I love the idea of Google Apps. I mean, who won’t get into the idea of being able of being able to access their documents from anywhere? There are so many advantages to using Google Apps. You don’t have to invest in a costly data center to house your files. You can access your files from any web browser on any computer, as long as you’re connected to the internet. You don’t have to purchase new software upgrades every time they make an improvement. This list could go on for days. I suppose what I am trying to make clear up front is that I am not a hater. In fact, I am secretly rooting for Google; however, there are things that must change before I would move my organization in its direction.
First and foremost, Google has to get serious about customer service. It’s 2011 folks! Do we really want to regress in customer service? Lately, I have read numerous articles of nightmare encounters with Google support. People want to be able to access a human being when they have a problem. More than that, they want that human being to be equipped to assist with the problem.
Google seems to rely heavily on forums; however, for their premium options they do provide email support. When you peruse through these forums you see evidence of unanswered or inadequately answered questions. As an IT Manager, my end users will not put up with me not responding to their requests for a few minutes, much less for hours. I feel that I am not in the minority on this one. If I moved my organization to Google Apps, and my end users experienced some of the lackluster customer service responses that I have seen on Google forums, my head would be on a platter.
Second, Google has to be less haphazard when it comes to making changes. Recently, Google upgraded my Google Apps account. I was sent a very confusing email about how the users in my organization would be transitioned automatically to the new Google Apps. There were numerous links in there about how this would affect my users. Now, I probably need to explain that I have this Google Apps account for my personal domain. I am the only user currently in this domain. To make a very long story short, half of the Google apps that I use transitioned, the other half I had to create a separate Gmail account for so I could continue to use them. The worst part for me is that I use Blogger.com as my blog service. Now, I have to use a special account to manage my blog, which is separate from my Google Apps email. I am an IT Manager and I can barely navigate the instructions sent out by Google. I can’t imagine what a nightmare this would have been if I had 100 end users to deal with through a transition like this.
I hate to say this, but I believe Microsoft is heading in the right direction when it comes to cloud and offline file access. Google Apps are cloud only. Granted, up-time for most ISPs has gotten better, however, the reality is that all ISPs have outages. Also, as connected as our world has become, there are still places you can go where the internet isn’t accessible. It is in these cases where I question whether companies want all productivity to halt when the internet is inaccessible. To their credit, Google will allow you to download your documents in several formats, but I believe it would be in their best interest to allow you to download a portable app to go with it.
All this being said, Google Apps are a great innovation. I believe they are useful and forward thinking. However, being in the trenches as long as I have been, I believe I have a pretty good idea what small business users will embrace. Google you’re getting there, in my opinion, but I believe that you have some work to do to build customer service, trust, and a product that the average office worker will embrace.