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.


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]