlessly so it's not a culture shock every four years. Heck, in four years, it'll be bloatware too!
        Mike At VMI
    • Not really

      Online, Offline, no one, (including your daughters, I will guess) give it any thought whatsover. They will not pass up a job at a company that uses Office as it's "not online", nor would they give that much thought either as to most people, it's just "another piece of software software".

      When our employees stated entering in their daily numbers to the office via a web interface, no one got excited or thought much of it, they didn't even understand the concept, all they know is that they are just enetering numbers into a different software package.

      Where it really matters is the integration at the office with other software pachages and apps, something Google can not do with it's online apps.

      Doing apps online means nothing in terms of "experience". There's no curve to get ahead of. Period.
      John Zern
    • Yes, its ok for children

      and child like usage. But for serious (corporate) work on line apps just don't come close.
      • Word processing and spreadsheets are not serious corporate work.

        Corporations may have ECM (Enterprise Content Management) systems like Interwoven, but more typically you have people with limited technical skill using spreadsheets for databases and similar tasks. This is not very taxing (and a valid example of lack of training in application usage and tools that is prevalent in corporations). But I suspect that type of stuff (as well as corporate messaging or database management or any aspect of ERP or sales force automation of global operations management) is beyond your scope of knowledge and above your pay grade.
        • That's exactly what I was thinking

          Maybe for small shops people use MS office, but some good size coporation using MS office for corporate work like ERP system, I don't think so. Yeah, I would really hate to see us use excel for our CPOE system (and then see our physicians rebel)!!
  • Correct

    There are reasonable alternatives to MS-Office (yes, you can use without committing professional suicide; honest), but allowing 3rd parties to control your documents, ala Google Apps strikes me as being a highly questionable proposition.
    John L. Ries
    • when you trust Google with your email, the documents don't matter so much

      We moved corporate email to Google, and experienced a major improvement in spam reduction, better web GUI and so on.
      Personally I wouldn't want to go back to a non-web mail interface, I can see my mail anywhere.

      I have many documents in google apps, and it's great. I often use Openoffice, and our corporate corporate documents are in Microsoft Office 97 format. But Power users in particular are finding Office 2007 a very very unwelcome change.

      The link from our CRM is broken, and productivity has slumped.
      I'm personally going to remove my copy in favour of OpenOffice, since I see office 2007's contextual ribbon as an extension of "often used" menus in Office 2000 onwards, which i always turned off, because they were an inhibitor for power use. But you can't turn off the ribbon, so bye Office 2007.

      People who didn't use Office in depth don't seem to mind too much, but you could probably give them wordpad and they wouldn't know the difference.

      Hilariously, over the different versions of Word, I noticed that fields no longer automatically update on saving. This is so funny. Every release of Word, this breaks then works, then breaks, then words. (using our templates).
      • Training costs when Google changes UI?

        Interesting how you talk about productivity decreases in Office 2007 compared to previous versions. Essentially you're saying that your users would need training to become as productive with Office 2007, which thus is a cost.

        So what about web-based apps, when THEY control when the UI changes? Could you imagine if Google Apps did a UI change as big as the ribbon -- it would immediately apply to all users. Ok, with a change that big they may give you a time window (e.g. 1 year) during which you can postpone the UI switch to prepare yourself, but eventually you're gonna have to; they're not going to keep the old stuff around forever.

        But even on a smaller basis, what happens when Google decides to move a couple buttons around or move an option to some other page? There is a cost to that as well, and they are just going to change it without caring if it confuses up your users.

        Aside from the "document storage on Google servers" issue, this is the biggie for why web apps like this should only be used on corporate intranets -- that way a company can control costs related to issues like this by upgrading when they see fit.
        • IF

          If your company would take 1 year to train employees
          when Google makes a upgrade in Gmail or other Google
          Apps, then you should think more about outsourcing. If
          American workers cannot adjust to the kinds of changes
          Google makes every few months, then we deserve a crappy

          Now I understand why Microsoft is having so much trouble
          getting people to use their latest operating system. I
          thought it was just a poor OS, when it is really the high
          cost of retraining workers. Who knew?
          Tom Layton
  • Misunderstanding Google Apps

    If you really think that Google Apps is a "me-too suite on the Web", you really have no idea what you are talking about. It is a completely different animal. And I can tell you as an early Google Apps partner, once users "get it", they don't go back to MS unless they absolutely have to. Also, Duet-like capability for Google Apps is around the corner from companies like mine.

    Pitting Google against Microsoft may make good press, but the reality is that companies are much more interested in Google and Microsoft applications working together. We have written a white paper on this suject and built products around it. Take a look at