As part of our series of real world discussions with customers, we spoke to Craig Martin, Chief Architect and Director of Products and Innovation at Enterprise Architects, about why, after trying for almost a year to develop an effective collaboration environment with Google Apps, the firm switched to the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite from Microsoft Online Services. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Can you tell us about Enterprise Architects and who you serve?
Martin: Enterprise Architects provides consulting services focused on enterprise architecture. We are based in Melbourne, Australia, with offices in Australia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. We help Fortune 500 companies and public institutions around the world align their IT architecture with their business goals, train their architecture team, and recruit qualified employees from a global talent pool. We are staffed by a workforce of 90 people, and we also maintain a worldwide network of 10,000 architects.

Q: What led Enterprise Architects to adopt an online services model for its collaboration infrastructure?
Martin: Without the right tools for sharing the knowledge our consultants were generating, we were wasting what could have been tremendously valuable intellectual property. We wanted to connect our widely distributed consultants to collaboration resources that would make them feel part of the culture at Enterprise Architects and help them deliver an increasing level of customer service. In 2009, we adopted Google Apps, but we almost immediately started having problems, and after almost a year, we still didn’t have an effective way to manage and share knowledge across the organization.

Q: Why did you switch to Microsoft Online Services?
Martin: In 2010, we evaluated several cloud-based content management solutions, and we saw that, under a single monthly subscription fee, we could adopt the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite and combine the file-sharing, search, and collaboration capabilities in SharePoint Online with Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and Microsoft Office Communications Online. With Google Apps we never had the functionality we needed to make spreadsheets, documents, emails, and presentations acceptable for customers. It was difficult to organize a meeting or attach a candidate’s resume when scheduling an interview, and we had no way to jointly build and edit presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint, one of the most important tools our consultants use. We also struggled to integrate effectively with one of our core architecture toolsets, the Orbus iServer Architecture Repository for Visio and Office. But everything in Business Productivity Online interoperates well with Office 2007 and Office 2010, so our employees have the tools they know and need to collaborate effectively across business and geographic boundaries. 

Q: What kinds of benefits are you experiencing by using Microsoft Online Services? 
Martin: When we can find the right documents and people without wasting time, we can deliver projects under budget and ahead of schedule, and we can package that knowledge by developing templates, tools, and presentations that we can offer to our customer community. We can build even closer relationships with our customers and introduce even higher levels of service, which is going to impact our revenue goals. And when we took into account the extra services we had to adopt to fill the gaps in Google Apps, our business case showed that Business Productivity Online would be less expensive. Google was just not a fully integrated business solution, but with Microsoft Online Services, we can build comprehensive solutions based on established business technology.

Read the full story online and let us know if you’ve had similar challenges with Google Apps.