Google Enterprise, I'm Not Impressed

You have great products and are a proven innovator, but it will take changes in thinking to conquer the enterprise.

Google is in the house! And it's staying for dinner. That was the message from Google Enterprise executives Michael Lock and Clay Bavor as they concluded their discussion with an audience of customers and potential customers at the recent InformationWeek 500 Conference.

How fortunate for me, I thought sarcastically throughout their presentation.

Google is important. I know. Google and Apple will become a critical part of our IT in the next few years. At some point in the not-too-distant future, most of our employees will access enterprise data from devices that don't run Windows. But it's going to be a bumpy ride.

It took self-discipline to look past the Google speakers' pompous attitude. I'm trying to be positive, but their repeated references to the fact that Google's consumer products pay for the vendor's enterprise product development--so Google simply can't lose in the enterprise--got under my skin.

It's all in the numbers for Google. Hundreds of millions of users can't be wrong. It signs up people for its software tools, and then it figures out how to make money. Enterprises can take it or leave it, and Google knows we will take it, the execs all but suggested.

I'm not so sure. While we're integrating consumer technology into our business, we also deliver many purpose-built systems to provide a competitive business edge. We depend on reliable, focused vendor support. We need to understand future product direction. We need partners that don't chase shiny new things for a living and understand the discipline of delivering shareholder value through risk-managed innovation and execution. (SAP, listen up.)

I don't think Google gets this point at all. Another CIO attendee at the conference questioned Google about its lack of a product road map. Bavor, Google Enterprise's head of product management, replied with some effervescent, hand-waving description of Google's process for creating incredible products of all sorts that increase productivity and generate a fabulous (or was it amazing?) experience.

And then Lock, the Google Enterprise VP, attempted to explain the vendor's development cycle. He explained that Google can't share much more than a six-month vision because it doesn't know what it will be doing beyond that time frame.

That's unsettling for an enterprise CIO. I could be part of the in crowd and say that I get it. But I'm not sure I do. It can take me six months to socialize (my favorite new buzzword) an innovation, and another six to implement it. Google, is that product going to be around after six months, or replaced?

The cynics will tell me I need to be a more nimble innovator and implement mass organizational change in a month or two. Fortunately for my employer, I realize the nonsense in this notion. Business change is risky.

Am I starting to sound like one of those "MBA types" InformationWeek contributor Jonathan Feldman referred to in a recent column on this same Google presentation? Jonathan asked if we MBA types really need a five-year road map to use Google's Hangouts for staff meetings.

That's stretching the point. Videoconferencing has been around for a while. Vendors chasing the consumer market, most notably Skype (now part of Microsoft), lowered the cost of and barrier to entry. However, consumer products such as Hangouts do little to address the network load implications and the change management required to truly engage an entire organization in videoconferencing. I could ignore the cultural reality and blame those who don't "get it" for resisting change, but marginalizing employees has ugly consequences.

I will take what I can get from Google, but I see a gap between what I need and what it promises. This is why my company recently switched from Google to Microsoft as the map provider for our customer portal. Microsoft was simply more enterprise-friendly.

Google, I know you don't care. As a midsize enterprise, we aren't even a pixel on your radar screen. I hope some larger enterprises are able to help you pave this road for the rest of us.

Google, you have some great products. You have market share, cash, and the ability to innovate. You also have the opportunity to change the world in many other ways, but it will take some adjustment in thinking and approach to conquer the enterprise. An attitude adjustment wouldn't be a bad start.

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