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Google’s “Simple and Affordable” Siren Song

Google’s “Simple and Affordable” Siren Song

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Google’s claim that Google Apps for Business is “simple and affordable” reminds me of the irresistible song of the Sirens in the Odyssey.

It’s hard not to be swayed by low prices and bargains. Yet the reality is that many businesses lured by Google Apps promise of “simple and affordable” are finding that it’s a false promise.
Many organizations who’ve adopted Google Apps have discovered that the “simple” solution is actually bare bones. Either enterprises use the bare bones version, and pay in lost productivity. Or they pay for the additional time and cost of implementing add-on features that may not be well integrated with the core offering.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Simple or Bare Bones?
Google claims that Google Apps is simple, and often criticizes Office as too complex; the company maintains that the average person only uses about 10 percent of Office features. According to Dave Girouard, Google’s former vice president of product management: “The technology should be only what you need and nothing more…More features, more functions are not always a good thing.”

The question is which of the 90 percent of Office features would you do away with? The 10 percent of features used by a financial analyst may be totally different from the 10 percent of features used by a policy analyst. Although no one employee is likely to use everything, chances are that, as a whole, your organization is using most, if not all, of the features.

Office is designed with enterprises in mind. We’ve worked with enterprises for more than 20 years to understand what functionality they need and use on a day-to-day basis, and Office delivers on those needs. No wonder 9 out of 10 companies that adopt Google Apps continue to use Office at the same time—they miss the functionality that keeps them productive.

Missing Basic Features
The reality is that Google Apps provides just bare bones functionality. From the inability to filter email to the inability to track changes, it lacks even the most basic features that enterprises need and expect.

Just ask BCBG. The premier fashion brand at first used Google Apps, but it soon discovered that the capabilities were adequate for fewer than 25 percent of its employees. “Google Apps had nowhere near the rich functionality that Microsoft Office would provide,” says Kent Fuller, Director of IT of IT Services at BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP. “The rest of the company relied heavily on Office products, and it would have been a huge business disruption if they were to use Google.”

The security company HSS had a similar experience. “Employees found that Google lacked a number of important features,” says Marina Johnson, Chief Information Officer at HSS. “For example, they were unable to sort mail by sender or subject and found the Google Mail label system cumbersome. They weren’t able to mark messages that are very important and require immediate attention. We didn’t realize how much we would miss Office features until we didn’t have them.”

No wonder IT leaders maintain that Google “still isn’t a corporate contender.” In a recent survey by The Corporate IT Forum, well over half of the IT heads from large UK companies said that Google’s missing features—especially when compared to mainstream offerings such as Microsoft—are a “barrier to adoption.” 

Affordable? Take a Closer Look!
Google also claims that Google Apps is affordable. It may seem so on the surface, but when you add in lost productivity and the need for extra products, companies soon realize it’s a false promise. As Tina Parfitt, head of IT for the construction firm VINCI PLC, put it: “Although Google may appear less expensive at first, it costs money to support and run it.”
The digital marketing agency Atominx, initially adopted Google Mail “because it was easy and it was free.” But as the organization hired more people, employees discovered that Google couldn’t keep up with their collaboration needs. “Once we had four employees and six freelance designers trying to collaborate with just the very basic email and chat tools in Google Mail, it began to feel restrictive,” says Myles Kaye, director at Atominx. “We pieced together other collaboration solutions, such as Windows Live Messenger and the Dropbox document-sharing web service, but we were working from too many IDs in too many different places.”

Rookie Recruits, an Australian-based recruitment firm, also discovered that productivity waned with Google Apps.  “Almost immediately, our team began to complain about Google Apps,” says Andy Springer, the firm’s co-founder and director. “They felt that Google Mail lacked the familiar tools they had come to depend on in Microsoft Outlook. The Google Mail add-in for Outlook was difficult to install and only added a layer of complexity to sending and receiving emails. We were concerned that it would impact the level of service we provide, or even affect an opportunity with an employer or candidate. We just couldn’t afford that.”

A Sweet Siren Song
No wonder so many companies switch to Office 365 after trying Google Apps. The promise of simple and affordable may sound alluring, but it’s just a sweet siren song that doesn’t pan out.  

Don’t be lured by Google’s false promise. Even if it means tying yourself to a ship mast and putting wax in your ears, in the end you’ll be better off.


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