Google has made major strides in making Google Apps, Google+ Hangouts, and Chrome devices more business-friendly, but they still have important enterprise obstacles to overcome.
Google is facing a monumental 20-year legacy of Windows hegemony. Currently, only 13 companies in the Global 500 are using Google Apps, according to Google's own numbers. More than any fierce competition, Google has to deal with an enterprise environment that is averse to substantive change. The recent VMware announcement shows that Google is taking steps to address customer concerns about migration issues and legacy software, but some of the issues have more to do with the enterprise than Google.
Here are three of the biggest barriers that Google will still have to overcome to grow their enterprise customer base.
1. Organizations are on auto-pilot
This is, perhaps, the strongest opposing force to Google in the enterprise. Big businesses like to "set it and forget it" in regards to IT. It takes a lot of work to get a business to run even somewhat smoothly, and the possibility of a change to a part of an organization as vital as IT can be perceived as a threat to that organizational sense of peace.
Tom Austin, a Gartner Fellow, said that for the vast majority of incidents, moving to the cloud is more secure than staying on premises, but organizations are still wary of the cloud. Most companies are loath to cede control of their data, even more-so in the post-Snowden era. This is why, according to Austin, roughly 70 percent of businesses use a Microsoft enterprise email client, while only 30 percent use Google.
This also explains why, according to a Tech Pro Research survey, 37 percent of XP users plan on continuing to use the OS after support ends and have no plans to migrate. Many times the people making the decisions opt for what they are comfortable with, or what they know. Although this isn't always a bad decision, it might not be best for an organization.
"Don't automatically assume you know what would be best for your users," Austin said.
Google could be a good fit for you company, but it will take some work to decide if that is the case. Austin recommends conducting surveys on employees' home product use and setting up user pilots for the non-IT crowd in your organization.
2. Adoption curve
Gartner's research says that cloud-based products hit the office in 2007. Seven years later, the adoption rate of these products is only 10 percent. The market is moving slowly, but according to a Google spokesperson, "58 percent of the Fortune 500 are now actively using a paid, enterprise cloud product from Google." That includes Google Apps for Business, the Google Cloud Platform, and the Google Maps Engine, among others.
As Austin noted, Google's cloud products help keep companies agile and make them less susceptible to being deadlocked by local software update. In spite of this, Google has to battle the concerns that slow the adoption of their products. The rate of change is high, the benefits are unclear, and the costs may be out of line for a large organization. most larger companies like to pay for something once, unlike the per month or per year options for Google Apps.
"Once you're in the cloud, if you stop spending, they shut it off like the electric bill," Austin said.
While terminal mainframe to enterprise client for email got to 98 percent adoption in 15 years, Austin isn't confident the cloud will get there by 2022. He is hopeful, however, that two thirds of the enterprise will make it to the cloud by then. This is based on projections of the current rate of adoption only, so there is a possibility that exponential acceptance of cloud products could move up the adoption timeline.
3. Lack of customization
Scheduling through Google Calendar isn't as robust as Outlook, Apps customizations for things like toolbars is minimal, and Google Apps updates are difficult to filter or opt-out of. TJ Keitt, a senior analyst at Forrester, said there are other standards and regulations to consider as well.
"Where Google does struggle in the enterprise space is with organizations that seek a higher degree of flexibility in cloud deployments, those that have stringent regulatory requirements and those that are wedded to processes and workflows that don't translate into the Apps environment. On that first point, Google Apps is delivered only as multi-tenant SaaS, meaning organizations seeking dedicated infrastructure or a highly customized implementation won't find a solution with Google.
"To the second point, prospects that have to abide by standards like ITAR find that Google is unable to address their needs because Google has chosen not to provide the operational structures those regulations require. And to the third point, organizations that have developed specific business applications on top of SharePoint or other systems may not be able to neatly translate those into the Google environment. "
Customization issues are really only going to affect the serious computer users and the IT department heads, but these are often the people that are instrumental in making decisions about products and services.
For Google to increase their share of the enterprise market, it will take work on their part, but will also take a substantial shift in enterprise culture.
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.