Best practices for Going Google: Change management

This post is Part 3 of a five-part series detailing best practices for the process of Going Google.

By David Politis

You've configured Google Apps for your domain, created employee accounts, and conducted some testing on your own. Now it's time to give your users a chance to explore the suite. But don't set them loose without first providing some guidance. To make your migration to Google Apps a success, it's imperative to conduct the proper employee training and change management.

Understand users' familiarity with Google Apps / Gmail

Once you've create Google Apps accounts for every user in your domain, you should spend a couple of weeks (depending on the skillset of your users) just on change management. For employees who have never used Google Apps or Gmail for that matter, the switch will be jarring. In some cases, employees have used legacy software like Outlook for 10+ years, and to move away from that is a big deal.

To best understand how comfortable your users are with the move, you should send out a short survey asking questions like:

  • Have you ever used Google Apps?
  • Have you ever used Gmail?
  • Have you ever used Google Docs?
  • Are you looking forward to the move?
  • What features do you use most in [legacy system]?
    • Searching
    • Folders
    • Flagging for follow up
    • Sorting
    • Filtering
  • What will you most miss about [legacy system]?

If you don't have an easy way to survey your employees, consider using Google Forms. You can use Forms without switching email over to Google Apps (just make sure you uncheck the "require users to sign-in" box in the form). We've created a sample form you can use here.

During this time, you should also seek out influencers who can be advocates for the change. Influencers are trusted employees within your organization who already have a solid knowledge of Gmail or Google Apps and are excited for the move. Often times, a little positive peer pressure is all it takes to get everyone on board with the migration.

Review changes from your legacy system to Google Apps

After you've figured out the type of users you're dealing with, you can tailor change management training to fit the needs of different groups. Or if there are employees at different levels, consider breaking the workforce into teams - novice, intermediate, advanced, and so forth. If you have a large team and are conducting training in house, pull employees from the "advanced" group to serve as instructors. If you're looking for outside training and assistance, a Google Apps reseller can also be a great resource.

There are several stark differences between Gmail and Microsoft Outlook / Exchange (the most commonly used on-premise system). Make sure you're familiar with the differences and alert your users. Showing users how common tasks completed in Exchange translate to Google Apps will be invaluable. Some of the major differences are:

  • Conversations - Gmail collapses multiple emails in the same thread into one line in the inbox
  • Labels & Archiving - Demonstrate differences between labels in Gmail and folders in Outlook
  • Search - Demonstrate how to use advanced search and / or search operators to accomplish old Outlooks tasks in Gmail, like sorting by sender (instead, search for "")
  • Google Talk - IM service in Gmail that most Apps users come to love quickly

Conducting training sessions

As far as the actual training sessions are concerned, it's a good idea to break training into three to four different sessions, focused primarily on:

  1. Gmail
  2. Calendar
  3. Contacts / Google Talk
  4. Google Drive / Docs / Sheets / Presentations

Each session will likely run between forty-five minutes to an hour and you should be sure to include ample time for any questions. Make sure employees bring their own computers and sign into their Apps accounts to walk through each process with you. This hands-on training provides a great opportunity to bring in your influencers and employee experts for extra assistance. And don't forget to record these sessions for reference later on.

Provide reference material for ongoing support

After you've completed the bulk of user training, be sure to provide a resources site users can refer back to should they forget how to complete a certain task (a great place to house your recorded training sessions). You can set up a Google Site after you have created your Google Apps account, at no additional cost or, you can refer users to Google's help site.

In some larger companies, to make the training process ongoing and interactive, employees are able to submit their own tips and tricks and even training videos, which are sent to the entire company on a weekly basis.

Although providing an in-house resources site is one option, this process takes precious time away from other tasks. At BetterCloud, where I am founder and CEO, we've actually built our own Google Apps resources site, Ask the Gooru, which holds over 150 videos on Google Apps topics ranging from Gmail, Spreadsheets, Drive, Docs and more and includes videos for beginner, intermediate and advanced users.

For more advice on conducting the actual migration to Google Apps, stay tuned for Part 4 of this series.

David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the maker of FlashPanel, the number one cloud management tool for Google Apps, and the Google Apps resource site, Follow him @DavePolitis.

So far in the series:


It is very easy for the users to change with minimal training since they are most likely already using Google at home. Not so much for the older Windows administrators. Is it easier to change 1 or 2 administrators, or 1000 users that will have a very hard time with Windows 8? Of course the Microsoft consultants see the training $$ for maintaining the new monopoly, even if they don't know that OS X(10) has been out for 8+ years and it's not even the same as Android. Why would anyone try to compare a tablet with a full blown laptop in the first place? Anyway.... Google Gmail, Apps, and everything work on ALL platforms. The stability is there, the users are already trained, so the major deciding factor would be that it's multi-platform and device independent. Compatibility with open standards means that it'll run even on Win 8, Win 7 64bit, and Win 7 32bit, AND XP as well as everything else. So, yes, compatibility should be a concern, especially if you have ANY of the following: Android, Chrome, iOS, OS X, ANY Windows version, BSD, Linux variations in your enterprise. But, for ANY enterprise change this big with big risks, YOU STILL NEED A PLAN!


we have a tablet in the house with android and a laptop with windows 8 pro, so we can compare the two....they are world apart.....say the least;;;although the objective looks the same at a glance, but in reality not...if I as a entrepreneur should to choose between the two... I would still choose Windows 8 pro........why? compatebilty problems, I still get a headache when I remember the past between OS9 and Microsoft....

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

This is one area where companies have missed the mark - changing from Outlook to Gmail for example is not an easy migration. How much time did you spend on change management in your migration? Should you have spent more time and resources in this area?

Editor's Picks