We have been implementing Google Apps as an online collaboration solution for almost 2 years now. It allows companies and organizations of all sizes to access their business email in the Gmail interface, collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in Google Docs, share calendars with Google Calendar and create internal or external web sites with Google Sites. Emails are sent from firstname.lastname@example.org and not a gmail address. While this platform is very powerful for business, Google Apps users have not been able to access the many other tools that Google offers such as Google Places, Picasa, Blogger and YouTube.
This has changed. As of November, Google has allowed Google Apps users to access most of its tools by logging in with their Google Apps user name and password. At this point, they are in ‘early adopter’ phase and the featured need to be enabled in the management section of the domain. This is particularly important when considering the number of Google tools that can be integrated as part of a business suite of communication services. For example, Google Maps allows businesses the ability to create a listing for their business to allow potential customers to find its location. In the past, in order to create this account, users needed to log in with a gmail account.
Here’s the problem:
Let’s say that an employee sets up the local listing on Google Maps with his gmail account as the log in. That employee decides to flee the country due to political persecution (hey, it can happen). When the owner of the company tries to make a change to the business hours listed on Google Maps, he cannot access the account. That’s a problem.
The employee sets up the local listing by using the company’s email@example.com email account. When he flees the political persecution, there are no issues for the owner to clean up. That’s good business
Apply this example to any number of the Google tools available to business (Google Voice, Adwords, Checkout, Analytics, etc.), and you can understand why this recent change is a big deal. Google currently has 30 million users and 3 million businesses in its Google Apps suite. Having only launched in 2006, that is impressive growth.
In addition to growing the tools available for its users, the Google Apps team also can be proud of the Google Apps Marketplace. This marketplace works in a similar manner to the App Store started by Apple. Google has made its API available for software developers all over the world to create amazing tools that integrate with the Google Apps suite. This means your accounting system can automatically put a reminder on your Google Calendar that an invoice is due. It means that your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can be embedded in your email interface for easy addition of contacts and action items relating to relationship management such as a follow-up call. This event would then be added to your calendar. Now that’s efficient.
We have played with Solve 360 recently and loved the functionality. It’s got a seamlessly integrated section under the email message box that allows a wide range of actions to be implemented. This means we can add company info to their contact, share the contact with a sales team, categorize them as a revenue source or tag assignments to staff related to that contact. Really amazing stuff.