The General Services Administration made a bold decision to move its email and collaboration systems to the cloud. In the RFP issued last June, it was easy to see their goals in the statement of objectives:
This Statement of Objectives (SOO) describes the goals that GSA expects to achieve with regard to the
1. modernization of its e-mail system;
2. provision of an effective collaborative working environment;
3. reduction of the government’s in-house system maintenance burden by providing related business, technical, and management functions; and
4. application of appropriate security and privacy safeguards.
GSA announced yesterday that they choose Google Apps for email and collaboration and Unisys as the implementation partner.
So what does this mean?
What it means (WIM) #1: GSA employees will be using a next-generation information workplace. And that means mobile, device-agnostic, and location-agile. Gmail on an iPad? No problem. Email from a home computer? Yep. For GSA and for every other agency and most companies, it's important to give employees the tools to be productive and engage from every location on every device. "Work becomes a thing you do and not a place you go." [Thanks to Earl Newsome of Estee Lauder for that quote.]
WIM #2: GSA will save 50% of the cost of email over five years. This is also what our research on the cost of email on-premises versus email in the cloud shows.
WIM #3: Google gets a premier government client to learn from. What GSA learns, the rest of the federal government will want to also learn. Every other agency will be watching and waiting to see how it goes. I expect that a year from now, the cloud option, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and probably Cisco, will be on the short list for every major collaboration and messaging decision in government and the private sector alike.
WIM #4: GSA's decision sets the stage for additional cloud services. Once the transition is complete and employees are comfortable in the new environment, then other commodity services are sure to follow. Email and collaboration are good test beds for cloud services. So what else can run in the cloud? Many edge workloads, lots of content management solutions, and other commodity business applications are good candidates.
WIM #5: Focusing on the needs of employees will streamline the adoption and satisfaction. First, GSA is sure to focus on the needs of employees. As we've learned from other organizations that have moved to Google Apps, not every employee immediately understands or values the Web experience. Searching for email and using the Web interface takes some getting used to. By focusing on the needs of all employees, with good training, embedded learning systems, and "Gmail floor wardens" to work with employees, GSA will be successful.