Top tips for rolling out Google Apps

Migrating to Google Apps can lead to major efficiencies, as long as you don't expect instant gratification

Switching your users to Google Apps can cause mixed emotions among your workforce. Recent stories about its tax arrangements and the issues of privacy haven’t helped Google’s image.

On the other hand, its Apps suite is a cheaper and potentially far more efficient system, once users have been persuaded to accept it, according to some of the experts who’ve organised mass migrations.

Here’s some tips on overcoming the barriers to progress.

Among some users, Google is a verb that means either tax avoiding, privacy invading or searching.

Then there are the IT purists, who argue that Google’s apps are never the best available. There is no point confronting the pedants on this, concedes Ash Patel, Insight UK’s cloud business manager. You can concede that Google Drive may not be as good as Skydrive, and that Symantec and Forefront arguably have better security options, and that MessageLabs has superior archiving for enterprise users.

He says that the key point is: do you need the extra features? Many of us get lost when we have too many options. Remember the principles of editing: anything that doesn’t add, subtracts.

We get people to identify the jobs they want to do and show them how Google apps can work around them

Google liberates users by giving them a simpler structure, argues Patel. “We get people to identify the jobs they want to do and show them how Google apps can work around them,” says Patel. Let the users feel that you are re-engineering the apps around the way they work.

Migration Big Bang
The Grass Roots Group of 25 companies prepared for the switch over by migrating terrabytes of users’ email data (contacts, diaries, tasks) onto the cloud. While you are making the transition, you might as well go for the big bang and bring some other changes in too, says Danny Attias, CIO of Grass Roots Group. “We rolled out two-factor authentication at the same time, while users were in the mood for change,” says.

The company also got systems integrator Netpremacy to create a password propagation system, so that when users change their password on Active Directory, it changes for all of their passwords. The simplicity of this imposes a new discipline on users. “This has encouraged users to be much more password alert,” says Attias. So arguably, Google Apps can help improve security and lessen the load on the help desk.

Attias recommends using a systems integrator to tie up loose ends. “It’s not like the old days. They don’t even have to be on your premises,” he says.

User Resistance
There will be some user resistance. For example, the conversation view on Gmail has its detractors and some users find it fiddly. “That’s something that people have to get used to. You need to prepare them for the fact that it’s different and they are not comparing like for like,” says Attias.

Point out the advantages of Gmail. For example, once users get over the grief of a new interface, you can introduce them to advantages of Gmail, such as the archiving and retrieval and search facilities, that make storing emails much tidier. “You can use your Inbox as a to-do list,” says Attias.

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