When I met Philip Woodgate last week, one of the things that made me giggle was the stack of archived material cluttering the entrance to Goodman Jones’ offices. Philip has grumbled to me about electronic document management in the past and was muttering something about the current crop of offerings that sounded suspiciously like ‘crap’ to me. Enter Google Apps Premier Edition the paid for version of Google Apps for Your Domain and (probably) the industry’s worst kept secret of the week.
I’m going to say right off the bat I don’t think Google Docs and Spreadsheets are up to much. They run slow and are not exciting from a features standpoint. I’m warming to Zoho but for a spreadsheet I still prefer EditGrid. That’s not the point. I’m a particular type of user so I’ll put up with ‘good enough.’ Phil Windley describes it well:
Google Apps is a Web application and, as such, is subject to law of mash-ups: anything that can be mashed-up will. An online application like Google Apps has the potential to become an ecosystem for other businesses that add value to overall mix in ways that even a company with resources like Google can’t match.
There are a few examples already. Sxip Identity announced that they’re providing integration with Google Apps to provide single sign-on capabilities across an enterprise and better user management. This provides some foundational elements for further integrating Google Apps into the enterprise.
That may sound pretty much the same as what you might do by integrating two pieces of software in a traditional model, so I offer up a second example. DirectPointe (disclaimer, I’m on the board of directors) offers an enterprise file, print, desktop management solution for small businesses that includes Google Apps as a “checkbox” in the order form.
Unlike the gazzilion other commentators, I don’t buy that Google is going head to head with Microsoft. I do however buy the line that Google is providing a platform for easily building and integrating other services as an ecosystem player. That is where I believe practitioners should be looking because ecosystems of this kind proliferate the creation of services that can be applied across many industries. That’s what SAP Netweaver is about. Neither do I entirely buy Phil’s line:
Google isn’t competing with Office. They’re competing with non-consumption. That is, they’re enabling uses that don’t exist today.
Philip’s requirement is an existing use case that, when (not if) solved, could impact 250K practitioners in the UK alone. Some have already argued that security conscious and highly regulated industries might baulk at Google:
Nucleus analyst Wettemann cautioned, however, that a Web-based architecture may not work for companies in some highly regulated industries that require businesses to maintain tight control over their data.
That may well be true but the fact services like identity, network, security and server management are appearing as complementary services that bundle Google Apps and carry a reasonable price tag for the SMB market speaks volumes. It doesn’t stop there.
I’d like to see an on-demand accounting vendor get serious about hooking their wagon to Google. Intuit made a half hearted marketing attempt. Sage is in discussions with Google but Sage is being tight-lipped about the nature of those discussions. I really hope this is not another marketing deal.
If one of the on demand vendors grasps this nettle AND provides seamless hooks to the storage, spreadsheet and word processor while Google finally decides what to do with JotSpot, then you’ve pretty much got an all-in-one framework for a practitioner’s management suite. While Google dallies, might Jeremy Ruston be tempted to hook SocialText Unplugged into the Google ecosystem? It would provide a solid wiki offering that is easy to pick up and operate as a combination document and knowledge management solution for practices. It would represent the start of acquiring knowledge that adds value to client engagements. Value that is largely hidden today.