At Kimind we have accompanied for 1 year Valeo Group, a large international account, in the selection and adoption of Google Apps for the entire company, roughly 30,000 employees. It is a first time worlwide, because Valeo has chosen the brand new Google Apps, both the messaging dimension (gmail, calendar, gtalk) and the collaborative dimension (docs + sites) to replace Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes in 90% of their daily use. So far the large accounts that had adopted Google Apps on this scale had done it for one or the other dimensions, not both.

Our work was mainly divided into 3 phases:

  • The first step was a study of opportunity, around 3 axes: the vision at 10 years of the evolution of the office and collaborative ; the business impacts in terms of usage transformations for the employees; the losses or gains expected in terms of overall productivity for the company. The study, conducted in parallel with other actions concerning the choice of the solution (between Microsoft, IBM and Google), have resulted in the final choice of the Google Apps by the large-account.
  • The second step was to accompany a first Google Apps pilot for 3 months to assess the usage transformations on a smaller sample and evaluate actions for a massive deployment. The pilot quickly hired hundreds of people and has been quickly adopted by users.
  • The third step is the final deployment to all employees, which is in a phased path depending on different products, takeovers of existing, technical and organizational measures. Google Docs & Sites may for example be immediately deployed to all employees, but GMail and Google Calendar require a more gradual deployment to cover existing data imports from older systems.

The feedback is extremely rich. The first interesting point is the ease with which users adopt the solution as soon as their profits are introduced and demonstrated. Of course 100% of the needs formerly covered by Microsoft Office for example cannot be by Google Apps (complex Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint Slideshow filled with animations), but in fact we realize very quickly that:

  1. users are demanding the simplicity and ease of use in the information production and exchange with their colleagues. Once they understand that Google Docs for example offers these two dimensions instantly, they are ready to sacrifice some advanced uses of existing products to get the benefits of Google.
  2. At least 90% of normal daily use of an employee are covered by Google Apps. We can even say that 100% of the usages of a vast majority of users are covered by Google Apps. Only what we can call “power users” will need in some cases advanced features of Excel or PowerPoint (Word we put it in another category, because it is 99% very quickly replaced by direct online wiki or doc production). In this case we retain versions of MS Office for these people and uses it, which drastically reduces the need of licenses (one Google Apps licence costs 10 times less).

Unlike many ideas in this area, consisting generally to say that Google Apps is suited to small businesses but not to large accounts, this implementation proves in one hand our own studies in this subject (solutions like Google are the future of the office and collaborative areas) and in the other hand also confirms that Google Apps is perfectly usable for large-account, at very large scale, in place of Microsoft Office and any other collaborative solution.

There is one initial condition: having previously determined the necesary usage transformations to perform in the company from the old to the new paradigm, and implemented an adoption policy that allows the deployment for employees with the most ease possible while enjoying the characteristics of viral adoption of such a product.

The benefits are to go, not in terms of “better knowledge management”, “increased ability to innovate,” or any other qualitative argument difficult to quantify in the short term, but in terms of individual and collective productivity gains. Because in the end, and it is the credo that Kimind defends since its inception through the expertise of its consultants, it is at the level of the daily work productivity that the challenge of adopting these new tools is.

By simplifying the usage of new tools, promoting mass collaboration and instantaneous collaboration between employees (and beyond with immediate sharing with partners, customers or suppliers), it is the individual, group and enterprise level which improve their overall work processes, break the barriers accumulated over the years and disrupt bottlenecks that overfilled e-mailboxes and files servers have become.

It is extremely easy thanks to field interview conducted by Kimind’s consultants to make understand the protagonists themselves how much huge savings in time they will perform throughout the process transformation of informal workflows. Not only saving time but also the ability to perform tasks previously impossible because of the lack of real collaboration tools.

Therefore, a true usage transformation is happening, which induces a transformation of the organization and which must therefore be engaged by the top management to be quickly adopted.

Google Apps is currently the only solution focusing on such approach and delivering thses gains in productivity on a global scale of a large-account. No other solution offers a broad spectrum of functionalalities, even if they cover better small parts of this set.

But large accounts need a global solution, and Google Apps is so far the only operational alternative, which was demonstrated by the massive deployment and feedback. Other players like Microsoft and IBM will of course change it underway, but the transformation of their own architectures and minds are extremely slow throughout the evolution of these solutions, and the delays are significant.

In conclusion, Google Apps is perfectly adapted to the use of a large account, the problem is more on the ability for this large account to transform the usages and to realize that it can and must do so to unleash new levels of productivity.

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