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How to successfully roll out additional features of the Google Apps Suite

You can't simply flip a switch and expect that your users will adopt new features seamlessly. It's important to follow a step-by-step rollout plan.
By David Politis

While a significant part of going Google is the initial migration to the Google Apps suite (primarily mail, calendar and contacts), Google has much more to offer. So once your IT department and end users adjust to life in the cloud, you may want to explore more areas of Google Apps like Google Drive, Google Sites and even Google+.

Though you're comfortable with Apps at this point, you can't simply flip a switch and expect that your users will adopt new features seamlessly. It's important to follow a step-by-step rollout plan to ensure the successful adoption and use of these new features in the future.

Determining the right feature to deploy

First, you'll need to determine the feature you'd like to deploy. Are your employees begging you to enable Google+ or maybe you want to encourage users to move away from Microsoft Office and use Drive instead?

Depending on the specific needs and policies of your organization, the feature you choose to rollout will vary. Here are some primary uses for features we see commonly rolled out following an initial migration to Google Aps:

●       Google Drive: Enable Drive to encourage users to switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs, to replace your organization's file server or to improve collaboration among users. ●       Google Sites: Use Sites to build a company intranet or to allow users to build project sites in order to collaborate with clients. ●       Google+: Turn on Google+ in order to replace products like Yammer or embrace Hangouts as a replacement for traditional conferencing services.

Developing a feature roll out strategy

While the tactics used to deploy Drive, Sites, and Google+ may differ, the strategies used generally remain the same. Below are some of the best practices for a Google Drive rollout, a feature that can truly cut costs by saving your company on Microsoft Office licenses.

  1. Start with the IT department: As a rule of thumb, it's always a good idea to first rollout any new feature to your IT department, where you'll have more control and hopefully more buy in. Specifically for Drive adoption, create some important documents in a Google Drive folder and share the folder with the IT department only. Ensure that all IT employees are accessing these files exclusively through Drive. If one of your goals is to eliminate the need for MS Office, ask this first set of early adopters to completely avoid Office (or even delete it from their machines). If there are certain tasks IT team members can't complete in Drive (like creating Visio-like files), look to install third-party apps in the Google Apps Marketplace.
  2. Locate Early Adopters: After your IT team is comfortable with Drive, survey your company (using Google Forms if you've enabled Drive before the official rollout) to locate early adopters - getting members of the management team involved here will also help encourage broader adoption later on. You can also use a third-party tool to pinpoint any passive Drive adoption based on how many Docs users have created. Passive Drive use usually signifies a good candidate for your early adopter group.
  3. Create an OU for Early Adopters: After finding your early adopters, place them into a separate organizational unit (OU) and enable Drive. If necessary, you can set up sub-organizational units if certain testers need access to services that other users don't need or shouldn't be able to access.
  4. Survey the Early Adopters: After a few weeks of using Google Drive, send out another survey (again using Google Forms) to your early adopter OU. The survey will help you determine what users did and did not like about using Drive. This information will help tailor your general Drive rollout.

Prepare for general rollout

  1. Designate Google Guides to help with broad rollout: These guides should be users in the test OU who are knowledgeable and excited about Drive and willing to teach others in the organizations how to use the feature. These individuals will help lighten the load on your IT team during the general rollout.
  2. Develop ways to get people using Drive: Setup useful Google Drive templates or share important company documents only on Drive to force employees to use the feature.
  3. Roll out Drive to your entire user base: When you push Drive out to your entire organization make sure the IT team and your Google Guides are ready to provide support. Be prepared to hold multiple training sessions and demos.

Gauging your success

After you've rolled out Drive to your entire organization, again use a third-party reporting tool to measure product adoption. If users have more uploaded documents than native Drive docs, more training may be in order.

Also be sure to celebrate your accomplishments. It's important to make this entire process fun and painless so more employees will be on board with the next feature rollout. Some organizations buy gear from the Google Store after a big rollout or you might want to offer prizes to users with the highest Drive adoption.

Bottom Line

Rolling out non-core features of the Google Apps suite will improve productivity in your organization and help you complete your transition to the cloud, while also reducing costs by eliminating the need for Microsoft Office licenses.

Remember that the role of a Google Apps admin does not end with the initial migration the Google, but continues to grow with every new feature Google adds to the suite.

David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud. BetterCloud's flagship product, FlashPanel, is the leading cloud management tool for Google Apps currently used by 20,000 organizations and 10 million end users. BetterCloud also powers Ask the Gooru, a Google Apps video tutorial help site. Follow BetterCloud on Google+ at bettercloud.com/plus.

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1 comments
Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Is your organization using Google Drive or Google Hangouts now? How did the roll-out of those features go - painless or painful?

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