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What's Google's Move on Cloud-based Collaboration?
In the last two weeks, we've gotten major announcements from two of the three biggest players in the space where communications and cloud-based productivity intersect. Last week, Microsoft made its long-awaited announcement providing details on the next release of the communications components for Office 365 E5; and this week, Cisco amped up its Spark product, announcing that it would enhance the cloud platform that supports Spark and signaling that it intends to compete with Microsoft (and potentially its own Hosted Communications Service, HCS, channel partners) as a cloud communications provider.
That leaves Google.
Google has yet to make any splashy announcements around the integration of communications with Google Apps and the potential use of Google Hangouts as a more enterprise-ready communications tool. But we're getting clear signals that Google is very interested in this market and fully intends to be in the ring with its rivals.
On the pure Google Apps front, the company did fire a shot across Microsoft's bow: In October, Google announced an offer to switch Office 365 customers to Apps for Work and waive Google's monthly fees for the service through the duration of the enterprise's Microsoft contract. When it comes to the communications component of Google Apps for Work, the signals aren't as loud but they are pretty clear: Google is putting itself out there.
We're hoping the picture will get even clearer when Adam Swidler, Google Technology Evangelist, returns to the Enterprise Connect keynote stage at our Orlando 2016 event. Adam will be joined on stage by Greg Meyers, CIO of Motorola Solutions, and Craig Walker of Switch, a Google partner company that provides a communications platform that integrates with Google Apps. Motorola Solutions is Google's highest-profile case study for this type of integration, and Greg will talk in detail about how the deployment came about, how it went, and what comes next. (Incidentally, Motorola Solutions is not the same as Motorola Mobility, the company that Google acquired and later sold off.)
I was able to get a bit of a preview of the Google Apps-communications integration story at the recent UC Summit, where Adam did a presentation together with another customer, Pete Wayne, CIO of Oscar W. Larson, a Michigan-based fuel services business that services underground storage tanks. The 70-year-old company has eight locations in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, with $80 million in annual revenue and 350 employees.
The project started when Oscar W. Larson needed to upgrade its email and so faced a decision of whether to continue on a path with Microsoft Exchange, move to Office 365, or check out Google. It decided to go with Google as the best way to answer a need to upgrade from some very old-school business processes.
The job of servicing underground fuel tanks is in many ways the classic field-service scenario for which unified communications in general and collaboration in particular seem ideal. Pete explained that the old practice was to give technicians a cheap digital camera and have them take photos of tanks in need of service, then bring the cameras back to the office and upload the digital photos onto PCs -- a routine he described as "horribly inefficient," especially in remote areas like Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The obvious thing to do was to give the techs each a tablet and let them take photos they could upload to Google Drive and share instantly for diagnostics. Or, even better, the techs could collaborate in real time with colleagues via Google Hangouts -- jumping on video sessions to show remote colleagues the facilities being serviced and receive guidance on problem resolution.
The project has delivered the quantifiable productivity gains that UC advocates so covet: Oscar W. Larson has gone from averaging 3.5 service calls a day per technician to five -- a 35% improvement with Hangouts. "We're on a tear; we're very efficient," Pete said.
The new processes have given Oscar W. Larson an edge in an industry that still tends to be a little old school in its adoption of technology. Clients are impressed with the company's tech savvy and, he added, there's no doubt this has been a critical piece of our recent success."
The company began the project using Samsung Galaxy Tab 7-inch tablets, then added company-owned smartphones, and now is letting techs use their own Android devices.
Oscar W. Larson hasn't gone the full UC-integration route via Switch, and Pete didn't indicate that such a move was forthcoming, so it'll be interesting to hear about the larger-scale, more ambitious project that Motorola Solutions has in the works. You can get the full story on that -- as well as the latest from Microsoft and Cisco keynoters -- if you join us at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2016 the week of March 7. I hope you can make it to hear these strategic visions about the future of collaboration and how it may fit into your enterprise's road map. And if you register now use the code NOJITTER, you can even receive $200 off the current conference price.