Google Apps: not the next Sharepoint (please).

There is a very good article over at ReadWriteWeb.  While a lot of it is a familiar rehash of why Enterprise IT departments have a good reason to be circumspect about consumer technologies being adopted for enterprise use, it also summarizes Google’s strategy for marketing its Google Apps to the Enterprise pretty well … see the quote:

Google Sites the Next Sharepoint? Maybe Not….Why Google Apps Could Lose the Enterprise Market – ReadWriteWeb

Google is actually going about marketing to the enterprise market in a pretty ingenious way – they’re not. Instead, they’re bypassing the IT department (who would, in all honesty, probably laugh at the thought) and marketing their suite on the sly directly to the employees themselves: “Are the tools provided by your IT department too unwieldy to use? Is IT to slow to respond to your needs? Then forget IT and use Google Apps instead!” This is definitely a good plan for Google in the short term, but it’s not one that is going to be good for them in the long run…especially when IT catches on to what their users are doing.

It goes on to draw an interesting conclusion: that this is a marketing strategy so ingenious as to be evil:

There’s “power to the people,” (tech populism) and then there’s a total coup-d’etat. Google’s opting for the latter.

And this:

“No longer will IT departments be the enforcers of policy”.

The conclusion is that in the short term, this coup may succeed.  But in the long run, it will crumble as IT lowers the boom and enforces the use of  the sort of Enterprise software that requires its self-justifying intervention in a way that Enterprise 2.0 technologies do not.

The Scotsman disagrees.  That coming backlash is inevitable, but it is not the long term.  Over the long term … lets say 8 years ( about the length of the next administration in Washington … or a couple of graduating classes ) … there will be an ever-growing population of retirees at home struggling to get their Windows Vista Home Edition machines to run Sharepoint on their own.  They will not have the help of their benevolent IT overlords from their workdays.  They will not want to have their grand kids re-train them to use free-form consumer services. Have you noticed that about old folks?

By contrast, the Enterprise will be increasing reliant on fresh faces that can’t comprehend the notion that they are not allowed to access an office spreadsheet on their iPhone, and cut-and-paste into it from a spreadsheet they got from a friend on Facebook.  They will not accept re-training from their parents’ IT overlords.  Have you noticed that about kids today? 

These increasingly rare kids (whose smaller numbers will be paying the social security of their more numerous IT-staff-bereft elders at home) will be in demand, and have the luxury of working for a company innovative enough to let them use the tools which lets them be as efficient as possible. 

At some critical tipping point, HR will realize that hiring expensive IT staff to enforce an obsolete policy that drives away the most efficient employees is a terribly bad way to run a business.  Enterprise software companies have just that long to re-engineer their products to leverage the skills of the new workforce.

Google didn’t engineer this generation gap.  It didn’t plan the baby boom after WWII.  If anything it is guilty of being one of the first major players to recognize and prepare for the consequences.  That doesn’t make Google evil. Unless of course they actually do give us the next Sharepoint.

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Published in: on February 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I think SaaS based solutions like Google Apps do present a compelling alternative to SharePoint, at least for the SMB segment. They bring the same functionality relevant to small organizations – workspaces, document management, tasks, calendars, contacts, forums etc. Microsoft itself is trying to woo this market by offering a refurbished online version of SharePoint and Exchange – Microsoft BPOS. But it falls short on “ease of use” counts. We had recently created a comparison of Google Apps and Microsoft BPOS – http://www.hyperoffice.com/google-apps-vs-microsoft-bpos/


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