Following the announcement of the Google and Cap Gemini tie up, Mike Krigsman, Vinnie Mirchandani, Phil Wainewright and I peppered Steve Jones Cap Gemini's head of SOA, and Michael Donner, VP, Global Head, Demand Generation – Outsourcing Services with questions about the deal. While each of us has our own agenda, we were left with more questions than answers. We are not alone. Mary Jo Foley has a stack of questions. In an effort to parse what we believe this means Mike, Vinnie, Phil and I held a follow up call.
Mike and Phil will no doubt opine in due course and I won't pre-empt their thoughts. Vinnie has given his opinion, considering this a lost opportunity for Cap Gemini to change the consulting game:
Google Apps provide a bunch of functionality, hosting, storage all for $ 50 a user a year. Outsourcers like Cap charge that much a month for help desk, desk side type services. I was hoping Cap would tell me how Google has inspired them to change their own delivery model. But there was little of that. Like I have written about EDS before - little overt change in their own business model.
He is right. When pressed, neither Steve nor Michael were particularly forthcoming about how they'll make the deal pay for Cap. Vinnie is more concerned that at heart, Cap is a hardware and infrastructure support player so is wondering how they will successfully pitch this offering as a viable play. Reading the consulting language laden white paper, I can see why. It starts and stops with 'infrastructure' Wrong play. They should have started with and made much greater emphasis of the collaborative argument they used on the call when talking about a change of emphasis from supporting hardware to enabling people. My concerns are more pragmatic.
Mike and I see Cap's move as a way for it to ride the Web/Office/Enterprise 2.0 wave before its competitors come charging in. Google Apps threatens desktop support consultants because it obviates the need for patching and upgrades and so calls into question the need to pay Cap's $50/month support tax. Google's offer of 10GB storage included in its annual $50 fee alone eliminates one line item though I'm sure Cap will argue it enhances storage management requirements.
But it is in the spaces where Cap believes the offering works best that I really struggle. It argues that:
- Power users will find great utility in the value add that comes from collaboration.
- Acknowledges that's already happening
- Believes there is a need to control where GAPE is deployed, especially where there are regulatory issues
- Microsoft Office and GAPE will co-exist, this is not rip and replace
- Currently disenfranchised users will benefit from email and IM applications but need training and roll out services
At a general level, Vinnie wonders whether Google Apps really will usher in an era of collaboration. As he says, we've been talking about this for years. I'm a lot more hopeful because the cost bar to collaboration has pretty much been eliminated. (Lotus Notes shops aside.)
Cap's position will annoy 'bottom up' Web 2.0 purists but as Phil pointed out during our conversation, it is still very difficult for SaaS to overcome the way IT buys services. Cap may well serve as the conduit for introduction but even so, I was left scratching my head. If I'm a power user and am already using GAPE why do I need Cap other than as surrogate policy maker? That's not a huge consulting play.
At the disenfranchised end, I can see limited training opportunities but then I'd have to ask the question - what's wrong with 'train the trainer' approaches for software that is far easier to use than spreadsheets and word processors and which is already part of the wider consumer landscape?
The co-existence argument is much harder to figure. I've been living in 'the cloud' for well over 18 months yet most clients still ship Microsoft documents and spreadsheets. It's annoying. Google doesn't always parse Microsoft's Word formatting correctly so the argument you could use both successfully is one I find hard to swallow unless users start with collaborative documents created in Google Docs. If they do that then why bother with Word unless there are fancy formatting requirements?
When I'm creating documents, they are easily shared with others and are PDF formatted with little difficulty. That doesn't represent an issue to my clients. If anything, it has encouraged some to look more closely at Google and similar offerings. Long, detailed documents are much more difficult to create successfully in Google Docs but then I'd use a wiki. The spreadsheet is an altogether different story. Power users in financial institutions and the broader accounting communities won't touch Google Spreadsheet. It's just not up to snuff.
Stand back for a moment and it is easy to see how large enterprise IT could be faced with its equivalent of management chaos. Having spent years achieving control and equilibrium, I just don't see IT buying this. It may be faced with no choice but Cap's offer will have to be stand out for it to fly. It didn't take Microsoft more than a New York minute to work this out. In an unsolicited repsonse to the offering which Mary Jo replicates, Microsoft says:
Google apps don’t have essential document creation features like support for headers, footers, tables of content, footnotes, etc. Additionally, while customers can collaborate on basic docs without the above noted features, to collaborate on detailed docs, a company must implement a two part process – work together on the basic doc, save it to Word or Excel and then send via email for final edits. Yes they have a $50 price tag, but with the inefficiencies created by just this one cycle, how much do GAPE really cost – and can you afford the fidelity loss?
There are other issues. When I asked about Google's chaotic licensing arrangements, both Steve and Michael fluffed it, saying they'd work it out on a customer by customer basis. I got the impression they have not done enough to help Google understand enterprise issues. Although we didn't touch on this element, I'm sure Microsoft/SAP Duet shops will resist this offering like the plague. Whatever they do, process integration will become a major issue but there's very little meat on that particular bone.
In fairness to Cap, it would have been hard for them to present a fully coherent picture at this stage. Google apps is an evolving product set. Cap desperately needs whatever Jotspot evolves into to make the collaborative discussion more tempting across departments. Google Spreadsheet really is a baby product and I doubt it will get more than a handful of takers. Gmail has a lot of potential for adoption as does GTalk if for no other reason than ease of use. I was surprised there was no mention of Google Reader which has clear utility for knowledge workers.
But the real problem is with Cap itself. The US is the market of opportunity but it doesn't figure as a top 10 outsourcing player. Worse still, it's missing a trick by not signaling a fundamental change in the consulting model. On the other hand, this move makes it look cool in the eyes of Web/Office/Enterprise 2.0 aficionados. How long that lasts remains to be seen.