Google Apps optimize

Use the Google Apps Marketplace to scale Google Apps even further

Ian Hardenburgh explains the benefits of using Google Marketplace Apps to supplement standard Google Apps like Gmail and Documents.

Since its release back in 2010, the Google Apps Marketplace has blossomed from a repository of insignificant B2B web-based applications marginally associated with Google Apps, to probably one of the best reasons to start using Google Apps in the first place. Although not much has changed in terms of the ratio of free to paid apps, the apps themselves have continuously gotten better, as integration with the Google Apps suite of applications (e.g., Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs) has improved, and competition amongst developers has stiffened  -- mostly due to wider adoption and community support for the Google App Engine. So, if your enterprise is currently not using Google Apps Marketplace to scale beyond the scope of what Google Apps has to offer, you might want to begin examining it, as it could prove the means to mmerse your entire organization into the Google cloud.

Installation

Installation of a Google Apps Marketplace app is a cinch once you've set up your Google Apps account. It basically entails hitting the Add It Now button shown under every application's description page, and entering a rudimentary set of information, mostly concerning your Google Apps account. Upon completing application deployment, you'll be able to see and reference your app under your Google Apps domain dashboard, as well as set up access to and from it.

If for any reason you should have issues installing an app, see this help page.

Navigating the Marketplace

As easy as installation is, so too is navigation of the Marketplace. The intuitive layout consists of a three column layout, where upon landing on the Google Apps Marketplace home page, one might first notice a listing of application product and service types on the left.

Figure A

When clicking on a product or service type, a user is redirected to a new page where one can see a catalog of Top Installs.  Although it might seem tempting, it's probably best to ignore clicking on an application listed here, as it will most likely prevent you from assessing a greater number of similar apps that might be better suited to your needs.  If you select the See All link below the Top Installs listings, within the same center column, you'll be forwarded to a more effectual page that is relevant to your search.

Under the product or service type results page, a user can now refine his or her search by sorting applications by rating, how new the app is, and the amount of reviews the app has received. A user can also filter apps by some of the more commonly known or standard features of Google Apps Marketplace apps offerings, like single sign-on (w/ Google Apps user account), and mail integration.

Figure B

When viewing the app results that cascade down the center column of the product or service type results page, each app listing contains a title link that will redirect you to another page with a full description of the application, a list of reviews, and vendor summary and contact information. It is here where you can use the Add It Now button to begin the installation/deployment process of any given app, whether it would be a free, paid or trial version.

Prior to referencing an application title link within the results page, one can observe a number of key elements that help to describe the application, which might even preclude you from having to go to the full description for the application in the first place. This includes a brief yet often pointed description of the app, pricing information, the app review rating (based on one to five stars, as voted on by fellow marketplace users), and an inline display of those standard features mentioned above that can be filtered under the left section of the web page layout (e.g., single sign-on is indicated with a key icon, while the ampersand and calendar icons note contacts and calendar integration, respectively).

Figure C

Using the Marketplace search box

One can always use the Google Apps Marketplace search box to uncover a precise collection of apps. And so long as a user has a good sense for the kind of software he/she is looking to review, the feature is quite effective. For instance, a simple search for "CRM" will reveal an extensive amount of customer relationship management type apps.

Closing thoughts

Google Apps itself is an outstanding set of tools for both productivity and communication across an organization. However, it's often limited by the scope of the flexibility it can offer, largely due to certain enterprise activities that demand application customization, or workflows that aren't ideal for having their data stored and retrieved through a series of loosely connected and arbitrarily defined documents, calendar events, and/or e-mails. Therefore, Google Apps should be thought of as only part of the three-legged stool that is the larger goal - adoption of the cloud service. Along with standard Google Apps, such as Gmail and Google Docs, an enterprise can deploy a collection of Google Apps Marketplace apps that provide more the customization and flexibility required.

About

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

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