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Salesforce, Google Show Fruits Of Their Collaboration

Application integration partnership is just one sign of growing momentum behind Google Apps.

Google apps aren't storming into businesses--adoption has been more like a quiet swell. Will integration with finally lead to a wave of demand?

The just-unveiled Salesforce for Google Apps combines Google's e-mail, document, instant communications, and spreadsheet apps with Salesforce's application environment, so users can easily access any of the tools within the same window. A user, for example, can enter an appointment in Google Calendar while reviewing CRM data in Salesforce. It's the second outcome of an alliance announced last June; at that time, the companies linked Google AdWords to Salesforce in similar fashion.

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Separately, Google is working with business intelligence vendor Panorama Software to give its spreadsheet more oomph in analyzing information from data warehouses and applications. And consulting company Bluewolf just announced certified training for Google Apps users and administrators.

A half-million businesses are using the year-old Google Apps, and up to 200 large companies, including Procter & Gamble and General Electric, are testing the software. But it's slow going. Capgemini, which partnered with Google last September to offer implementation services, has signed only one unnamed customer. Capgemini is close to announcing a second account with tens of thousands of users. That win will be "a tipping point in the industry," predicts Capgemini VP Richard Payling.

Bluewolf is similarly hopeful. Although it doesn't have much in the way of Google Apps consulting engagements either, where it does, CIOs are involved. "They're taking it very seriously," says VP Glen Stoffel.

Gmail Goes On The Blink
A glitch with Google's Gmail service on April 16 caused thousands of users to lose access to e-mail and chat for up to 30 minutes. The problem involved the IMAP interface, which supports access from multiple devices. Business customers were notified through an administration panel in Google Apps. Google eventually fixed the bug, sending word that "the issue is now resolved." However, the company didn't explain the underlying technical cause of the service disruption, leaving users to speculate on just what went wrong. Given the growing interest in Google Apps among business users, as shown by last week's tie-in to, Google's handling of the situation was less than satisfactory.
The integration with Salesforce makes for an attractive combination with which to approach potential customers, says Payling, but it also underscores the need for enterprise readiness. A Gmail glitch last week didn't help (see story, right).

Most of Google's Google Apps revenue comes from inexpensive $50-per-user annual licenses. There's no extra cost to use Salesforce for Google Apps, though optional Salesforce-provided IT support has a monthly fee of $10 per user.

The Schumacher Group, a management company for 2,500 physicians, licenses Salesforce CRM and third-party software through Salesforce's AppExchange service, and it runs some internally developed software on Salesforce's infrastructure. Schumacher's physicians use Google Apps as their productivity tools; CIO Doug Menefee is now considering Salesforce for Google Apps for support staff.

Yet Menefee hasn't bought into Google Apps 100%--he won't allow the exchange of patient information in Google Apps. "Until Google can say, 'This is our approach to HIPAA, and we're HIPAA-compliant,' we're going to use it for more back-office communications," Menefee says. The company continues to use Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange, which Menefee calls "proven solutions."

Menefee doesn't see Google Apps and Microsoft as an either-or decision. "It goes back to what's the business problem I'm trying to solve," he says. "I don't care what's hot."

That kind of measured view is what you want to hear from a CIO. Make no mistake, though: Google and Salesforce do compete with Microsoft, and that rivalry just got more serious.

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