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Going Google

More than 2 million organisations worldwide have moved to Google Apps cloud-based productivity applications. CIOs discuss why they decided to ‘Go Google’ and the implications for their operations

It is 8pm midweek and three senior executives at Altium are working on a document they need first thing the next day — a presentation to staff about behavioural change. The program manager is editing text; the company president is asking questions about the program; and CIO, Alan Perkins, is answering his president’s questions.

Overnight, the three compose the team brief with an FAQ ready to go next morning. All standard stuff except that each executive is in his own home working simultaneously on the same document in different colours.

As Perkins relays the story his enthusiasm for the technology that allows such collaboration — Google Apps — is evident. But Perkins is no Google evangelist. He emphasises that what might be a perfect operational and financial fit for Medium Software is not so cosy for Big Pharma, Big Manufacturing or Big Oil.

“I've told Google what I think it can do better and I tend to be brutal,” Perkins says. “They hear me.”

Altium, a developer of electronics design software with 350 staff, was the first company in the world to recognise salesforce.com as a business platform which, along with Google Apps and Amazon Web Services, form the three pillars of the company’s global IT.

I've told Google what I think it can do better and I tend to be brutal

“We’re with these companies because we believe in a future that enables people to leverage the technologies they offer,” Perkins says. “We don’t look just at what a vendor’s products can do. We examine the underlying philosophy.”

Perkins is unashamedly pro cloud. So is Macquarie University (MQU) CIO, Marc Bailey. He is part of an IT team that in recent years migrated 68,000 students and alumni, followed by more than 6000 research, teaching and administrative staff to Gmail.

Perkins and Bailey are indicative of the growing band of CIOs who, looking to simplify their IT environments with cloud computing, have chosen Google for many enterprise applications. As have the CIOs of Mortgage Choice, AAPT, NZ Post, Jaguar Land Rover and Konica Minolta.

MQU was the first university in Australia to offer Gmail to its students and alumni in September 2007. At the time, it joined a select group of universities worldwide, including Trinity College in Dublin and Nihon University in Tokyo, in providing Gmail on campus as part of the Google Apps Education Edition.

Yet for every CIO who has joined the Google vision of enterprise computing, there is at least one who has rejected it for Microsoft’s. The University of Canberra, the Australian Catholic University, Queensland University, Flinders University, Curtin University, and Sydney University have all chosen Microsoft’s Live@EDU. They are among the many organisations that believe Google Apps is not ready for prime time. Not yet.

Next: The case for Google Apps

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