L.A. still projects benefits from a move to Google Apps, report says

By , Computerworld |  On-demand Software, Google Apps

In making the case for this move, Los Angeles officials are continuing to analyze the full impact of hosted services on the city's IT capabilities, the report said. The city expects that moving to a cloud-based service will allow Los Angeles to reassign nine of 13 staff, and use the sixty servers now supporting GroupWise for other functions. The switch to Google Apps will also provide Los Angeles with more storage capacity and disaster recovery capabilities, particularly for its e-mail system, officials estimate.

The hosted Google offering can also provide the city with video conferencing capabilities if the city purchases cameras. If LA were to add this capability without Google, it would cost nearly $4 million more over five years, the report said.

Sheri McLeish, an information and knowledge management analyst at Forrester Research Inc., agreed that such benefits are likely, but the city's projected savings may be very optimistic. "They are acknowledging the benefits, but there's nothing to indicate that they ever would have paid for" some of them in the coming years.

According to the report, the ITA believes Google Apps use would result in an "average productivity gain per City employee [of] 10 minutes per week," a projection that almost almost sounds like something out of Ripley's Believe it or Not. The ITA paticularly cited Google's collaboration tools and service availability, which would "likely to be superior to our current system." Based on an average annual salary of $71,200 for city employees, the agency esitmated the value of uptime and collaboration gains from Google Apps at $44.5 million over five years.

That calculation was met with skepticism from Santana and analysts. "While increased productivity is a benefit to the city, 10 minutes per week per employee would not lead to hard dollar budgetary savings. It is not possible to accurately predict the magnitude of productivity changes."

Added McLeish: Productivity "never really doesn't translate into hard dollars."

Rob Enderle, an independent analysts in San Jose, Calif., said he sees pitfalls ahead for IT managers if the city goes ahead with the Google Apps plan. "Email migrations are career killers as there is no upside for the implementation team. Yet," he added, "with obsolete products like GroupWise someone has to do them."

"Being one of the first, while exciting, is generally seen as incredibly foolish in hindsight because, if it works flawlessly you don't get any real credit and if it breaks, and it almost always breaks badly, folks come hunting for your head and without other successful implementations to point to, you tend to look foolhardy," Enderle said.

A move to the cloud would put LA on the cutting edge of technology, a place where few agencies are comfortable. "I would expect this trial to fail but I would also expect we will learn a lot from it," he said.

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