NZ Post's Experience with Google Apps for Business – "Collaboration is About Culture, Not Technology"

Miles Fordyce spoke at the recent CIO Summit in New Zealand, about NZ Post’s experience with Google Apps for Business:

Collaboration tools in large enterprise is not all that it is cracked up to be, especially if collaborating is not inherent in the culture of your company, says Miles Fordyce, group technology manager at NZ Post.

Fordyce’s role sees him lead technology strategy across NZ Posts various properties, including Kiwibank, Courier Post, and Localist. His 500-strong team takes care of 11,000 employees.

In 2009 NZ Post adopted Google Apps for Business as a cloud based productivity suite. The tools were to save on costs by increasing worker productivity through collaboration and lowering OPEX costs.
Things have not gone as planned.

“The whole premise of saving money has not come to fruition,” says Fordyce.

“We deployed it and expected people to collaborate. We now have an environment where people work with Microsoft Office, with a small number of other people working on Google Docs.”

Fordyce says staff hesitated picking up the Google products because it was so different to the traditional Microsoft Office suite they were used to.

“UI [user interface] is king. [Google] came as a shock to use, but you need to train your staff about what the changes will look like,” says Fordyce.

Apart from educational and cultural problems, the Google suite also gave NZ Post technological headaches. According to Fordyce, Google Docs clashes with the company’s unified communications system – which was not foreseen when scoping the collaboration tool.

There are some positive elements from the experience, says Fordyce.
Google’s cloud products have matured over the last three years. The company’s reach has meant many more people are used to the UI, and would be comfortable using it in an office environment.

He says there are genuine savings to be made using cloud-based collaboration tools, but it needs to be based on a foundation of collaboration within the business. “Collaboration is about culture, and not technology. Don’t take it on to save money, because that’s coming at it from the wrong angle.”

Recommendation: read Collaboration Roadmap (2011)

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