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.

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