As part of the Real World Microsoft Online Services series, we spoke to Christian Kuttler, Director of Information and Communication Technology at Center Parcs, about replacing Google Apps with the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. Here's what he had to say:

 

Q: Tell us about the Center Parcs business model.

Kuttler: Center Parcs popularized the concept of a "short break" vacation experience. Each of our resorts provides an all-in-one getaway, combining luxury lodging with unique indoor and outdoor activities—set in the midst of beautiful forest acreage. From their rustic private cottages nestled in the woods, guests can explore nearby hiking trails and lakes, or stroll to first-class spas, restaurants, and shopping venues.

 Q: What were the biggest challenges Center Parcs faced with Google Apps?

Kuttler: We welcome 36,000 guests each week to our resorts, so we need to provide employees with effective communication and collaboration tools. We initiated a proof-of-concept deployment of Google Apps to 250 of our employees. We found that a significant number of employees spent considerable time learning the Google Apps interface or compensating for deficiencies in the tools, which meant they had less time to create documents and manage projects.

 Google Apps worked well for small teams creating documents that required simple formatting. But when our finance group needed to collaborate on a complex budget document, for example, Google Spreadsheets lacked the sophistication we needed, including all of the formatting shortcuts and analytics capabilities that we were accustomed to in Microsoft Office Excel. With Google Spreadsheets, the more complex the document, the more unstable it became.

 Q: Why did you switch from Google Apps to Microsoft Online Services?

Kuttler: Given our direct experience in experimenting with it for more than a year, it was clear that Google Apps is simply not yet ready to be used as an enterprise solution. It lived up to the promise of discounted costs in the beginning, but it didn't deliver on long-term value; in fact, the cost in terms of lost productivity consumed any up-front savings we achieved by moving to Google Apps. After taking a closer look at the hosted solution from Microsoft, we recognized that it offered true value and gave us a stable, reliable platform for growth.

Q: What kinds of benefits have you seen since Center Parcs started using Microsoft Online Services?

Kuttler: When we used Google Apps, I had employees standing in my office saying that they'd given up, that they could not use the applications to complete certain tasks. Now that we've moved to Microsoft Online Services, I don't have that problem anymore. Through our use of the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, we've increased employee productivity by a minimum of 20 percent; we've achieved this by giving employees access to high-performance, on-demand tools so that they can work together to meet the needs of our guests.

 You can read the full story online and we invite you to join our upcoming TechRepublic Webinar  on October 14th to hear from other customer's like Center Parcs who found Microsoft a better fit for their business than Google Apps.

For more success stories like Christian Kuttler's at Center Parcs, read other real-world testimonials on our whymicrosoft website.