The knowledge worker must operate beyond the traditional desktop software tools which enable individual productivity. In today’s economy, there is an immense increase in the amount of information flow between customers, vendors, management and team members. Managing and leveraging this information flow requires tools which are agile, collaborative and accessible.
This document outlines how Google Enterprise Applications, also known as Google Apps, has been designed for helping today’s knowledge worker and teams of professionals increase their productivity and distribute information rapidly for business results.
Software as a Service vs. Client/Server Architecture
Software built in the 1980’s generally focused on the individual. In the 1990’s server software would store data, sync with client data and help facilitate collaboration in small teams. Often teams would use a virtual private network to allow secure access to their company infrastructure. The company was responsible for maintenance, upgrades and troubleshooting. These were all costly, yet deemed necessary.
With internet computing the model shifted to moving the server to a distant location and using protocols which would allow the traditional client server relationship. Microsoft Outlook, in particular, would work as a desktop tool with the advantages of drag and drop and folder organization of emails, calendars, tasks, notes and contacts. It could work on or offline, and data would sync when there was an internet connection.
Computing power, bandwidth and the ability to connect are powerful and increasingly accessible. These conditions have led to the exploding Software as a Service (SaaS) computing model. Another popular term is “cloud computing” which connotes that the complexity of the computing and processing functions happen in the cloud of the internet while simple web browsers present the desired results to end users.
Data is now centralized and updated in real-time. SaaS technologies do not require the overhead of thick software clients, and the usability of a browser-based system makes working easy and quick, without the IT headaches.
Security has shifted from a user managing a laptop that could be dropped or compromised to a highly secure web environment with a company that is focused heavily on the traditional IT headaches of uptime, security, maintenance and troubleshooting. The knowledge worker can focus on delivering results instead of managing a system. The friction has been decreased.
Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
The value of most companies is in its information infrastructure. It is not in the raw information, per se, but rather in the accessibility of information to get work done on-demand. Knowledge workers are busy. They are moving from task to task quickly, and the demand of refocusing attention becomes a focal point which is a point of value to the end user. Help them create and store information quickly as well as access it when they need it as quickly as possible.
The Microsoft Outlook Exchange model is a linear approach. It requires thinking about whether incoming information is relevant and then creating organizational folder structures in an ordered pre-thought approach. The price to create information storehouses does not necessarily give a return. It is only when thinking is engaged again by the end user to know where the information is in their folder structure that the value is gained. Thus, the organizational structure of Microsoft Outlook creates and demands an intimacy with the end user; they know their data and where to look for it.
The Google approach to information is reversed. Emails, documents, and any knowledge is stored based on a minimal criteria – is it possible it could be useful again? Organization only happens when the user focuses on getting a specific answer – when they search for it. Google maps more naturally to how our brains work. We organize information through recall. We store it randomly.
The effect is that the end user has less friction in their workflow. They are able to react and not think. Thinking only occurs when they need something. They cut out the cycles of work organizing information. The system is robust enough to find it when they need it. Relevance only happens when there is a defined purpose. Purpose continually changes for a knowledge worker. Thus, pre-organization can serve to be futile and wasted work. The ability to recall specifically is more important in the Google world than t organize presumptuously in the Outlook world. It frees up valuable mind-space for the end user to focus on execution rather than organization.
Scalability and Value
If the value of a business is its collective knowledge, then there must be an easy way to capture, store and distribute knowledge. This knowledge resides in emails, documents and projects. Google Apps makes distribution quick and easy. Control comes from the originator, a contributor to a greater knowledge pool.
In the Google Docs environment, documents can be accessed from a central repository. Creators of documents can share rights or transfer ownership altogether. Control resides with the creator. Distribution can happen with a click of a button to members inside a community or outside of an organization.
This is extremely important for aligning teams who have to put together information and get work done. After the work is done, the information needs to be accessible as a modular building block to any future projects. Thus, the organization is able to reuse knowledge many times over to get alignment from its people or its customers and vendors. This is critical when we live in a world where attention is scarce. Access to the necessary pieces to get things done in a rapid fashion is highly advantageous. It shortens cycles and reduces workflow friction.
People, knowledge, schedules and plans continually change. The clicks to execute this are critical. Google Enterprise Applications is integrated between the tools that a knowledge worker needs. Any new person can be brought on and given access anywhere in the world quickly. Thus, the virtual organization is truly enabled.
It is more cumbersome and expensive to equip users on Microsoft Outlook, especially remotely. There are buried functions to share calendars or lists which are not apparent to the typical user. Google Enterprise Applications has been designed with collaboration at the forefront. There are intuitive and apparent interfaces. Again, workflow friction has been reduced.
A true knowledge base can develop and evolve within a working organization and this is made useful and easy through Google Apps. Getting the work done of knowledge work and getting it done with others is the cornerstone of this platform.
Furthermore, updates, security and the IT overhead is managed by Google using their powerful technology platform. They are a SaaS leader which serves their customers brilliantly with their economies of scale.
All technologies commoditize over time and value increases. In the realm of email, this is particularly true. The traditional Microsoft Exchange server setup in the 1990’s required a $40,000 per year IT person to manage it as well as a $5,000 server and $5,000 software. If it went down, a call had to be made.
With outsourced Microsoft Exchange service, companies sought to leverage economies of scale with a wide user base and make a subscription base. Costs went to $10 per user per month as well as setup costs and any add-ons such as $29 per month BlackBerry Exchange Services.
In the Google Apps world, service is free. Premium service is $50/user/year or about $4/user/month. This gives the organization who wants it the primary benefit of live support and increased storage. The free storage is already generous.
Here is the breakdown again:
|First Year Costs
From an ongoing operational standpoint, Google Apps is the clear winner. Furthermore, all product upgrades are happening behind the scenes. There are no client software versions to download or manage. There are no servers being exchanged out. They are focused on enhancing the cloud the user is computing on.
There is a direction that email, document creation, document management, calendaring, and collaboration is heading. The Microsoft Outlook Exchange paradigm served in that progression; however, it is not the future. This has become more apparent as information moves faster and becomes irrelevant and relevant quickly. The platform for managing and growing an organization through this time is with Google Enterprise Applications. It is built for speed, execution, collaboration and scalability.
Your team has an artful balance of control and distribution of your data. Getting work done is the focal point rather than managing the systems for holding the work.
Transitioning to this system sets your company on the path of scalability and knowledge leverage. Having the business advantage of hiring and firing employees or signing on sub-contractors and telecommuters quickly with zero infrastructure becomes a strategic enabler for your team to focus on its mission for growing revenue.