Living with Google Apps--at Google
Choice is Paramount
Nobody is forced to use the applications, however, with the exception of Google Calendar, because the company thought it best to standardize on one calendaring system. "Google is very much about choice over control, giving users what best works for them," Glotzbach said. Many employees prefer to use Microsoft Office or OpenOffice products, while others--including Glotzbach--use a mix of Google and non-Google applications. Similarly, using the Google mail client is optional, although the company does use its own back-end mail server.
Glotzbach couldn't say for sure what percentage of employees is using Google Apps, but said the uptake was "tremendous" when the suite was made available. "People tend to migrate to Docs & Spreadsheets for online collaboration just because it's such an easy to use platform," he said.
Glotzbach expects most employees are like him, spending about 80 percent of the time in Google Apps. "I'm 100 percent on Gmail and have been for multiple years; I'm 100 percent on Google Calendar and Google Talk is my only messaging client. I'm not sure if I'm stereotypical or not, but I'm most of the way." He uses both Office and OpenOffice, along with Docs & Spreadsheets, usually dictated by the format in which he receives a document.
Getting IT on Board
While it may seem that all this choice makes life more difficult for Google IT folks, Glotzbach said Douglas Merrill, who as vice president of engineering is responsible for IT, is on board with the idea. "[Merrill] says the role of IT is to empower the employee and help them get their job done," Glotzbach said. "He feels we can do that better by giving users a choice of applications to use than by dictating." While that may introduce some inefficiencies from an IT perspective, Glotzbach said, "Arguably, in an innovative, fast-paced environment, the benefits far outweigh the costs."
Desmond is events editor for Network World and president of PDEdit, an IT publishing company in Southborough, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.