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Google's Angle in Enterprise Communications

Last week in Orlando marked the first time Google took to the main stage for an Enterprise Connect keynote. Attendees packed the room, with many expressing curiosity over whether the company would use the opportunity to announce a major move in the enterprise communications space. Well, it didn't, and while attendees had mixed opinions on this, none I spoke with could go as far as to say that Google didn't belong up on the stage.

Personally, I felt keynoter Adam Swidler, technology evangelist for Google for Work, delivered a lot of interesting information in the keynote. While much remains a mystery about Google's role in the enterprise communications space, a closer look at the presentation could help us make a few educated guesses.

Bringing Google Hangouts to Work
Swidler opened his keynote by noting how Google has turned Google Hangouts into a viable enterprise tool by implementing a three 9's SLA uptime availability guarantee without maintenance windows; adding ISO 27001 certification for information security management and SOC 3 for security audit and compliance; and providing 24x7 tech support.

"These are the things that have, I think, really enabled Hangouts to legitimately be considered as a tool for enterprise communications," Swidler said.

It would seem that Google has been laying the groundwork for a bigger push into businesses with its application suite, ramping up features to enterprise level, in part through strategic alliances. As examples, Swidler mentioned Switch Communications and Esna Technologies as two companies producing services integrating Google Apps with other platforms and technologies like Cisco and Avaya.

Mobile Disruption
Rather than divulge new products and alliances, Swidler instead took the opportunity to share how Google views major trends impacting the enterprise. He spoke of mobility, productivity,

Mobile technology is disrupting our world, Swidler said, noting how it's disrupting the industry, changing the way we work, and "de-unifying communications." It's hardly news at this point that tablet and smartphone sales outpace PC sales, a trend largely fueled by the different refresh cycles of the devices. But Swidler shared statistics showing just how dramatic the change is: 4 billion people buy mobile devices roughly every two years, dwarfing the 1.6 billion people buying PCs every five years.

In another statement of the obvious, Swidler noted how the rise of iOS and Android have pushed Microsoft out of its leadership position in the market. He shared data from a presentation by Benedict Evans titled "Mobile Is Eating the World," with information taken from Gartner, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia and Blackberry:


This highlights how Google sees itself rising in the industry on the wings of mobile, while more legacy players struggle to adjust to changing times. This concept of younger companies having an advantage is something that Google, and many others, like to emphasize.

By 2020, another 1 billion people are expected to come online, Swidler shared, "and virtually all of them will do it on smartphones. So forget about laptops and PCs." Mobile devices make up half of all consumer electronics sales.

"Mobile is literally eating the world," Swidler said. "We've become dependent -- some might say, in love -- with our devices. How many of you sleep with your device next to your bed? How many of you check your device before you say good morning to your spouse or your kids?"

As someone who falls asleep cuddling with my smartphone every night, and someone who suffers a minor anxiety attack every time I see a "battery critically low" alert but no power outlet to be found, I not only see the significance of mobile, but also experience it. It does not surprise me that Google would see mobile as the angle through which to really make its impact in the enterprise.

"Suddenly we're all connected," Swidler said. "We're all not just able to communicate, but in addition to our voice and our thoughts and our collaboration with others, these [mobile devices] are loaded with sensors. They're absolutely going to continue to change the way we live our lives and the way we work."

The Evolving Way of Work
Swidler shared data from a U.K. study looking at the different ways adults and teenagers communicate.


I found this data to be particularly interesting, because, as a millennial, I am constantly reminded of how differently my generation communicates than, say, my parents' generation. If email and phone use diminishes as more millennials enter the workforce, it's not that big of a stretch to see the role of social and messaging continuing to grow in the enterprise.

We are entering a phase of a work culture of continuous productivity, with access to new tools allowing businesses and employees to focus more on improving execution, Swidler said. Further, the "mobile technology revolution" is impacting the way that individuals and teams work.

"When the time between meaningful interactions of members of a team decreases, that allows us to go from problem to solution more quickly," Swidler said. "We're now able to respond to changes using copious amounts of data that are coming in about how are users are consuming our products and our services. And ultimately, when you provide transparency and visibility and access to information to all of the people on a team in an organization, you strengthen that organization."

The Digital Advantage
One thing Swidler made clear is how real the "digital advantage" is in business, as he stressed how this mobile/digital revolution is going to touch every business across every industry. Companies need to be thinking about how they can internally disrupt and innovate the products and services they are delivering in order to stay competitive.

The below slide is based on "The Digital Advantage: How digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry" from the MIT Sloan School of Management that looked at 400 large organizations from around the globe, categorizing them according to their digital maturity. The businesses in the most mature classification, enjoyed the following benefits.


So how do Google Apps fit into the digital transformation? The below slide gives a pretty nice snapshot of how the company's applications factor into the new way of working in the digital workplace.


"Google, of course, provides very significant platforms for you to undertake this journey toward digital maturity," Swidler said. "Everybody is on the journey anyway – it's just a matter of are you moving fast, are you moving slow, are you thinking about how to accelerate."

With a strong base of applications that can be leveraged to achieve this new work state of continuous productivity, I expect Google's influence in this space to only continue to grow.

You can watch the full Enterprise Connect keynote from Google's Swidler on our video page. What do you think we can expect from Google in the enterprise space moving forward? Share your own thoughts and predictions in the comments section and let's start a dialogue about it!

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