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Google in the enterprise

Google currently does not have a professional services arm. Instead it works via a global network of partners. Some products have their own partner programs; more typically you will work via the Google Enterprise Partner Network that provides a support framework for Apps partners. In addition, support is available from consultancies small and large and with or without an official partnership connection to Google.

On the down side, several customers have reported that Google’s sales force itself can exhibit the arrogance that comes with successful products riding a popular brand name. Even though you now have a better chance to find a local office to contact and to be called by a sales representative if you fill out the forms on the Web site, you may find it difficult to get more than a demo out of the vendor. That is a stark
contrast with the sometimes nearly overwhelming attention you receive from more traditional vendors. The Google sales team is busy and if they need to fill out lengthy requests for proposals (RFPs), they may decide to focus on easier ones to complete—again a contrast and not necessarily a flattering one with other vendors in the same industry spaces.

Ultimately if you run into problems with Google Apps, support is usually not too far away. Most products have active communities (powered by Google Groups), and some also offer professional support. As an example, Google Apps Premier Edition comes with phone support and priority e-mail support. The Google staff seems somewhat overwhelmed by the bug reports and feature requests on the support forum on Google Groups. To their credit, though, many problems are fixed on short notice, and new releases follow in rapid succession. Wading through the "Something is Broken" discussion may make the product seem highly problematic, but, in fairness, the number of posts is high because most Google enterprise products see heavy usage, and most have already developed their own following. Although it’s fair to say that "support" has room for improvement, progress has been made.


Over the next few years, we expect to see many new additions to the portfolio of Google’s enterprise products. We also expect Google will rapidly develop some offerings, but also discontinue some services. In fact, a precedent was set when Google dropped Lively (an avatar-based collaboration service) in late 2008. Those readers who are using Google solutions with the "beta" label for business-critical matters should be cautious. Gmail, for example, might actually be the longest and most popular beta product in production, and in reality it seems unlikely that Google will discontinue Gmail, but the beta label should serve as a reminder that the product might still change substantially.

Google has some interesting and at times groundbreaking enterprise offerings, but they remain a work in progress. There are happy customers out there, and over time there will likely be more. Google has a role in many enterprises, but it will be a while before the Microsoft dominance will feel a flicker of a threat. 

Janus Boye and Peter Sejersen are contributing analysts to CMS Watch an independent technology advisory firm, solely dedicated to meeting the needs of buyers and users of technology. Google products are widely covered in its technology evaluation services.

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