Melanie Turek's Blog

A Look at Google in the Enterprise

06 Aug 2010 | by Melanie Turek
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This week, Google discontinued Google Wave, its much-heralded collaboration platform. Which came as no surprise, really: Collaboration tools are best used among work groups, and work groups are generally formed for, well, work. Most consumers don’t have much use for a product like Wave, and enterprises that do need a vendor or service provider that knows how to cater to their needs—which Google, at least today, does not.

Recently, my colleagues in Europe and the UK published a market insight on the growing role Google is playing in the enterprise. Google’s culture of innovation, willingness for acquisitions, and openness to 3rd-party developers has resulted in a number of product launches in the unified communications and collaboration space in recent years. Besides Google Apps—an integrated stack of communications and collaboration applications delivered from a cloud—and the now-dead Wave, Google introduced a VoIP service (Google Voice), social media tool (Google Buzz) and mobile services (Android).

Indeed, judging by the number of UC&C-related acquisitions and products being developed and launched, the market seems to be one of Google’s strategic directions.

Google is promoting UCC-as-a-service business model, and delivering communications as a service is gaining prominence in the market. But with this model, the brand name is crucial for success of local service providers and trust is one of the key issues in the hosted services space—and Google has a great advantage of a strong brand – one of the world’s most valuable global brands, if not the most valuable one, as measured by the dollar value.

When asked to identify the vendors they most associate with, 76 percent of respondents chose Google out of a list—more than any other vendor by nearly 30 points. Still, Google is still best known in the small-business space: When asked to name the SaaS vendor they were most familiar with or using, 76 percent of small businesses named Google Apps, compared to 24 percent for IBM Lotus Live and 18 percent for Microsoft Hosted Exchange. Among large enterprises, only 45 percent were familiar with Google Apps; 34 percent knew Lotus Live, and 47 percent were familiar with Microsoft Hosted Exchange.

Clearly, Google has extremely strong consumer footprint, but that’s both a strength and a weakness. Enterprise employees are familiar with Google and would adopt it willingly at the workplace. But among IT professionals, this creates a perception of consumer-grade tools, regardless of the company efforts to adjust the suite to meet the enterprise needs.

But when customers ask me whether Google is likely to be an enterprise threat (or opportunity, depending on your perspective), I usually come back to the same answer: Not until they develop a workable enterprise channel. Because at the end of the day, that’s what counts—a way to market, sell and support their products to the people who will actually buy them on behalf of corporate clients. And today, there’s nothing to indicate Google has any such reach in place.