Is Google Boon or Bane of IT Departments?

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Two of my perennial favorite topics in this blog are Google (an obsession I share with the world-at-large) and the increasingly autonomous business users who perform IT-related functions with no assistance from IT -- and often under IT's radar.


So it was hard for me to pass up a TechRepublic piece, based on a presentation given at the recent Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2008, that discusses Google's potentially huge impact on IT departments. Not surprisingly, "disruptive" is the word that Gartner VP Richard Hunter uses.


Gartner has been talking about this for at least a year, based on a blog from March 2007 that makes roughly the same point. In that post, the example I cited was a partnership with IBM in which the search giant added its Google Gadgets to WebSphere portal pages. That looks like downright small potatoes now, considering some of the other partnerships Google has forged, including one with Salesforce.com in which the two companies will integrate their applications.


The Salesforce deal improves the odds of Google finding its way into more enterprises, opines IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson, because it handily solves an "oft-overlooked but pervasive integration problem: cutting and pasting between applications."


And Google has made its enterprise intentions far more obvious in recent months. In February, it rolled out Google Sites, a publishing tool that lets businesses (or groups of business users) create team Web sites. Most of the news coverage presented it as a valid competitor to Microsoft's SharePoint. Also in February, it introduced Google Team Edition, which allows a user to set up Google Apps with nothing more than a valid e-mail address. In a New York Times article, Rajen Sheth, Google Apps senior product manager, said:

Google Apps has been, by definition, an IT project, and now we want to let people use it without IT involvement.

Calling it a "solid, happy medium," Sheth tempered the statement by noting that Google Team Edition has a clear upgrade path to an IT-manageable version.



Following his presentation, Gartner VP Hunter told TechRepublic's Jason Hiner that Google will likely enter the enterprise through commoditized services such as e-mail (Salesforce users will likely adopt Gmail) and then advance to higher-value services such as business intelligence and mobile sales support. Writes Hiner:

Some IT organizations might consider it a boon to pass these functions on to Google so that the IT department can concentrate on very enterprise-specific competitively differentiating applications. IT organizations that measure their worth in terms of how much of the company's IT needs they supply themselves will be less happy to see Google move in on their turf-and I do mean specifically that in many cases it will be an argument about turf, not enterprise value.

A continuing question, of course, is whether Google can meet the reliability and availability expectations of enterprises. (I blogged about the "enterprise difference" and Google's struggle with it, last April.)



Hiner wraps by noting that, while Google looms large in the coming transformation of traditional IT departments, it won't be the only vendor looking to leverage two of the major trends ushering in the change: utility computing and managed services.