By David Politis

Companies switching to the Google Apps platform from legacy systems do so for cost savings and increased productivity and collaboration. The platform is very intuitive and easy-to-use, particularly if your employees have been using Gmail for personal email. However, there are some important steps to think about in order to set yourself up for long-term success and to ensure you and your employees are using Google Apps efficiently.

Determine your rollout strategy

When you decide to make the move to Google Apps, you’ve probably had many strategy meetings, conducted several cost-benefit analyses and surveyed the competition. But have you thought about how your users will react?

Depending on the demographics and size of your workforce, your Google Apps rollout will vary. If your employees are comfortable using Google products like Gmail, Docs and Google+, you’ll have no problem rolling out the corporate cousin and should proceed with a full product rollout to all employees. However, if your workforce has been using Microsoft Outlook or another legacy system for 20+ years and has limited knowledge of Gmail, the rollout should be conducted in stages – first enabling messaging – Mail, Calendar, Contacts and Chat – and then collaboration – Docs and Sites. In the latter situation, more formal change management and training is highly recommended.

Additionally, if you’re in a very large organization, you might want to roll out Google Apps to only a few dozen or few hundred workers. Try rolling it out to early adopters who will not only test out the product and determine if it’s a good fit for your organization, but can also act as evangelists for Google Apps, making a company wide move easier by effectively increasing the size of your support staff.

Create and set up organizational units

Once you’ve rolled out Google Apps to a large segment of your organization, it’s time to create organizational units. Organizational Units (OUs) help segment users by department or function. For example, you could create an OU for ‘Marketing’ or ‘Sales’ or even one for ‘C-Level’ employees or ‘Interns.’ Depending on the department or function, it may be wise to enable or disable different Google Apps features, which can be done after creating an OU. For example, turning on Google+ for the Marketing department makes sense, while it might not make sense to do so for your interns.

To create an organizational unit:

  • Log in to the control panel
  • Select the ‘Organization & users’ tab
  • Click the Add suborganization button on the right side of your screen
  • Enter a name and description for the new organization
  • Click the Add organization button

Once you’ve created the OU, you can begin adding users to the new unit. After you’ve moved users into the OU, you can turn different services on or off by clicking the ‘Services’ tab at the top of the OU users list.

Turn on two-factor authentication

We feel that enabling two-factor authentication is a non-negotiable. The feature not only makes individual accounts safer, but also better secures your company’s entire domain.

To turn on two-factor authentication:

  • Log in to the control panel
  • Click the ‘Advanced tools’ tab
  • Under Authentication | 2-step verification, check ‘Allow users to turn on 2-factor authentication’

Enable Google Apps mobile management

If your company has a BYOD policy, make sure you enable mobile device management. Using MDM, admins can configure mobile settings by OU, control which devices connect to the domain and view every device in the domain connecting via Google or Android Sync. Most importantly, if an employee’s mobile device is lost or stolen, admins have the ability to remotely lock or wipe the device.

To enable MDM:

  • Log in to the control panel
  • First enable device activation in the OU settings tab
  • Select the ‘Settings’ tab
  • Click ‘Mobile’ and select ‘Activation’

Enable the provisioning API

Now that you’ve determined your rollout strategy, created OUs and secured your domain with two-factor authentication, it’s time to enable the Google Apps provisioning API, which allows for the integration of third-party products with your Google Apps domain.

To enable the provisioning API:

  • Log in to the control panel.
  • Select ‘Domain settings’ and then ‘User settings’
  • Check the box next to ‘Enable provisioning API’
  • Click ‘Save changes’

Though this may seem like a no-brainer for companies looking to install third-party apps, we find about 50% of all domains that attempt to install one of our products has yet to turn on the provisioning API. Turning the API on before you try to install outside applications can save time during the installation process, but if for some reason you forget, you will be prompted (and required) to do so when you begin the third-party installation process.

Choose third-party applications

Once you’ve enabled the provisioning API, you can begin installing applications from the Google Apps Marketplace. Products in the Marketplace are provided by third-party vendors and range in functionality as well as level of integration with Google Apps. Whether you’re looking for granular user management, increased oversight over users’ assets or a replacement for a legacy CRM, the Google Apps Marketplace has over 500 applications to suit your needs. But all applications are not created equally. Make sure you do your research by reading user reviews, checking out the notable and staff picks applications, and most importantly, by testing out products (most apps will offer trial runs).

Bottom line

Following these six simple steps will set you on the path of long-term success in Google Apps.

Which step did you leave out your Google Apps implementation?

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About the author: David Politis is the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, the leading provider of enterprise class management and security tools in the Google Apps Marketplace. Follow David on Twitter@DavePolitis and BetterCloud@bettercloud.