But he also had other motives. One was to tap into the flexibility and continuous innovation that Google's cloud-based model offers. The other was to develop a "culture of collaboration" that would support ad-hoc, informal teams of customers and business partners. Google Apps, with an array of services ranging from Gmail to Google Docs, was well suited to the task, Patel says.
Automotive parts supplier Valeo Inc. is about one-third of the way through moving 30,000 users to Google Apps for Business, from IBM's Lotus Notes. CIO Francois Blanc says his team considered offerings from IBM, Microsoft and Google before making final decision. "In the cloud area, I see a leader and a follower, and the leader is Google," he says.
Blanc readily admits that Exchange, which he also considered to replace Notes, offers more sophisticated features in some respects -- but that's why he chose Google Apps. His users found many features in Notes "overly complicated and so didn't use them much." This time, he says, "we chose simplicity." But users do miss some features, such as the ability to make sure that an assistant who has access to an executive's in-box can't read the executive's confidential messages. "It was a small feature, but appreciated," he says.
The calendar question
There's simplification and then there's oversimplification, says Chicago State's Dillon. After two years with Google Apps for Education, a free but less fully featured version of Google Apps, the institution is moving its administration and staff -- about 1,000 users -- onto Microsoft Exchange. Students will remain on Google Apps, she says, but administrators, who found the Google Apps group calendaring features "cumbersome and difficult to use," will make the transition. "We cannot achieve the productivity we need to have as an institution using Gmail," she says.
Jeff Keltner, business development manager at Google, defends his company's group-scheduling features. "We use this within Google... every day... for 20,000 users around the world," he says. In addition, Google is continually improving those features, he says, most recently with the release of the Smart Rescheduler, which helps users find available times and rooms for group meetings.
But Dillon says that's too little too late. "In our environment a lot of people didn't find [the calendaring function] easy to use, and therefore didn't use it," she says.