If you had asked me six months ago, I wouldn’t have classified my company as a technology first-mover. Dominion has 4,000 employees with about 800 in our home office and 3,200 in field offices- the result of several companies being brought together over the years through acquisitions. As a result, we have more than 200 email domains and our email was hosted in 24 different locations. Prior to moving to Google Apps, we had been using a variety of different email systems. Some business units were using Microsoft ® Exchange and Outlook, and the rest were using various other applications. We had no shared calendars, no corporate address book and weren’t able to easily access our information from outside the office. The truth is, IT wasn’t serving our employees very well in the area of email and collaboration tools.
So our move to Google Apps was in large part an employee-driven initiative. One of our key IT managers at Boats.com thought it would be valuable for our company to adopt Google Apps so he started his own 5-person test drive. At about the same time, I attended Google’s Atmosphere event at its headquarters in California, and had a chance to talk to other CIOs that had either decided to “go Google” or were seriously contemplating a move. My biggest reservations involved security and privacy in the cloud. At the event, I learned how Google was addressing those concerns and listened to other CIO’s who had overcome similar concerns. I began to see the opportunities we were missing by not having email and our collaboration tools hosted in the cloud. When I got back to Virginia, we set to work doing our due diligence on competitive offerings and we expanded our Google Apps test drive to a full blown pilot.
We visited Redmond and though I am convinced they are committed to the cloud, their collaboration suite offering was not as seamlessly integrated as Google’s and their pricing model was complicated. Over the 6 months of the pilot, we found a groundswell of support for Google Apps. Our employees were familiar with Gmail, and they wanted to access email from their phones and their tablets. The Apps pilot grew to 150 users and we got to the point where we had to turn people away. Folks were extremely happy that they could schedule meetings with coworkers from any office (remember most of them were on separate email systems before, so this was revolutionary), host video chats and access their email from any device. Many pilot employees either had an iPhone® or Android smartphone. Once I migrated to an Android phone and discovered how easy email and calendar syncing was with Google Apps, I was sold.
By then the original Boats.com Google Apps champion had been joined by a small army of enthusiasts. I pitched the idea to the CEO, CFO and Legal Counsel and told them we wanted to move the entire company to Google Apps. For us this is really about the value and benefits we know we’re giving our employees.
We’re looking forward to discovering the new ways our employees will use Google Apps as we continue to roll it out across the company. So far, about 95% of employees say they prefer Google Apps mail to Outlook. I suspect a year from now we’re going to be wondering how in the world we ever lived without Google Apps - and even better, now I tell folks that at Dominion we’re a technology-forward company.
Posted by Joe Fuller, CIO, Dominion Enterprises