Q&A: Google's VP of enterprise Amit Singh at Dreamforce '12

Q&A: Google's VP of enterprise Amit Singh at Dreamforce '12

Summary: Find out what one of the leaders of Google's enterprise unit thinks about the social enterprise revolution.


SAN FRANCISCO -- Although Salesforce.com and Google are strategic partners and use each others' services to some extent, the two are rivals when it comes to their approach to promoting social and collaborative technologies in the enterprise.

I had a chance to sit down with Google's vice president of enterprise Amit Singh for a brief chat at Dreamforce '12 earlier this week.

Here are Singh's thoughts about some of the biggest trends and topics in the enterprise tech space at the moment:

On the definition of social enterprise: This has been a tricky topic this year, as recent surveys from both Bluewolf and Appirio have found that many businesses still don't understand the concept.

Singh affirmed that he doesn't think the term "social enterprise" has been defined well either, remarking that "the category is still nebulous."

"My view on it is, traditionally, enterprises have organized themselves in silos," Singh said. "These silos have a pernicious quality to them. You get ossified. Collaborating across those teams is incredibly difficult."

Google's approach towards making the enterprise more social: Thus, Google has a different strategy and way of thinking when it comes to integrating social technologies at the enterprise.

Singh asserted Google's commitment to openness, citing the expansion of Google+ on Google Apps for business customers. The idea with the addition of the Internet giant's social network is to connect users within companies as well as allow them to connect with colleagues outside the company, partners, vendors, etc.

"We want this to be a platform that you can use both internally and externally," Singh said. "Imagine doing hangouts with customers. Closed networks like Yammer and others do that just for the company. But it has the ability to open it up for people in marketing, sales and PR."

Furthermore, Singh described that Google is trying to eliminate some of the boundaries between employees that might only be possible with social media.

"The idea of following people without boundaries and hierarchy is fascinating," Singh said, using the example that at Google, employees can follow CEO Larry Page and comment on a post just like they would for any other employee.

Future of Google Drive: Singh remained mum when asked about what new features we can expect from Google Apps yet. But he did offer some reflections about Google Drive, the company's venture into the personal cloud storage market that will likely face some new competition now that Salesforce.com has unveiled Chatterbox.

Nevertheless, Singh didn't seem worried.

"Drive for us is more than storage," Singh responded. "Drive is the way we store content, share content, and collaborate on content. It's multiple things in the same product."

Singh continued that by "building the rest of Google's technology into Drive," it can do more than other cloud storage services as well as serve enterprise customers in unique ways. One example is offering support and a commenting system for legacy files, such as those made in Microsoft PowerPoint.

Google's backup plans: Nevertheless, even though Google Drive itself is technically a backup option, there are companies that exist to serve as cloud-to-cloud backup services for Google Apps, among other platforms.

Singh replied that he has "never understood why they exist."

"We back up to so many tiers of backup to give you the service level, which is financially backed," Singh said. "I see no real logic for people backing up Google Apps. The whole point of a Google-based cloud product is that you don't need to do any of those things."

Image via Google

More Dreamforce '12 coverage on ZDNet:

Topics: Google, Cloud, Salesforce.com, Enterprise 2.0, Social Enterprise

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  • Backup of Google Apps

    Hi Rachel,
    Mr. Singh would probably be surprised to know that across the more than 5000 Google Apps backup customers that have used Backupify, there are, on average, 3.38 items restored per year per user. It is not an indictment on Google that this happens, it's just that user error, hacked accounts, and accidental deletion is real. I am sure our competitors would provide you with similar data.

    Rob May
  • Backup needs in Google Apps

    Rob is absolutely right about the need for Google Apps backup - at Spanning we see similar restore statistics amongst our growing user base. As Drive quickly becomes a standard for collaboration, the likelihood of one user mistake impacting business operations dramatically increases. If you accidentally delete a file in Drive will Google recover it for you? Most certainly not.

    Consider this support request we received from a Spanning Backup customer yesterday:

    "On 9/17/2012 Google had some big Drive glitch that caused its users to
    temporarily disconnect from the Drive, most of this went unnoticed
    (including in my office) but somehow I was working at the moment it
    happened causing a bigger issue. I then followed Google Enterprise
    Supports written instrucitons that Google later determined was missing a
    major component that made everything duplicate in my account and then hit
    its storage limit. What I need now is to restore to that point before this happened."

    Given that we have received strong support from the Google Enterprise team and received many Staff Pick reviews on the Google Apps Marketplace, this statement concerning the data protection needs of Google Apps customers is surprising to us.

    Jeff Erramouspe
    Chief Revenue Officer
    Spanning Cloud Apps
    Jeff Erramouspe