Lessons from the field: Tips for increasing the value you get from Google Apps by reducing your reliance on Microsoft (guest blog written by John Yandziak)

Version 5

    Hi all,

    This week I am very excited to share with you our first ever post written by someone from our Latin America Google Team.



    Bom dia!

    My name is John and I’m a member of the Change and Transformation team at Google Brazil. Originally from the United States, I've been living in São Paulo working with Google Apps customers all over Latin America for the last 5 years.

    I'd like to share with you the approach we took recently with a large customer in the Tourism industry in Mexico and their journey and lessons learned as they embarked upon a project to reduce their reliance on Microsoft Office.

    Many organisations find themselves "double paying" for both Microsoft and Google, but the reality is that there are often substantial opportunities to drive costs out of the IT team by reducing license costs with Microsoft.

    Some customers remove Microsoft licenses gradually over the long-term as employees and machines turn over. When older machines are deprecated and employees leave, new machines are not installed with Office (the new machine may even be a Chromebook) and new employees are not trained on Office, but Google Apps instead.

    Other customers have a more urgent need for license removal due to a number of situations, including an upcoming Microsoft renewal or audit negotiation.  For a few pilot customers, we have been helping with an approach to ease this transition away from their legacy licenses and onto a deeper adoption of Google Apps. As an added benefit, higher Google Apps adoptions has been linked in reports from Forrester and BetterCloud to increased collaboration, innovation, and efficiency.

    Here are my top tips and advice about how you might be able to start such a project internally within your organisation:

    1. Choose the right users to focus on
    2. Gain buy in from executives and leaders and ensure they sponsor the project
    3. Set a non-negotiable Go-Live date, but provide exceptions and support
    4. Prepare Google Guides, advanced support, and users for Go-Live

    1. Choose the right users to focus on

    The most important success factor for our project was identifying the right user groups to transition over from Office to Google. Based on my experience with these types of projects the best ways to identify potential candidates to uninstall Microsoft licenses are:

    • Low external dependency - Look for groups that don’t frequently need to share information or work collaboratively with external users that may not have their own Google Apps accounts and therefore work more deeply with Office.
    • Low complexity - Avoid groups that have complex business processes that are deeply linked with 3rd party tools.
    • Low usage of MSFT and / or high usage of Google Apps - Identify which groups of employees are light Microsoft Office users or heavy Google Apps users

    There are a couple of ways that you can identify the best users to focus on for this project. Softwatch is an excellent tool for measuring Microsoft Office usage. Additionally,Google product adoption statistics are available through reports in the Admin Console, via API or a 3rd party provider in the Google Apps Marketplace, should you want more advanced features.  Finally, don't forget that you can send user surveys using Google Forms to gauge receptiveness to change and identify user groups that would more easily be able to work without Microsoft.

    2. Gain buy in from executives and leaders and ensure they sponsor the project

    Choosing the right users to uninstall Microsoft is irrelevant if the business leaders and executive sponsors of those users aren't bought into the benefits of them removing their reliance on non-Google products.  Removing Office can negatively impact employees if the change is not managed well. Therefore it is essential to persuade these leaders of the value of this project, focusing on the business benefits of being a digital organization and changing to a more innovative culture.

    3. Set a non-negotiable Go-Live date, but provide exceptions and support

    To realize the full benefits of collaboration with Google Apps, it's essential that teams who work together are uninstalled from Microsoft together.  The momentum and buzz around a Go-Live encourages users to help each other and sets a clear goal for your Help Desk and communications teams to organize around.

    Though a non-negotiable cut-off date for uninstalls might seem too forceful at first, there are a few hard-earned lessons that were key to our success in Mexico:

    • Not all users need to move - we created a Google Form where users could apply for an exception in order to maintain their Office licenses. Those with legitimate business reasons to stay on Office were given that right.
    • Users that work together, transition together - when identifying potential user groups to uninstall Office, it was important to keep teams that collaborate often together.  By uninstalling all team members at once, colleagues could encourage and support one another though the transition and fully realize the collaboration benefits of Google Apps
    • Users must have all the support they need - Even more so than the initial Google Apps Deployment, the focus of this transition project was on Change Management and preparing users, Google Guides, and support teams for life without Microsoft Office.

    4. Prepare Google Guides, advanced support, and users for Go-Live

    In order to manage the change impact for your users being uninstalled from Microsoft, it's crucial to provide them support through various people and tools leading up to the Go-Live cut-off date.
    Some resources that were key to our success in Mexico were:

    • Google Guides - Volunteers from the customer representing 5% of the whole population were recruited and trained to be Google Experts during the Go-Live, providing support to end users on questions related to Google Apps and the transition project.
    • User communication, training, and readiness - Multiple communication messages were shared leading up to Go-Live so all users understood the process and the rationale. Training was conducted both on-site and remotely teaching employees on how to use the Google products and the transition process; user-facing Google Sites, Google Groups, and Google+ communities were established so users knew where to go to get the help they needed.
    • Advanced support - When an user came across a process or functionality that existed with Microsoft Office that they didn't know how to replicate with Google, the customer Help Desk, IT team, and the Google Partner were available on-site for a full week around Go-Live to provide advanced support in converting and migrating processes over and replicating legacy functionality within Google Apps

    Ultimately, reducing your Microsoft Office install base can help you to optimize your IT costs while fully realizing the collaboration and productivity benefits associated with a deeper adoption of Google Apps tools.  This results in a stronger return on your investment with Google Apps and a more satisfied and innovative user base.

    Next steps:

    For those interested in embarking on a similar journey internally, I hope these lessons serve you well.  Don't hesitate to reach out to your Google Apps partner for guidance and expertise on running a similar project.

    As we develop our approach further, we're actively working to develop materials for partners and customers to assist in this transition.  Once released, I'll be sure to add a comment here in this post with further information.  Stay tuned!

    I'd love to hear if any of you have embarked on a similar journey and here any of your thoughts on the above - please add comments or any questions below.