Google Apps Sparks Spontaneous Innovation

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2007-11-26 Print this article Print

Capgemini sought cost savings by being among the first to deploy the enterprise software as a service productivity package. What it got were users who invented efficient ways of using the software to communicate with each other.

What happens when you give users a flexible, easy-to-use software productivity package that's delivered as a service? As Capgemini discovered: spontaneous innovation.

Following its deal to support its Google Apps Premium Edition, Capgemini decided to become one of the first companies to deploy the software as a service. It chose GAPE over Microsoft Office for its new 165-seat call center in Junction City, Kan.

The GAPE bundle includes Google Docs (word processor) and Spreadsheet, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk (instant messenger) and Start Page (customizable homepage). The cost savings for the deployment was significant: $50 per user per year as opposed to several hundred dollars per seat for the Microsoft package.

"When I heard about this, that spreadsheet of costs was the first thing that came into my mind," says Robert Brillhart, global practice lead for customer care and intelligence in Capgemini's Business Process Outsourcing Services division.

The deployment made sense from another perspective: practicality. Capgemini had recently struck a deal to provide enterprise support for GAPE. Under the support deal, Capgemini would provide enterprise users of Google's productivity software with dedicated support and services, something they couldn't get through Google's self-service support system.

Capgemini also supports Google Search Appliance, a hardware package for hosted enterprise search. Google claims it has more than 9,000 search appliance and 100,000 Google Apps customers (the company doesn't differentiate enterprise and individual Google Apps customers).

Inside the Search Engine: How Google Works. Click here to read more.

Although it was the initial cost savings that got his attention, Brillhart said that the collaboration features of Google Apps may prove more valuable in the long run.

The Junction City call center, which opened in September, is dedicated to one of Capgemini's telecommunications customers. However, there are plans to expand the center and support more customers. Because it's inherently a networked application, GAPE makes it easy for agents to create shared documents and spreadsheets. For the past couple of months, they've been using those shared documents to communicate tips and alerts that don't fit neatly into the form fields of their CRM (customer relationship management) application.

GAPE's collaboration capabilities initially raised some concerns for the customer care unit's knowledge management team, Brillhart said, "because from a knowledge management perspective, they don't want you using two different tools for the same data."

But the agents pushed for more freedom, he said, and a compromise was reached where the knowledge management team would periodically review the shared documents and pull out pertinent information for the CRM repository, Talisma Knowledgebase.

In practice, much of the knowledge sharing conducted through GAPE is more ephemeral, such as shared notes on trends in call volume within a given day—items previously tracked mostly on paper, with limited sharing among agents, Brillhart said. As some of the more inventive agents used to apply this tool in a productive way, he arranged to have them train the rest of the staff.

In the long run, Brillhart said, "the delivery of added value from agents working slightly smarter could far outweigh savings in deployment costs."

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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