Editor’s note: This is the second in a 2-part mini-case study series on Google Apps implementation.  Part 2 of the series was published February 2012.

Chances are, you’ve heard of Genentech. The Roche subsidiary has been around for a generation, and now employs over 11,000 people. In the Bay Area, it’s known for putting South San Francisco on the map, a city that is known as the hub of the biotech industry.

In the early days of Google Apps, Genentech was an anchor tenant for the then-new product. And they came aboard for a pretty boring reason – a broken calendaring system.

What happened next had big ramifications, for both Genentech and Google.


“In 2007 we knew we needed to replace our failing infrastructure and began looking at options,” Adam Graff, Genentech/Roche’s head of collaboration and Mobility said.

“We had come out of a very high-growth period, and knew we wanted to try to avoid implementing large, complex infrastructure that we would have to struggle scaling as our company grew,” Graff said.

In 2007, Google lacked an enterprise product used by large corporations, but Genentech approached them with the idea of using Google Calendar and Mail. Google immediately embraced the idea, and that started Genentech’s journey into the cloud. Today, the company even uses the Google Search Appliance, internally and externally.

By mid-2008 Genentech had fully integrated Google Calendar and Docs. By the end of 2010, they completed their final email migrations. Although the entire project took over three years, Genentech had a singular reason for making it through to the finish line: total integration.

“Google’s focus on innovation, tight integration between applications, ability to scale quickly, experience with the cloud and robust global cloud infrastructure were the biggest influences in our decision,” Graff said.

“At the time we knew we were making a bet on the future, and it’s paid off in many, many more ways than expected.”


Before we get all happy-go-lucky with the benefits of the integration, let’s explore Genentech’s backstory, and figure out what it really takes to complete an enterprise-sized integration.

“To set context,” Graff said, “we were the first large customer to migrate to Google Apps, so our migration strategy and timing were very different than what exist today.”

Genentech’s calendar migration took roughly nine months to prepare – including lengthy negotiations with their legal department.

“We switched over a weekend,” Graff said.

“Folks left on a Friday on one calendar system and on Monday they came in and started working in Google Calendar. We had the help of third-parties in our transition that assisted with the data migration process and organizational change management/training efforts, and Google also assisted with go-live day.”

Here’s where Genentech was really an early adopter. They used Google Guides – power-user employees who helped each team get up and running using Google Apps. This is when the Google Guides program was fairly new.

“We had a 1:10 [ratio of] Google Guides [to end-users], employee change agents, on the ground to enable us to successfully switch over on go-live day, and to reduce the load on our internal IT service desk. It was exciting and extremely successful,” Graff said.

Trickle strategy

Genentech also did a number of other things differently than the typical enterprise. They never enforced an “email ceiling,” or an employee inbox limit.

“Because we allowed for unlimited mailbox sizes, historically, our email migration took a bit longer and we used a trickle strategy, rather than big-bang,” he said.

Here’s what the “trickle strategy” looks like:

“We migrated in groups of about 400 per week in 2010, and had a robust training and change management program to assist folks with the change,” Graff said.

“We pushed the web interface as the primary UI for email, which meant a big adjustment for the majority of folks working at Genentech, who were coming from a more traditional email interface user interface, like Outlook, Apple’s Mail or Thunderbird.”


Whenever I meet with an enterprise that’s successfully deployed a collaboration suite, I always want to know how they broke out the phasing of the deployment. So many companies screw this up, so take note of how Graff breaks down Genentech’s rollout. This next part may not be especially “sexy,” but reading it could save frustration if you are part of a similar implementation.

Phase I: Planning, Preparation & Staging

This is where Genentech determined data migration and change management strategy and cataloged integrated applications. They also worked on data migration scripts and process, developed training and communication drafts, and developed integration interface replacements and migration scheduling. Quite a laundry list of activities.

Phase II: Pilot

This is where test migrations took place. User experience feedback gathering and incorporation also were executed here. Migration/change management processes were refined. This is also where the change agents (Google Guides) were informed and trained.

Phase III: Scheduling, Informing, and Training

This is very much a continuation of Phase Two, with a twist – scheduling migrations and informing and training end-users.

Phase IV: Go-Live

This is where the data migration was executed, and continued end-user adoption engagement occurred. Support and training continued, and bugs/data discrepancies resolution began.

Phase V: Continuing Adoption Support

This is where the long haul begins – the continued training and change management support for end-users continues for up to one year after completion of the initial migration.


Graff has a few tips on time management, and the importance of culture, during the migration:

“Don’t underestimate the time you will spend on scheduling end-users migrations, if you do not use a big-bang approach, and are a large enterprise,” he said.

“Make sure you have close partners in your various business units, who can assist with employee engagement/adoption.”

“Lastly,” Graff said, “your change agent network is critical to your success; ensure you keep them informed and engaged as you work through the Pilot, deployment, and continuing adoption support.”

In a few days, we’ll examine Genentech’s recommendations on how to work with Google’s Innovation cycle and how Google+ can better fit the business needs of enterprise companies.