The 2013/14 school year has started, with U.S. educators and their students returning to find much lower budgets available to meet ever-higher aspirations. Three districts shared their stories with us about how Google Apps and Chromebooks help them provide excellent opportunities for students, even in these challenging times.

Huntsville School District, Texas
Third grade students in Huntsville School District
collaborate on a Chromebook
Last year, Huntsville Independent School District struggled with outdated equipment and poor cellular coverage. To address these challenges, they built a wireless network, established free Google Apps accounts for email and word processing, and earned a $100,000 grant, which they used to purchase 350 Chromebooks for grades 6-12. Today over 1,000 students have access to Chromebooks, and high school students even take them home. Charlie Baker, a math teacher, explained the value of Chromebooks at home: “Students can send me a snapshot of the screen to illustrate a problem they’re struggling with. I can use Google Hangouts to help them work through to a solution. Student engagement is higher, and the quality of work has improved significantly."

Merced High School District, California
Although the communities of Merced Union High School District face many economic challenges, the District provides the latest tools for learning. Information Systems Manager Anthony Thomas told us that a year ago, when the district was evaluating computers, students test-drove a range of candidate devices and “voted overwhelmingly in favor of Chromebooks as the most valuable educational tool.” The high school deployment has been so successful that the district aims to be 1:1 with more than 5,000 Chromebooks by 2016. Anthony sees students using Chromebooks in locations all around the school campus, just as they might in a work environment. “The 1:1 Chromebook environment has a major impact on districts like ours,” says Anthony. “Today’s work environment is all about teams, and that’s what these students are learning. They’re acquiring real job skills.”

A student in Queensbury School District works
on his Chromebook
Queensbury Union Free School District, New York
Matt Hladun, Director of Technology for the Queensbury Union Free school district in rural New York State, faces a different challenge. Matt lost a number of IT staff to budget cuts. With 2,500 Chromebooks and just three team members, he really appreciates the minimal support that the devices require, saying “it’s hard to argue with increased student motivation, more efficient teaching processes, better communications, and a saving of tens of thousands of dollars a year in software costs. Introducing Google Apps is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I’m seeing teaching change, and I want it working everywhere. It is absolutely making a difference.” Matt was also able to establish a “Technology Bullpen” of five teachers in each building who help their peers get the best out of the devices and tools.

To learn more about Chromebooks for Education, visit our website and review the IDC White Paper “Quantifying the Economic Value of Chromebooks.”


Earlier this month, I delivered a keynote at Gartner’s annual symposium and published a blog post about the rapidly evolving landscape of business technology. The rise of cloud computing and ubiquitous, powerful mobile devices means that organizations can reduce their IT bills significantly while boosting employees’ productivity and collaboration. Moving to the cloud is no longer a questionable proposition — it’s inevitable.

This led some of the organizations I work with to ask: “That all makes sense, but how do we actually get started?”

Good question. Here are five concrete steps you can take to get started:
  1. Start by setting up a Google Apps account for your organization. This will allow you to move your standard productivity and communications work to the cloud: you’ll use Gmail for your email (with your own domain, like; Google Calendar for your calendars; Google Drive to store files; Google Docs to create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations; and Hangouts to send instant messages and hold video calls. This will free your staff from spending time maintaining servers and installing upgrades. Google Apps is free to schools and non-profits, and costs $50/person per year for businesses and government agencies.
  2. Move your other standard business applications to cloud-based equivalents. Popular apps include Workday (HR), Salesforce (CRM), Zendesk (customer service), Netsuite (Financials), and Wix or Weebly (websites). More companies are creating and launching cloud-based business applications every day — check out the Chrome Web Store for more.
  3. Move your custom applications to a cloud infrastructure. Many organizations have built their own custom applications or need to be able to do very specialized programming. Most people use Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform or Microsoft Azure. Choose between the first two.
  4. Standardize on a modern browser, ideally Chrome. Chrome is built for speed, simplicity and security — and of course it’s free. To make sure that you're protected from the latest threats, Chrome automatically updates whenever a new version of the browser is available. You can also use Chrome on all the major desktop and mobile platforms, including Android and iOS, and sync your tabs and bookmarks between different devices. Chrome for Business includes a cloud-based management console, which lets you customize policies and preferences for your employees easily from the web, including which apps and extensions they receive, across their devices.
  5. For hardware, you can now move to a flexible, “bring your own device” policy. Without servers, the only real hardware you need are computers and phones — and a true cloud architecture works well with any operating system: Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android, iOS. People can choose the device that suits them, and you can then reimburse their purchases and/or their own personal cell phone and internet bills. If you do decide to supply your staff with computers, consider Chromebooks: they boot up in seconds, have built-in virus protection and are dead simple to deploy and manage.

*    *    *

Lots of companies have already moved to the cloud successfully, from local coffee shops to major corporations with 200,000 employees. For small and mid-size companies, the transition can be made in a matter of days or weeks. For larger companies, who often have custom legacy systems built over many years, the migration may take a few months. In these cases, consider working with experts that specialize in helping companies move to the cloud using all the tools I’ve mentioned.

The world is moving to the cloud. Now’s the time for you to move, too.


Editor's note: Today's guest blogger is Ian McLeod, Chief Executive of Ergon Energy. Tune into our series of webinars about how Google Maps for Business to learn more and see what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Queensland is known as Australia’s “sunshine state,” and Ergon Energy is responsible for keeping its power running all day and every day. We distribute electricity to 700,000 people across a vast expanse of 1.7 million square kilometres that reaches 97% of the state’s population. From the dry regions of the west to the tropical reaches of the north, 150,000 kilometres of power lines stretch across almost every part of Queensland, held up by twice as many poles as we have customers.

One of the most common issues we manage is tree vegetation growing close to these power lines, which, left unchecked, causes power outages and safety issues for customers. Managing vegetation to fix and prevent these outages used to cost us $AUD90-100 million each year. With a distribution network this large, we had a good understanding of the condition of our assets, but we could not see the risks to the assets from the surrounding environment or measure the value customers got from our vegetation management plans. With long distances to travel inspecting, cutting and then auditing vegetation, workers often have their hands full.

We decided that there must be a better way, and undertook a project called ‘Remote Observation and Automated Modelling for Economic Simulation’ (ROAMES) to uncover it. ROAMES collects high resolution digital photographs and accurate 3 dimensional LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning data to model every wire and power pole across the whole of regional Queensland. We collect this data by flying specialised high-tech aircraft fitted with high-tech gear over the top of these power lines.

To create the ROAMES imagery and integrate it with customer and network reliability information, we turned to the Google Maps for Business and the Google Maps API to incorporate ROAMES’s high resolution 3D imagery with Google Maps and Street View to provide a view of our entire infrastructure. This allows us to identify and predict when trees are growing too close to their power lines and send our field crews out to cut intruding branches. This has significantly reduced the environmental impact of our vegetation management activities and minimised the number of outages for customers.

With Google Maps, we are not only delivering better customer service, but also saving money and handling huge amounts of data. It enables our field workers with a reliable, intuitive tool that helps our bottom line. We expect to save up to $AUD59 million over the next five years using this technology.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Ryan Hogan, CEO at Australian Fitness Network, a member-based fitness organization in Australia. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Fitness is all about variation. You have to push harder and switch up your exercises to get real results. You could say the same about my company, Australian Fitness Network. Our 22-person team in Sydney provides our 10,000-strong network of trainers, gym managers and other industry professionals with a healthy mix of new exercise ideas and resources to keep them motivated and focused on feeling the burn.

In 2011, we realized our IT environment was out of shape (and we really don’t like being out of shape). We were running Microsoft Exchange 2007 and did most of our work in Microsoft Word and Excel. As we grew increasingly mobile, we found that simple tasks, like sending a calendar invite from the phone or pulling up a doc on the go, felt like slogging through an ultramarathon uphill in the rain.

We turned to Perth-based Fortix, a Google Apps Reseller, for help. They carried us through a seamless, two-day migration so our work didn’t skip a beat while our technology got a major makeover. They also implemented a custom solution that integrates Google Apps with our Human Resources, CRM and project management tools so our operations are in sync instead of in silos. Having our email, documents, sales conversations and recruiting efforts tracked across multiple platforms means we can finally look at our business holistically.

Google Apps has vastly improved our team’s efficiency. Our fitness class instructors can create customized workout plans in Docs and share them directly with their clients, rather than putting them in Word and printing or emailing each updated version. They even link to the docs in the Calendar invites they send their clients to remind them of their appointments, so each fitness regimen is easy to find and track.

Google Drive helps our team get more work done with less. Every year, we host an annual industry convention called FILEX for 2,500 members of the fitness community. Nearly everyone contributes to the event including our sales, marketing, events, design and editorial teams each share some of the weight, so having our key documents in one central repository is essential. This means folks can organize and share planning information from a single spot, rather than having to email a chain of contacts to hunt down the keynote speaker points or seating plans they need.

Albert Einstein once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” That’s as true for creating a fitness regimen as it is operating a business. Using Google Apps hasn't turned us into Einstein, but getting our infrastructure in shape has helped us work much smarter, and that’s good enough for me.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is JJ Van Oosten, Group Chief Information Officer for Travis Perkins plc, the largest supplier of building and home improvement materials in the United Kingdom. See what other organisations that have gone Google have to say.

Travis Perkins has been in business for more than two centuries, and one reason we’ve endured is our ability to form lasting relationships with our customers. We work with builders for 20-30 years, and get to know them and their families well. And when builders retire, we continue relationships with the sons and daughters who take over the family business.

We create a sense of family within our company, as well, and that’s why so many employees stay with us for a long time. But because our company holds fast to traditions, and our processes have worked so well for so long, Travis Perkins is not always quick to innovate or react to trends. As an example, we still make our customers – who now prefer to do a lot of transactions via mobile devices – collect up to nine paper forms before they can leave one of our branches with the materials they need.

When I took over the Group CIO role at Travis Perkins, I got to thinking about our culture and heritage, and wondered how we could embrace the efficiency, productivity, and mobility of the digital world while also maintaining our tradition of building deep relationships. When embarking on a major journey, you need a guide. Google was my natural choice for an innovation partner. Their products promote interaction and collaboration, they understand mobile, inside and out, and their technology is web-based and cloud-based. And Google’s rapid consumer-centric innovation keeps the business moving fast.

Within a few weeks of contacting Google, we worked to launch our Google Apps gateway and our IT department began using Google Apps. The transformative power of these tools soon became clear. Meetings with my IT team took only 15-20 minutes instead of an hour. We collaborated on documents in Google Docs, so there was no need to review that content when we met – we could focus instead on core issues. The time savings and efficiencies Google enables are undeniable.

The company decided to bring in the whole suite of Google products, including Google+ and Google Chrome. To help with the transition, we trained 2,000 internal Google “champions.” The training, conducted in person or via Google Hangouts, was fun and emphasised collaboration and the ideas of “space” and “freedom” – that with Google, you could access what you need anytime, anywhere.

The champions, on their own, created a community on Google+. As we rolled out Google to 8,000 people at a time across 17 businesses and central functions, employees started to consult the community for advice. It was company wide collaboration evolving naturally, in real-time, and it was amazing to see. This collaboration appealed to the core values of our people, including those who’ve been with us for 40 or more years. They could see positive relationships forming between colleagues through Google and wanted to be part of it. We even bought 5,000 new Android phones because employees who hadn’t been using smartphones now wanted to be more connected and mobile.

Next year, we plan to use the Google platform to help our branches move away from outdated paper-based processes to approaches that are far more digitised and customer-friendly. We expect our Google champions to help us drive this change, and others, so we can improve the ways that we do business.

You don’t just move to Google for email or calendars. That’s basic. You do it to embrace the digital world, and for mobility, and to release the creativity and collaboration that every human being wants to experience. Google has unleashed a great deal of energy and potential in our team at Travis Perkins. Importantly, the drive for change in our organisation is not being mandated from an executive’s office, but growing from the grassroots up. It is originating from the employees at Travis Perkins who are now innovating with Google.

Editor's note: Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. We’re excited to highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for. Today, we hear from Steve Jones, co-founder of Fort Collins-based Pateros Creek Brewing Company.

Can you tell us about Pateros Creek Brewing Company?
My dad and I spent years making, tasting, talking about, and investing in craft beers before taking the plunge and starting Pateros Brewing Company in 2011. The evolution from casual enthusiasts to full-time brewers happened slowly: I started producing my own small batches at home in 2004, asked my dad to join me to start a family brewery in 2008, wrote up a business plan and started making larger batches from a shared space at Grimm Brother’s Brewhouse in 2010, then finally opened the doors to Pateros Creek in June 2011. We’re now a team of 12, and my dad and I are loving every minute of it.

Why did you decide to use Google Apps for your business?
We went straight to Google Apps as soon as we decided to make Pateros Creek Brewery a reality. We needed email that showed we were a real business — that we really did, after years of talking about starting the company, mean business. We considered alternatives, but Google was so simple and easy to use that it made perfect sense for us.

What’s your favorite thing about being on Google Apps?
I don’t have any downtime. You hear people complaining about email issues or IT problems and we don’t have any of that. Everything just works seamlessly, which is extremely important because we’re a small business and don’t have an IT department. I’m the co-founder and president, but on any given day I may also be the head brewer, operations manager and janitor. Thanks to Google Apps, I don’t have to deal with IT issues; instead, I get to focus on crafting tasty brews and making our customers happy.

What’s one unique way you’re using Google Apps?
Our brewing tanks have their own Google calendars. So do our fermenters, our brew house, our tap room and our Outpost Room where we showcase live music and events. Shared Google calendars keep us organized and help us stay on track when it comes to planning events, getting new blends ready for market and knowing who and what equipment is available at any given time. Sure, calendars are traditionally meant for personal scheduling, but we get so much value from using them for our internal operations and event planning.

How does Google Apps help the company stay mobile?
Google Drive is a lifesaver for a team like us that’s always on the go. Whether it’s checking the fermenter tanks, serving our customers in the tap room or traveling to new cities to grow our distribution footprint, we’re on our feet all the time. We know we can always access important documents from our phones, tablets or laptops without sitting down to a desk. Our employees can pull up one-sheeters about beer profiles in front of a customer if they’re curious about what goes into a certain blend, its ABV value or how hoppy it is — no laminated (and quickly outdated) documents necessary.

Editor's note: Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. We’re excited to highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for. Today, we hear from Bruce Palmer, Admission and Marketing Director at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Can you tell us about NOLS and its connection with Colorado?
The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) runs wilderness-based experiential courses from the Yukon to the Himalayas as a way of teaching environmental ethics, technical outdoor skills and leadership to students of all ages. We’re based in Wyoming and have courses and employees all over the globe, but when it comes to Colorado, our relationship is about much more than a shared state border. We run wilderness medicine courses in Boulder and partner closely with community organizations like the Outdoor Nation, a group headquartered in Boulder that helps youth get access to the outdoors.

What’s the role of technology at a company like NOLS, whose mission is all about the great outdoors?
We’re a geographically-dispersed and on-the-go group of outdoor enthusiasts, so it’s important that our technology is easy to use and doesn’t get in the way of our adventures. We love hiking, rock climbing and kayaking, but we also recognize the ways that Google Apps and the cloud can help us operationally. Our teams are always on the go - hiking, rock climbing and kayaking - so we wanted a platform that supports our mobile lifestyles. That’s exactly what we get with Google.

When and why did you start using Google Apps?
Our system before Google Apps was a nightmare — our email, calendar and chat were hosted on separate servers that went down constantly and left us in the dark in the middle of a work day. Our employees had a simple ask: they wanted to be able to check their email and access their documents whenever they needed to. Google Apps has let them do exactly that. It’s reliable, it’s easy to use, and it just works without a ton of training.

How does Google Apps fits in with the way NOLS employees work?
An average instructor may be at headquarters one week, in Patagonia the next, and Yukon the one after that, and they need to be close to their email and files wherever they are. Because our Gmail messages and Google Docs are all stored in the cloud, our employees can access everything they need no matter where they are or what device they’ve got with them. It's great having our data stored securely in the cloud so we don't lose work when someone accidentally drops a laptop and drives over it - it's happened. Luckily, it is easy for all employees to pick up right where they left off, on any computer.

What are some of the surprising benefits you’ve realized since moving to Google Apps?
We have many off-the-grid locations, so we had concerns about a cloud-based solution, but Apps is actually a lifesaver for the offices when phone lines go down every time a storm hits. We may not be able to call or text each other, but we’re just a ping away. Hangouts has become the go-to tool for quick communication across branches when telephones aren’t an option and email messages are too slow-moving and formal.

What are you most excited about when it comes to thinking about your future with Google Apps?
I can’t wait to move all of our course descriptions onto Google Apps - all 102 of them. Right now, they’re built in Word and emailed back and forth between the dozen or so stakeholders until they all agree on the final version, then they’re uploaded to our website as PDFs. Shifting these to Google Docs will save hours for our instructors and make the process transparent, inherently collaborative and efficient. The real reason this change excites me is because I view it as one of the many major operational shifts we’ll see next year and beyond as we embrace and take advantage of the extensive Google Apps suite.


Each decade, the U.S. Census Bureau has the lofty challenge of counting every single person in America—308,745,538 of us as of 2010. Census employees go to great lengths to get the count as precise as possible because this data is used for everything from setting voting districts—from local school boards to Congress—to directing all government spending based on population.

In addition to the widely-known decennial census, the bureau does many other surveys of U.S. households and businesses. As a result, the Census has become a massive data warehouse with terabytes of data about social and economic conditions in the country. This data belongs to the American people, so the goal is to make it as accessible as possible to them. Once upon a time, this data used to be presented in spreadsheets or statistical tables, which were extremely useful to people who were familiar with the Census data, but less accessible to the general public.

Starting with the 2010 Census, the Bureau decided to put the data on a map to make it interactive and easy to use for everyone from a fourth grader working on a research report to a city planner looking for housing trends in their town. The Bureau chose Google Maps as the platform upon which to publish the Census data. The familiar search box and intuitive navigation tools make it easy for visitors to its website to find the information they’re looking for. In the background, Google Maps quickly searches through the large volume of Census data and renders the desired map to a website visitor in milliseconds. The Census data comes alive as visitors zoom, pan and explore the different types of data on the map.

Google Maps enables the Census Bureau to paint a rich portrait of the country, which is available to anyone who visits Hear more from the Census Bureau in this video:


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Brian Morrissey, Head of Web Services, IT Services at University College Dublin, Ireland’s largest university. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

University College Dublin is the largest university in Ireland and one of Europe’s leading research universities. Founded in 1854, UCD has 6,000 staff and more than 30,000 students. Being able to get accurate information quickly, even when on the go, is important for faculty and students in a highly competitive learning environment. Google Apps and Google Search Appliance are helping us stay connected and informed.

Before Google, we weren’t always able to respond to service issues quickly, particularly if they happened on the weekend when IT administrators were off work. Google’s tools make service issues less frequent and easier to manage when they occur. Because we don’t have all that hardware and software to manage, we can now focus our IT staff on bringing new services to the UCD community. These include collaborative and communications services such as Google Plus and Hangouts, together with improved services through UCD Connect and UCD Mobile.

The ability to integrate Google Calendar and Drive with Gmail was another huge benefit for us. The big game changer for us is Google Calendar. We’re delivering class schedules and other events to students directly in their calendars, so they are easy to update and accessible via mobile devices. With 40,000 smartphones and tablets on the UCD network this is key to helping students make it to class on time.

In addition to Google Apps, UCD is using Google Search Appliance to make all of its publicly available documents searchable through its website, and internal documents searchable by university staff on the intranet. More than 500,000 documents are in the index and people are conducting more than 60,000 searches per month. We’ve implemented numerous custom search display pages and targeted directory searches with specific keywords to make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.

Google’s initial appeal was service availability, coupled with storage improvements, easy mobile access and cost savings. We’re saving about $330,000 a year that would have been spent on servers, maintenance, personnel and power to manage the previous email system, SunMail. Storage was a big concern for us before going Google. We had about eight terabytes of staff emails alone and were always worried that we’d run out of storage and have to buy more. Now, each person has seven times more storage for mail and concerns about exceeding quotas have disappeared. Through the use of Google Apps and Search Appliance, UCD now has a scalable solution for mail, collaboration and search which drives better communication, collaboration and information retrieval throughout our university.


(Cross-posted on the Gmail blog)

Gmail and Docs offer wide language support, however in some cases using the keyboard is less than ideal. Whether you’re a student trying to include a foreign phrase in your paper or an international consultant hoping to begin your message with a friendly local greeting, now you’ll be able to use your own handwriting to input words directly into Gmail and Google Docs with your mouse or trackpad.

To try it out, enable input tools in Gmail or Docs and select the handwriting input (represented by a pencil icon) of the language you want to use.
You can write single or even multiple characters at once in the panel to see them show up in your message or document. Currently, handwriting input is available in Google Docs for over 20 languages and in Gmail for over 50 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and Russian.
Handwriting input makes the internet easier to use by people worldwide and is also part of a larger effort to break the barrier between languages, check it out in Google Mobile Search, Google Translate (Web, Android and iOS), and the Chrome browser.


Improving efficiency and innovating are ongoing missions for the U.S. Army, the largest and oldest branch of the U.S. military. The Army’s continuous adoption of new, digital technologies is part of its effort to realize these goals, along with another: cost-efficiency. Bringing modern commercial cloud capabilities such as Google Apps helps the Army to reduce IT costs, while giving troops access to always up to date, web tools for productivity, collaboration, and communication.

The Army’s rollout of Google Apps is part of a transformational program to improve collaboration, information sharing and mobile access for an initial group of 50,000 Army and Department of Defense (DoD) personnel. Leading the rollout is the Army Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), which is responsible for providing infrastructure and information management systems to the entire U.S. Army. This includes enterprise-level IT services that enable secure end-to-end communication across the organization.

The accessibility of Google Apps from any device including thin clients was a primary driver for selecting Google. Mobile technology not only makes the Army more nimble, it is imperative for efficiency while personnel are in the field. Tablets are used by the Army for education and distance learning because they equip personnel with access to training materials anytime, anywhere. A soldier can review a lesson in Google Drive, complete an assignment with teammates in Google Docs, or attend a class via video Hangout, all from their tablet, smartphone or desktop. In addition, Army organizations can set up their own Google Play Private Channel for distributing mobile apps internally.

The 50,000 personnel who will have access to Google Apps can use text and video chat, as well as real-time document, slide, and spreadsheet co-authoring and editing. These capabilities are ideally suited for today’s modular teams and immediately scale to any number of Army units and users on demand. The Army anticipates rapid adoption of Google Apps because many Soldiers and Army personnel already use Google Apps in their personal lives. Gmail and Hangouts, for example, are popular ways to keep in touch with friends and family while deployed. Google Apps also enables seamless and high fidelity interoperability in their existing work environment with Google Quickoffice.

What’s more, Google Apps runs on multiple operating systems and browsers providing more device options, plus works with existing Army security policies and DoD directory and authentication services. Google’s completion of FISMA certification and accreditation gave the government a complete understanding of the security controls Google Apps has in place and how they meet the Army’s stringent criteria.

Consistent with the DoD’s better buying initiative, other DoD organizations can also benefit by buying off the Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) contract the Army instituted. We look forward to collaborating with the U.S. Army and DLT Solutions, a Google Apps Authorized Reseller, to make this project a success.


Editor's note: Today’s guest is A.V. Dharmakrishnan, Chief Executive Officer at Madras Cements, the flagship company of the Ramco Group in India. Madras Cements is the sixth largest cement operator in India with over 3,000 employees. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Madras Cements began in 1961, with a production capacity of 200 tonnes. Today, we have a capacity of 14 million tonnes for both the Indian and export market yearly, through five cement production plants and seven other plants covering grinding, packing, ready mix concrete and dry mortar production.

Cement is a low-cost commodity sold in high volumes. Our market is extremely competitive and fast-moving, and the business is very much driven by logistics. We promise cost-savings for our customers by continuously innovating our production process, optimizing our logistics strategy and ensuring we have a presence in construction hotspots.

We manage our inventory and business process using a proprietary Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution developed by Ramco Systems. This system generates lots of useful information about our supply network that we could not access easily. We used to do our reporting on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets - a complex and time-consuming process requiring constant manual extraction of data to prepare for our business reviews. On top of that, it was difficult to pinpoint where we could improve our processes or identify new business opportunities, and the reports were not available online.

We wanted to identify patterns across our national network of suppliers and glean better insights from our reports. We turned to Google Maps to display this data on a map. Today, I can easily access these reports and insights online, using my tablet.

By integrating Google Maps with the Ramco ERP system, we superimposed data onto Google Maps. The result was a rich data visualization tool. With Google Maps, our field sales teams have visibility into the competitor distribution networks in their areas, allowing them the ability to tailor sales strategies for better market penetration. They can also view dealer performance data, enabling better control on customer service deliveries. Best of all, we can access this information on mobile devices which allows for decision-making anytime, anywhere – a critical success factor in our fast-moving industry. Since implementing Google Maps, our consignment clearance time has improved up to 40%.

With the ability to visualize our data on a map, our management team now has a clear view of our business -- from distributor performance comparisons to location mapping of wagon movements -- helping us to improve our overall competitiveness and map out strategies for business growth. Since implementing Google Maps, our EBITA has improved to about 7% higher than our immediate competitors – quite a feat considering the competitive landscape.

Google Maps has provided Madras Cements with a winning business differentiator, in a fiercely competitive commodity market. More importantly, we have continued to give the best returns to our investors, in line with the wish of our founder, Shri P A C Ramasamy Raja, when he opened the first factory in 1961.


(Cross-posted on the Google Lat Long Blog)

Maps are a part of our daily lives—from finding the best local Italian restaurant to planning a trip abroad. Maps are also a valuable tool in the workplace. Businesses use maps to help customers easily find their store locations or help travelers get to their final destination.

Today we’re announcing a new professional mapping tool, Google Maps Engine Pro, which lets businesses visualize their data on a map. By importing data like addresses, names, office locations and sales leads from various file formats onto a map, businesses can edit, analyze and share their information in a simple format. Google Maps Engine Pro can be as easy to use as creating a document and it gives businesses an added productivity tool to help make decisions, organize information, and plan operations using Google Maps.

With the ability to collect business information, visualize it on a map and share it across multiple devices, organizations can make better sense of data in relation to real-world surroundings. For example, Pure Fix Cycles, a distributor of custom, fixed gear bikes, uses Maps Engine Pro to identify sales opportunities across target markets, helping to expand their business throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Google Maps Engine Pro was built as an application on top of the Google Maps Engine platform, which provides businesses with cloud based technology to help them organize large datasets and create more complex maps. Today, in addition to introducing Maps Engine Pro, we’re also announcing several new features to Google Maps Engine:
  • Mobile App: The new mobile app allows individuals to access their maps created in Google Maps Engine, Maps Engine Pro and Maps Engine Lite. Once a map has been shared, users can access their data on-the-go and from any Android device.
  • Connector Tools: It’s now easy to migrate data from legacy systems, such as SAP, into Maps Engine using a connector tool that can be downloaded for free. There are more than 300+ business and geospatial applications available through the connector. To make data migration even easier, the Maps Engine now features an ESRI Toolbar that lets you transfer your ArcGIS maps to Maps Engine.
  • Introductory Account: Want to test out Google Maps Engine for your business? The introductory account is an easy way to introduce Maps Engine to your organization’s geospatial infrastructure. The free account supports the product’s full platform capabilities, including API access, but limits the number of map queries per day.
By providing better ways to easily integrate maps into your organization’s operations, businesses now have the ability to use powerful mapping technologies that were once only available to the mapping experts. With the launch of Google Maps Engine Pro and the new Google Maps Engine platform features, now every enterprise and business professional can visualize their data on a map.

Editor's note: Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. We’re excited to highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for. Today, we hear from Amanda Johnson-King, Marketing and Branding Manager from Odell Brewing Company, one of Ft. Collins' many craft breweries.

How did Odell Brewery get started?
Doug, Wynne and Corkie Odell opened Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1989. Over the last 23 years, the husband-wife-sister team has released its fair share of uniquely named craft beers while also cultivating a work environment that celebrates collaboration, passion and, of course, beer.

When and why did you start using Google Apps?
We started using Google Apps back in 2011. We’re a pretty small team and we didn’t have an IT department at the time so trying to maintain our Microsoft Exchange server was expensive and time-consuming. Plus, our team collaborates extensively in person and online. We realized that we wasted time emailing Word documents as attachments back and forth and dealing with locked documents. We needed a new platform that would let us work together online the same way we did in person. When we found out about Google Apps and learned that multiple team members could work on a single doc at the same time, as well as see all the changes in real-time without having to deal with servers, and we thought it was a good fit for our growing company.

Since moving to Google Apps, have you seen any unique uses by certain employees or groups?
Everyone uses Gmail - email is the foundation of our operation - but we’ve seen various groups adopt the products in different ways based on their needs (and creativity). Our product development committee tracks key information for each and every brew in a shared Google sheet. This includes everything from alcohol content to taste profile to the name and when and where the beer will be poured. This lets them stay organized and helps stakeholders from other teams keep tabs on key information, since they know the information in the sheet is always up-to-date.

Have you stumbled across any unexpected benefits since moving to Google Apps?
Absolutely. We knew Apps would help us internally, but it’s been cool to see how it’s helped us work with other local businesses. We frequently partner with nearby restaurants, like Jax Fish House, to create special collaboration brews for their customers and use Google Docs to manage the process. We do this so that all the requests are automatically centralized in a single Google sheet that our team can access at any time. We use the same sheet internally for any of our employees who want to use the pilot system to make their own custom beers for special events like their weddings or holidays.

Odell is known for its green initiatives. How does technology play into your sustainability efforts?
By 2014, our goal is to be a zero landfill brewery. Sustainability matters all the way from our recycling methods to our IT - not having a large on-site server means we're decreasing our environmental footprint.

Overall, how has technology helped Odell grow?
We’re in the business of brewing beer and that’s what we love. We’ve been very deliberate and strategic in how we expand the business and where we sell our beer. We’re not aiming to go nationwide or grow faster than we can manage. Ultimately, the role of technology at Odell is to help us work together, engage our fans and beer lovers, and to help us make great beer. Whether it’s posting our daily food truck calendar on our website, managing the pilot system schedule through Google Docs, or just knowing that we won’t have to spend time or money dealing with email servers, Google Apps has helped us focus on what we care most about — making great beer.


Editor's note: Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. Over the next few weeks, we'll highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for.

I was raised in the cornfields of Illinois, but I call the foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado my home. I've lived here with my family for the last 15 years and can't imagine being anywhere else - I can't think of another place that combines my love of the outdoors with a culture of innovation and technology. And it doesn't hurt that it all happens with a set of gorgeous snow-capped peaks right outside the window.
I joined Google’s Boulder office seven years ago, right after Google acquired Writely, which is the program that would become Google Docs. The first Google office in Boulder was a small space above the Starbucks on Pearl Street Mall - the 800 yard walk from my front door to work was a major perk. Since then, the Google Drive team has grown to about 50 people, the Boulder office now calls 250 employees its own, and together we all sit at a new office at 26th and Pearl. It’s been fun being part of the Google Docs team, and now Google Drive team, as it has taken off. I remember showing my daughters Google Docs back in the early days and now both their schools use Google Docs as a part of Google Apps for Education at Boulder High and CU Boulder. Even though the Drive team is still growing rapidly, it’s a close knit group - over half of our team members have been here at least 3 years.

California’s Silicon Valley and New York’s Silicon Alley may be the two hubs that come to mind when thinking about innovation hotspots, but it’s actually Boulder that is home to the highest number of tech startups per capita. Colorado has a unique ecosystem that fuels and funds innovation. Promising startups don’t have to look far to find people and organizations willing to provide mentorship and funding. Techstars, one of the world's leading accelerators, was born in Boulder in 2006, and has nurtured a strong community of graduates in the area that supports each other in their entrepreneurial endeavors, along with an equally strong network of local mentors.

The fact that innovation touches nearly every industry here isn’t a coincidence. The state of Colorado itself leads by example. Last year, the Governor’s Office of Information Technology announced it had gone Google to better align with its priorities: customer success, innovation, information security, people, service excellence, and trusted partnerships. The shift to Google Apps for Government is helping state workers communicate and collaborate more effectively while keeping Colorado at the forefront of innovation.

Over the next month, we’ll be highlighting some of the people and businesses that make Colorado an inspiring place to live. We’ll also show how local leaders are embracing cool technology - like Google Apps - to make it all happen. Because it’s pioneers like them whose work behind the scenes (and desks) help drive the culture and innovation across the state that people like me are so proud to call home.


Editor's note: Today’s blogger is Henk ten Bos, Chief Information Officer at Ageas Insurance Company (Asia) Limited, part of the Ageas Group, with nearly 3,000 agents based in Hong Kong. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

As one of Hong Kong’s largest insurance companies, Ageas recognizes the need to constantly deliver the best services to our clients. To compete effectively in our business, our agents need to be able to respond speedily to customer requests. Our email and communication platform is key to our daily business.

As we continued to grow over the years, our previous email and calendaring solution did not keep up with our business growth. We became aware of the need for a more sophisticated tool. So we began to consider a cloud-based application since the agents wanted a way to share and work on documents easily, on top of the simple email and calendar functions.

Henk ten Bos, CIO
To make sure we were on the right track, we consulted Master Concept to see how Google Apps would fit in our business. We also had to ensure that Google Apps could be easily integrated into our current environment and would meet our strict security standards. Our agents were enthusiastic about the move, especially since many of them were already using Gmail for their personal needs. This supported us in the decision to transition to Google’s cloud solution. The transformation was quick and hassle-free, with no data loss or downtime. In fact, the entire migration process, which took place in under a month, went almost unnoticed by agents.

Google Apps for Business has changed the way we work. Our agents are now finding themselves more productive with communication tools such as Gmail and Google Chat. Collaboration has become so much easier as we can now access documents and videos from anywhere and at any time. Concerns about capacity from our own servers are a thing of the past. In fact, we don’t even have to worry about adding capacity with growing agent numbers, as Google offers us easy provisioning and scalability.

Another major advantage is Google’s mobile device management tools. We had been considering a separate solution to manage the growing prevalence of mobile devices that our agents started to use. Now, we don’t have to. Google provides us with basic management and security tools, so our agents are free to access their email, calendar and documents through the device of their choice.

With all of these capabilities now in our hands, we are certain that we have made the right choice with Google. We are now a more efficient organization and with the constant stream of innovation from Google, we are confident that Google Apps will remain relevant and vital to our business in the years to come. Learn more about the story here.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Mr. Saleh Al-Sagabi, Information Technology Director at Spimaco, a Saudi Arabian medical and pharmaceutical business, which develops, manufactures and sells pharmaceutical products and medical appliances. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

As one of the leading Saudi Arabian pharmaceutical companies, Spimaco works tirelessly to register new products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the fastest time possible. Previously, this involved a team of a hundred people from across the world creating, accessing and editing thousands of documents individually. This meant staff were spending an hour a week inputting into documents, sending them as attachments for others to edit and merging changes from multiple contributors. Across the organization, this added up to 52,000 hours a year spent on managing different versions of the same document and combining changes from individuals.

We’d heard about other large pharmaceutical businesses, Roche and Genentech, moving to the cloud-based communication service Google Apps so we understood its collaborative potential. As an experiment, we decided to offer 50 of our staff access to Google Apps and found that, all of a sudden, teams were no longer wiping out several hours a week on making changes in attachments, sending these to colleagues and merging changes into a single document. They were using Google Docs to work together in the same document simultaneously, seeing each other’s changes as they typed and sharing ideas, comments and feedback instantly across multiple countries. This really showed us the potential of Google Apps for teamwork and collaboration.
We now have 1,100 people using Google Apps and the benefits are widespread. Through Gmail’s search capabilities, finding an email in the labyrinth of folders and attachments has gone from up to ten minutes to seconds, speeding up daily communication.

Not only is our information easier to access from anywhere but it is also more secure. Having used Lotus Domino since 1998, we ended up with over four terabytes of confidential data that needed to be managed and protected by our own teams. This was both time-consuming and challenging. Today, by storing everything in Google’s data center, we benefit from the cutting edge security Google can offer and, if needed, can remotely wipe accounts or devices. Our employees can also see exactly who has access to a document and whether they can edit it or not - all without complex file sharing processes, which used to take IT at least an hour a day to manage. We’ll soon be adding Google Vault to help us further with archiving, e-discovery and improve the information governance capabilities.

We've also cut our IT costs by 75% by moving to Google Apps - that's hundreds of thousands of dollars we can spend developing better medical solutions instead. More importantly, we now have a more productive, better connected, more collaborative workforce. As the largest company in Saudi Arabia to make the move to Google Apps, it is great to think we’re leading the way for others in our country.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Adisak Sukul, Ph.D., from the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science, KMITL. Dr. Sukul served as a consultant on the working group to develop Thailand’s largest Digital Library of legislative documents. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

The Parliament of Thailand houses over 350,000 pieces of journals, newspapers, e-books and videos, some dating back from as early as 1932 ‒ the year Thailand’s Constitution began. Over the years, the amount of information we accumulated grew substantially and we sought a powerful system that would help us manage the repository effectively. This culminated in the development of Thailand’s largest Digital Library, where the repository of legislative documents was made available for public referencing over the Web.

The Digital Library collated various document collections from different research libraries into a single searchable archive. We also developed a search engine to help users locate information but we found that the engine was not generating accurate search results due to the complexity of the Thai language. The problem was further compounded by the multitude of complex official documents with several different metadata structures. Users had to run 10 different search queries in order to retrieve the complete information they were looking for. It became evident that a more efficient and user-friendly solution was needed if we wanted members of the public to gain value from the National Assembly’s collection.

Google Search Appliance (GSA) met our requirements perfectly. It integrates easily with our back-end database solution and the information from multiple platforms is now consolidated and condensed into one single repository. It is simple to use and delivers complete and accurate search results to users. Now, users can conduct searches 10 times faster than they used to.

The GSA is also equipped with a built-in dictionary that intelligently recognizes the Thai language. The GSA’s auto complete and spell checker are incredibly useful for us. The Thai language is complex, and it is not uncommon for words to be misspelled. We knew that working with the Thai language on a search engine can be highly challenging, but Google’s dedicated team worked hard to ensure that this was not a barrier to the success of our project.

Once the system went live to the public, Google’s easy-to-use interface attracted many new users to the Digital Library. This was a plus point for us as we have been receiving increasing requests for access to non-sensitive legislative-related information. I am pleased that we are now able to share this repository of knowledge with lawyers, students and non-governmental organizations. To date, the Library has logged a 200 percent increase in user traffic.

We also noticed that searches conducted using or other search engines will point to documents in the Digital Library. This means that we are now reaching out to more people. It is gratifying to know that we are finally able to share and put to good use the rich history and heritage we have stored over the years.

Throughout the project, Google’s Enterprise team and Google’s Developer Group were supportive and professional. In fact, it was this open working relationship that helped ensure the project’s success. Thanks to Google, we now empower our searchers with a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips.


Editor's note: Today’s blog post is from Chris Chance, Director of IT at Speedway Motors, the world’s largest manufacturer, distributor, and retailer of street rod and racing products. See what other organizations that use Google Search Appliance have to say – and watch the recent Hangout On Air with Speedway Motors and Google Enterprise.

For a business that’s based on speed, we had to admit that our Speedway Motors website search was rather slow. That’s not acceptable for a company that’s on the fast track: We fill thousands of orders a week, and our website gets more than 500,000 unique visitors every month. The solution to the speed problem was Google Search Appliance, which fueled faster search for Speedway and also drove big increases in conversions and revenue.

Our previous search product, Mercado’s e-Commerce search and merchandising suite (now Adobe® Search&Promote), didn’t just go slow on delivering results: It took 10 hours a week to manually tune results and build workarounds. But even with all that work, search results took as long as four seconds to appear. We started to realize that our competitors all had better search functionality than we did. Exit Mercado, enter Google Search Appliance.

With more than 60,000 products, many of which have unique names that require inputting for synonyms and alternate keywords, we expected a long implementation. We were wrong – it took just a few weeks. Now that feeds are automatic, we spend only 10 minutes a week checking search results.

Now Speedway Motors really is speedy: Customers typically receive search results in 500 milliseconds, a performance improvement that contributed to a 45% increase in our conversion rate, and a 116% increase in search-attributed revenue. The Google Search Appliance is giving back to our customers and our Ecommerce team – customers are able to quickly find the parts they need and the reduction in search maintenance allows our Ecommerce team to spend more team focusing on what matters – helping our customers build their dream cars.


(Cross-posted on the Google Chrome Blog)

On April 8, 2014, after more than a decade of powering many of the world’s computers, Windows XP will officially retire. Like all technologies that come to their end-of-life, the XP operating system and most of its desktop applications will no longer receive updates and security patches. Since unpatched browser bugs are often used by malware to infect computers, we’re extending support for Chrome on Windows XP, and will continue to provide regular updates and security patches until at least April 2015.

We recognize that hundreds of millions of users, including a good chunk of current Chrome users, still rely on XP. Moreover, many organizations still run dozens or even hundreds of applications on XP and may have trouble migrating. Our goal is to support Chrome for XP users during this transition process. Most importantly, Chrome on XP will still be automatically updated with the latest security fixes to protect against malware and phishing attacks.

If you’re an IT administrator and your employees depend on web applications built for older browsers, you can use Legacy Browser Support to set Chrome as the primary browser and limit the usage of the unsupported, legacy browser to only specific web apps. See Chrome for Business to learn more about how to deploy and manage Chrome for an organization.


(Cross-posted from the Google New Zealand Blog)

As students and teachers go back to school in the northern hemisphere, educators and students in New Zealand are in the final term of their school year. From publishing reviews on the World Cup to collaborating on papers, technology is giving teachers and students new ways and platforms to create, share, and learn.

For example Stephanie Thompson, a teacher from Tawa Intermediate School in Wellington, has her students use Blogger to publish their work and views. As she explains, the ability to personalize the content they create is a great way to keep the students engaged. “My students are Year 7/8 so being able to personalize their blogs is an essential part of this process. For example my kids had the opportunity to take part in a ‘beautify my blog’ session. This is important for them to gain ownership over their blogs.”

By bringing in an element of competition with technology, Physical Education Teacher Tim Gander of Gisborne managed to ignite his PE students' appetite for literature. During the World Cup he had students submit article reviews using Google Forms. The public nature of Google Forms meant that his students were more conscious of the quality of their work. "The boys could see the quality of work which was required and knew that everyone was reading their responses- this led to a bit of competition, with each group trying to outdo each other!"

Last year we told you about Pt. England School and one of their leaders of Professional Development, Dorothy Burt. After learning more about the impact that the team there is making using Google Apps and Chromebooks to empower both students and the community, we visited to learn more. The video below gives you more insights into the passionate teachers and motivated learners and families who make up Pt. England.

We wish everyone the best with their final term and we look forward to hearing and sharing more stories from our teachers and schools. If you’d like to learn more about Google in Education tools you can complete the form on our website to talk to a member of our team.

Editor's note: We’re excited to announce that Keller Williams Realty International, the largest real estate franchise company in North America, is going Google. We sat down with Jason Tang, Executive Director of Technology, to learn about what drove the move and what they’re looking forward to. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Can you tell us about Keller Williams and your decision to move to Google Apps?
Keller Williams is the largest real estate franchise company in North America. We have 200 employees in our Austin, Texas headquarters and support 90,000 agents across our 670 franchise locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Having a central corporate team and a vast network of independent associates puts us in a unique position from an IT standpoint: we’re responsible for making decisions that help both our internal employees and our agents in the field, whose day-to-day roles differ quite a bit.

Our path to Google Apps was driven by two immediate features both groups needed: a better email platform and a more integrated calendar system. We ran on-premise Microsoft Exchange in our headquarters and a separate system built on an open source platform for our associates. It was an antiquated solution, to say the least. We evaluated Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365, and what clinched it for Google Apps was the future we saw with it. At the 80,000-foot view, our decision wasn’t just about solving our two biggest problems today, but about innovating for the years ahead. We’re betting on a great platform that we know will only get better.

Real estate agents are always on the go. How did mobile play into your decision to use Google Apps?
Mobile, mobile, mobile is our rallying cry. Our agents don’t succeed sitting behind a desk, and when it comes to mobile apps, they want it to “just work” – whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. We’ve spent plenty of time imagining a typical day once we’ve got our associates on Apps. Let’s say an agent and her office team receive an email from a client asking to schedule a showing. The office team sets up an appointment in Calendar for 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. The agent, who is out showing properties, gets an alert on her smartphone for the 4:00 p.m. meeting and shows up at the property at the appointed time. If the meeting changes to 5:00 p.m., no problem, she’ll get an instant alert on her smartphone. What’s more, the back-office team has already uploaded a video presentation of the property and the full disclosure packet to Drive. During the viewing, the agent can pull up the video and documents on her tablet to give a very polished presentation.

That fact that this scenario can play out on whatever device our agents prefer is a game-changer for both us and them, and everyone wins.

What excites you most about the future with Google Apps?
What excites us most is the potential with Google Apps. Yes, we’re thrilled to roll out the core products, like Gmail, Calendar and Drive, with the help of Cloud Sherpas, and our employees and agents are thrilled to upgrade to a system they’re so familiar with. From where I stand, I see endless possibilities beyond the core products. I imagine agents using YouTube to feature videos of properties, Drive to upload disclosure packets, Voice to manage their client calls, and Blogger to create blogs on local real estate trends. Google Apps are the building blocks to create a whole new technology infrastructure for our company.

Google Apps Marketplace will also play a big role at our company. Keller Williams is unique, in that our 90,000 associates are independent operators, not employees. Our agents are free to use many different technology tools to run their businesses. For example, some agents use MailChimp or ConstantContact for email marketing. With the Marketplace, our agents will be able to download these and hundreds of other business apps for use within our Google Apps universe. Our agents use the tools they’re most familiar with, and we support them in their choices however we can.


(Cross-posted on the Google Drive blog.)

Presentations give you the ability to bring a story to life in a visually compelling way—whether it’s a pitch for a new product idea, a deck for a history class assignment, or an introduction to your surfing club. Today you can take the magic up a notch with two new features in Slides—widescreen format and editable master slides.

With widescreen presentations, you get a ton of new space to fill with words, charts, tables or even a simple, beautiful image.
Since the majority of monitors and displays are now widescreen, new presentations will be widescreen by default. You can change the size of your slides using the pull down menu in the theme chooser, or by visiting Page setup in the File menu.
Every presentation you make with Slides has a theme that comes with a set of preset colors, font styles and sizes, backgrounds, etc. to give you a consistent look and feel throughout your deck.

One of your top requests has been to customize these presets throughout your presentation. With editable master slides, you can now easily tailor how content appears on every slide by selecting "Edit master" from the Slide menu. For example, you can set all of your header fonts to Alconica, make all of your first level bullets bold, and add a logo in the bottom right corner.
Voila! The thumbnail previews alongside the master show that all of these changes are made instantly across all of the slides in your presentation.

And that’s not all. Each theme consists of a variety of slide layouts, which can also now be individually customized or created from scratch.

We hope that these new ways to customize Slides help you tell better stories, and look forward to seeing the beautiful themes that you come up with. Look out for these updates throughout the course of the day.


Editor's note: Our guest blogger this week is our long-time friend and customer, Elliot Tally, Senior Director of Enterprise Applications, Collaboration & Innovation at Sanmina, a global electronics manufacturer headquartered in San Jose, California with over 47,000 employees. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Since I joined the company over 12 years ago, Sanmina business communications have evolved from an organization into an organism. In the past five years using Google’s tools, I have seen the business transform further from a traditional manufacturing company with change-resistant IT infrastructure, basic collaboration, and a reliance on resource-draining travel for “teamwork,” into a modern company that has embraced the cloud, breathing clean air through more inclusive collaboration, and fostering a flexible and dynamic environment for employees to work effectively where and when they need to.

In 2008, when we first looked at moving to the cloud, we wanted to reduce infrastructure and cut IT costs. We were dealing with a lot of data: 112 Exchange servers across 70 locations. We create 2 Terabytes of email per month, and our Guadalajara campus alone was spending $15,000 a quarter on backups. Plus, we were spending millions of dollars on Microsoft licenses. By choosing Google Apps, we now save about $1.5 million a year, reduced our on premise email infrastructure by more than 90% and have seen a reduction in servers, refocusing of staff, licensing costs and other operating expenditures. We only need two people, instead of six, to support Google Apps for our 21,000 employees who use email.
I knew moving to the cloud would impact our bottom line, what I didn’t realize is how it would influence the culture of our business and the way we get things done. Working across time zones used to involve countless emails, crowded teleconference rooms, and expensive travel. Employees quickly and organically embraced Google Docs to work together without worrying about time zones or physical location. Now we have more than 700,000 Google Docs, 3,200 Google Sites and 4,000 Google Groups spanning all functions of the business. For example, our product engineering teams use Google Sites to track documentation, planning, and product testing for many of their projects, including leveraging the platform for customer collaboration. Using Google+ Hangouts on a daily basis has cut travel costs and we find that employees feel more connected and productive, without the jetlag.

Google Drive has also helped us grow by facilitating the discovery and information sharing process during mergers. We used to manage acquisitions using file attachments for everything from the discovery questionnaires to legal contracts. There were too many attachments to create a record for everything. The draft content was usually shared via email or FTP and version control was a challenge. So when we purchased BreconRidge in 2010 we decided to use a Google Site and Google Docs for the majority of the documentation. The advantages were threefold: active collaboration, inherent version control with synchronization, and ease of sharing. We shared docs internally and with BreconRidge throughout the process to reduce some of the travel requirements, be more transparent, and to facilitate the discovery process and negotiations. The increased collaboration & document control effectiveness resulted in this model becoming the de facto choice for managing subsequent M&A transactions.

Google Apps isn’t the only Google offering helping to streamline our business. In our factories, we’re in the process of replacing thousands of data collection points - spanning each part of the manufacturing line -- with commodity Android tablets. These tablets present a touch-enabled and rich interface for employees, which is readily available on their own mobile devices. Our plant managers appreciate the simplicity of the single interface and the automation; we have dramatically reduced the need for expensive PCs, paper or filing cabinets, and printed work instructions, creating instead a convenient platform for our engineers to target with innovative new apps using technology they already know. The tablets can also send notifications to supervisors and issue quality alerts, allowing for speedier resolution of problems in our plants. We’ve leveraged Google App Engine to host a machine maintenance and calibration system we developed to track equipment and spare parts, and automate the relevant business processes, reducing parts inventory and ensuring easily auditable compliance. Our Printed Circuit Board (PCB) plants even created an interface using the Google Drive API to programmatically create Google Spreadsheets from their PCB engineering design system for sharing with customers as part of the quoting process. We’ve been using the Google Search Appliance since 2009 and added 2 new Google Search Appliances 7.0 this year to index our intranet, our Google Apps content, and a few other internal content stores.

We exceeded our original goals of cutting costs and reducing IT infrastructure by more than we could have conceived of at the time, but the real benefits of “going Google” have emerged over the past four years. It’s much easier to quantify server reduction than the more intangible benefits of using Google Apps: employees working together seamlessly, testing creative solutions without investing in expensive hardware, and increasing job satisfaction since teams can focus on strategic projects. It’s exactly these types of activities that have evolved our business culture from a collection of independent teams into an agile multicellular company leading the industry with collaborative communication solutions.