Texas BBQ Chain Uses Google Apps To Collaborate

Bone Daddy's House of Smoke lets executives and hundreds of employees collaborate in the cloud by moving to Google email and Google Apps.
Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns
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Google Apps offers many tools for collaboration, but for small to midsize businesses (and probably a lot of other businesses) the allure starts with email.

That was very much the case for Bone Daddy's House of Smoke, a barbeque chain based in Addison, Tex., that operates four restaurants with a fifth due to open in December. IT Director Doug Wittrup said he had previously been managing email with a makeshift arrangement that included a hosted installation of Microsoft Exchange for executives and simple POP3 email accounts for their assistants. "Whenever we had a message that had to go out to everybody, it was tough to see who got it and when they got it," he said.

Many of Bone Daddy's 600 employees such as waiters and waitresses had no access to the company's online communications, Wittrup said. "Collaboration in our world should come from everybody, but the problem was everybody was not connected. So the question was, how do I cost-effectively bring everyone into the fold?"

The hosted Exchange service he had signed up for only provided 250 MB of storage per inbox--a far cry from the 25 GB included with Google Apps for Business. Google Apps includes a version of Gmail you use with your own business domain, plus group calendaring, document sharing, and discussion groups. Google offers it to businesses of all sizes, but it particularly appeals to small to midsize businesses.

To make the transition, Wittrup sought help from Cloud Sherpas, a Google Apps consulting and implementation specialist. Wittrup said he probably didn't absolutely need to bring in outside help for the transition but doing so helped him ensure that the data migration from Exchange was completed properly.

"I could probably have done it myself, but then I would have been working without a net," Wittrup said. Cloud Sherpas also provided valuable training videos that helped users get comfortable with the Google environment, he said.

The transition started with a pilot project in late December to early January, where five executives began to transition to Google Apps. "Each one of those people had veto power--if any one of them had said, 'This will not work for me,' we would not have moved ahead," Wittrup said. But that veto never came. Most of the technical problems with the transition had to do with the way they ran the Gmail and Exchange mail servers in parallel initially, where the overlap caused some glitches, he said.

Bone Daddy's still doesn't pay for a company email account for every bus boy, but it does have the ability to host Google Groups discussions and invite those people in. "For those who don't have an account in our Google domain, we can just ask them to get free Gmail accounts. So that's a way we can make sure everybody, no matter what their level, is on board," Wittrup said.

Google Calendar is proving valuable for things like coordinating catering schedules, and Google Docs is increasingly important for file sharing within the company, Wittrup said. At least initially, he doesn't plan to decommission any of the company's file servers, however. There are still documents like spreadsheets that are best managed outside of Google Docs, he said.

Bone Daddy's also uses restaurant industry specific cloud applications, HotSchedules and CrunchTime, which Wittrup would like to integrate better. One way of doing that would be to use Google Sites to embed feeds from those applications into a scheduling dashboard--a project that looks simple enough that he plans to handle it in-house, he said. "If I'm a restaurant manager, I can open that up when I come into work to see everything I need to run my ship that day."

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