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

Find out what one of the leaders of Google's enterprise unit thinks about the social enterprise revolution.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

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

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