Could Google solve Philip's problem?

by admin on February 24, 2007

in Innovation

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.

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Stuart Bruce February 24, 2007 at 12:36 pm

I like Jotspot, it gets the balance right between ease of use and features/power. One problem with all these tools is encouraging people to use them. Most assume that your average user is far more IT literate than they really are. You've really got to pitch it at the lowest skilled person in your team. I'm waiting to see what Google eventually does with Jotspot as for me it has lots of potential.

Dennis Howlett February 24, 2007 at 12:45 pm

I'd argue the real way is to show people what can be accomplished. That's how ST Unplugged hooked me when Jeremy demonstrated it. But I'm mindful we're at the early stages of understanding what can be delivered and so there's going to be a period where people will not necessarily understand the concept value.

Anthony February 24, 2007 at 7:22 pm

We are getting carried away. Some cut-down personal productivity apps, hosted. No big deal. Boo to the Stanford goose.

There is a huge mix of free stuff going on. The paid-for bit isn't changing as fast. I don't see a big shift to hosting as a business model. I think appliances, and in particular virtual appliances, are much more interesting.

shaun mcguinness February 25, 2007 at 1:52 pm

i'm just starting to use kanosis – <a href="http://www.kanosis.com” target=”_blank”>www.kanosis.com
to manage projects and clients. its free up to 1 gig storage and $20 pcm up to 50 gig storage. i can create projects, invite users, upload and share anything. email and messaging and voip is also included.

kpmg have just started using this and sage have tried to buy them out.
it was initially started as MLM but i bought into it for its functionality.

if anyone would like a demo please contact me as i would be pleased to show you how it works.

i only make about 60 cents a month for each paying user and nothing on the free users so i'm not into trying to make money out of this!

Dennis Howlett February 25, 2007 at 2:21 pm

Shaun: Not excited by this application, largely because it runs in a JVM which sucks memory. It crashed on my machine which has 1GB memory and only uses browser apps. I'm not convinced it has much purpose past ad hoc collaboration but I could get that from any number of IM style apps.

the notion that it creates community is nonsense. It's file and comms sharing.

Philip Woodgate February 27, 2007 at 2:17 am

I find it fascinating the rate at which website applications are moving forward. They have also got the added advantage that they are great collaboration tools to use with clients.

I like what salesforce.com are doing with Appexchange. This is one company that is smart enough to actually encourage integration with its product. With more of this I may finally get what I need.

Dennis Howlett February 27, 2007 at 6:23 am

If you're interested I can run a lot more stuff on saleforce. It's an area I talk about a lot with my enterprise colleagues and which will remain in the spotlight for at least the coming year. We've got a lot of knowledge there and now have an SFdC person on our discussion team.

Philip Woodgate February 27, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Mmm, what I'm really interested in is practiceforce.com . It could be a long wait.

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