When Google acquired GrandCentral (acquisition #44) back in 2007, they were still pretty early on in the acquisition game. Four years and 62 acquisitions later, a lot of Google’s Enterprise customers are scratching their heads, asking, “What in the heck are we supposed to do with this.”
I probably make 50 phone calls every day, and I speak to a lot of enterprise businesses. I’d say that 10% of them are currently using Google Voice, but it’s on an ad-hoc basis, and most of the executives that I talk to that use it have no clue how to integrate it into their enterprise phone systems.
On a consumer level, the service has been reasonably well-integrated since its 2009 launch. If you go to any phone store and pick up any of the new Android phones, it’s clear that the best features of GrandCentral live on, and exist fairly seamlessly in the consumer electronics device.
Here’s the weird part: if you take your snazzy Android and google “Google Voice for Enterprise,” all that comes up is a low-key link to the Google Apps Blog from about a year ago explaining that Google Apps users can use Google Voice. This post slipped under the radar, and didn’t get a ton of attention when it was released.
Enterprise Google Voice
Truth be told, integrating Google Voice with your corporate Google Apps account isn’t really all that challenging. You just need to ask your Google Apps administrator to enable the feature - it takes about four clicks to make that happen.
The upside of using it for the enterprise, is that it all of the voicemails and phone calls that may normally go to devices that are not owned by (or “tethered to”) the enterprise, are now archived. For security geeks (or security nuts, depending on who you ask), this is a good thing.
The downside, here, is a murky disconnect between enterprise IT hardware assets and IT software assets - Google Voice creates a sort of communications silo, as Google Voice communication basically lives on a cloud-based email server, when a company’s voice communications (i.e. archived voicemails) live on either an on-premise box, or perhaps somewhere else in the cloud, but probably not in Google’s cloud.
So here’s the nightmare scenario for the CTO and the CIO. The company gets into legal hot water, and e-discovery begins. Upon being asked to hand over an entire department’s telephone and voice communications, the CTO realizes that the voice communications and text messages are distributed over the corporate phone system, Google Voice, and dozens of personal cellular phone accounts. This doesn’t sound like fun, and it also sounds like a legal nightmare for the company involved.
Integrated voice information plan
So, what’s a smart CTO or CIO to do? Come up with an integrated voice information plan. One way to do this is by planning and deploying Google Voice on a corporate level. And the challenge for Google is to at least come up with some basic best practices around the issue.
A scan of the last two years of Google Voice blog posts reveals a couple that hint at enterprise use cases, like the relatively recent Google Takeout service (which allows mp3 export of Google Voice). In the Google Voice forums, there seems to be one thread dedicated to Google Voice for business.
Overall, it seems like Google wants Voice to play in the rest of the Google Apps suite and co-exist with its better-supported applications (Calendar, Mail, etc.). But if they want it to happen, they better at least start acting like a second-rate PR firm and string together some positioning, messaging, and perhaps a single-page PDF of best practices. Without it, Google Voice may be non-starter for enterprise in 2012.