Google Apps optimize

The largest enterprise Google Apps implementation I've seen - Part 2

Adam Metz shows us how Genentech implemented an enterprise-wide installation of Google Apps, including the obstacles overcome along the way.
Editor's note: This is the second part in a 2-part mini-case study series on Google Apps implementation. Previously, we profiled how a large enterprise plans for Google Apps. In this part of the series, we'll examine how large enterprises implement a Google Apps installation. On February 16, 2012, Dr. Alan Hippe, CFO and CIO, the Roche Group, parent company to Genentech announced that it was adopting Google Enterprise as its primary productivity suite.

The challenges of a gigantic implementation

Rarely is a Google Apps implementation so large that it yields a two-part article. This is the second of a two-part article about Genentech's 2010 Google Apps Implementation, one of the largest ever.

When Genentech implemented Google Apps in 2010, their deployment was not without challenges.

"Our biggest, ongoing challenge is keeping up with Google's innovation cycles," said Adam Graff, Roche's Genentech/Roche's head of Collaboration and Mobility.

Google doesn't exactly play like the other SaaS vendors, according to Graff. They roll things out on an ongoing basis, rather than in planned, quarterly bursts (a la Salesforce).

"We have a robust ongoing change management program for Google that works to inform end-users of upcoming changes so that folks are ready and comfortable; however, Google is different from other platforms."

"Change is continual (and change is good)," Graff said, "[but] getting our end-users comfortable with this can be challenging at times. Over time, however, Google has made great improvements towards advance notice and informing their Premier Apps customers well ahead of major changes, so that our end-users aren't surprised and can cope with change."

There are some big differences between how a typical Microsoft shop looks, two years post-Google, and how Roche/Genetech looks today, according to Graff.

"Genentech has always been a bit different," Graff said, laughing.

"We never used Microsoft's Exchange or SharePoint collaboration platforms. Does our business run differently than before we were on Google? Definitely."

And Genentech's big "Google surprise" came from an unexpected part of the Apps platform.

"The biggest surprise for us has been with Google Docs and Sites. We did a soft-launch with zero training/change management for both of these products in late 2008, and by mid-2009 we had 20% of the company using them."

Adoption curve

Google Docs also had a quick adoption curve at Genentech.

By early 2010 the company had 30%, and today, they have over 70% of the company using Docs on at least a weekly-basis. Graff was able to pull this off with almost no training/change management.

The Genetech team has been impressed with Docs.

"The use cases abound, from using it as a simple replacement of a traditional, complex document management system to running very complex business processes," Graff said.

Although Graff's team is not currently using any super-sized Google Apps For Domains apps like GetSatisfaction, WorkDay or ScheduleOnce, they have done a lot of internal custom application development on top of Google Apps, using Google's open APIs.

Calendar

Integrations aside, the big win for Genentech was something simple: calendar and instant messaging.

"For us," Graff said, "this [was] simple: we needed an integrated collaboration and messaging solution as we were on fragmented, very old separate calendar and email systems. We didn't even have a standard instant messaging infrastructure/client. For us, having this integrated experience was revolutionary."

Then, of course, there's the "cool factor" of doing it from the cloud. Well, at least it was really cool in 2010.

"Being able to turn on services, literally, at the flip of a radio button," Graff said, "is like science-fiction. Gone are the days of having to plan for complex, lengthy projects that involve infrastructure build-outs, geographical distribution planning, and all that."

"We just spin up a small project to handle change management/training, plan for when we flip the switch and we're done. I can't even imagine going back to the old way of doing IT," Graff said.

Wish list

There are still a few features that the Genentech team would like to see.

"The biggest [thing] right now for us, Graff said, "is an enterprise version of Google+. As it stands, we can't enable the service due to the risk involved with having our employees' profiles and streams publicly posted. We also need to be able to electronically 'discover folks' streams for legal purposes. We'd love to have better social graph reporting for Docs and eventually Google+."

Then there are a few Microsoft-era features that the end users miss.

"Our end-users really miss 'sort' in Gmail," Graff said. "We're still working with folks to get them comfortable with search, which really is much more powerful. This is a major paradigm shift for some folks. Since we are a part of a larger conglomerate (The Roche Group), we'd really like to see more work done to address domain federation - for example, allowing users in one domain to share a doc with all users in another domain, calendar free/busy across Google domains. Google's multi-domain management capabilities (e.g. sub-domains) don't cut it for us."

To reach Graff with more enterprise Google Apps questions, send him a tweet. [twitter.com/adamjgraff]

About

Adam Metz is the VP of Business Development at Metz Consulting the social concept, a social customer management-consulting firm, based in Oakland, California. Metz has consulted with companies since 2006 on how to acquire, manage, monetize and retain...

2 comments
link470
link470

Is having no Replied To indicator next to the email. You know the one, the icon or symbol that shows you've replied to an email. Nope, not there. For me, this is a HUGE feature I miss from every other email client I have ever used. Because if I have 50 emails in a day from clients, at the end of the day, I want to easily look at my inbox and know exactly which emails I've replied to without the use of manually adding a label or a star. In Gmail, there's absolutely no way by looking at your Inbox to tell which ones you've replied to without cross checking every single email with your Sent folder. I personally turn off Conversation View in any email application I use so I can see each email as it was sent, and I realize that if you have Conversation View on, you see a (#) next to emails that you've replied to. Great. But what if there's a long conversation and someone double-emails in the conversation [sends 2 or more consecutive emails], you can no longer say "oh, every (even number) email means I've replied". Anyway, I get around it with different star icons, but it would be awesome to have this extremely basic feature included...and the Forwarded icons while they're at it :) The only real work around is to use a mail client instead of webmail.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What features not currently available in Google Apps would you like to see implemented? Are the challenges faced by Genentech similar to the challenges faced by your organization?