GSA Picks Google Apps: What It Means

The General Services Administration made a bold decision to move its email and collaboration systems to the cloud. In the RFP issued last June, it was easy to see their goals in the statement of objectives:

This Statement of Objectives (SOO) describes the goals that GSA expects to achieve with regard to the

1. modernization of its e-mail system;

2. provision of an effective collaborative working environment;

3. reduction of the government’s in-house system maintenance burden by providing related business, technical, and management functions; and

4. application of appropriate security and privacy safeguards.

GSA announced yesterday that they choose Google Apps for email and collaboration and Unisys as the implementation partner.

So what does this mean?

What it means (WIM) #1: GSA employees will be using a next-generation information workplace. And that means mobile, device-agnostic, and location-agile. Gmail on an iPad? No problem. Email from a home computer? Yep. For GSA and for every other agency and most companies, it's important to give employees the tools to be productive and engage from every location on every device. "Work becomes a thing you do and not a place you go." [Thanks to Earl Newsome of Estee Lauder for that quote.]

WIM #2: GSA will save 50% of the cost of email over five years. This is also what our research on the cost of email on-premises versus email in the cloud shows.

WIM #3: Google gets a premier government client to learn from. What GSA learns, the rest of the federal government will want to also learn. Every other agency will be watching and waiting to see how it goes. I expect that a year from now, the cloud option, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and probably Cisco, will be on the short list for every major collaboration and messaging decision in government and the private sector alike.

WIM #4: GSA's decision sets the stage for additional cloud services. Once the transition is complete and employees are comfortable in the new environment, then other commodity services are sure to follow. Email and collaboration are good test beds for cloud services. So what else can run in the cloud? Many edge workloads, lots of content management solutions, and other commodity business applications are good candidates.

WIM #5: Focusing on the needs of employees will streamline the adoption and satisfaction. First, GSA is sure to focus on the needs of employees. As we've learned from other organizations that have moved to Google Apps, not every employee immediately understands or values the Web experience. Searching for email and using the Web interface takes some getting used to. By focusing on the needs of all employees, with good training, embedded learning systems, and "Gmail floor wardens" to work with employees, GSA will be successful.

Love to hear your thoughts.


Is Google Apps Secure Enough?

Wow, this is big news. It would be interesting to learn how Google addressed GSA's concerns around availability and security, given the fact that Google has had some major hiccups in those areas in the past.

Missing piece - Wiki, integrated w/ Google Docs?

Great article! For all the reasons you state; I am thrilled to read this. But ... a comment.

I think Google Apps (or in particular, Google Docs) is not the start-all-end-all when it comes to doc mgmt and collaboration with the Google flavor.

What about ongoing ad-hoc collaboration - structured and unstructured? A Wiki?

Google Docs can be thought of as a pseudo-DMS (Doc Mgmt System), and very convenient with same interface as GMail.

But it is still the old way of working (physical docs only) - to REALLY meet item #2, I think it needs to be coupled with a Wiki too?

For this exact reason, we created the Google Docs connector for Confluence (by Atlassian).

Confluence is the most advanced Wiki in the industry.

This solution came out AFTER the RFP you cite, but I think one that the GSA and other large Google Docs deployments may want to consider.

We deployed it in a 1200 user Enterprise in early Oct, and it is being used daily.

Best of both worlds: structured Google Docs, and ad hoc collaboration, embedded visible Google Docs and file management from within the Wiki.

A Collaboration Architecture

Ellen - fine reply, thanks!

But: Wiki is just one more feature. What we'd need is a comprehensive architecture for collaboration - maybe starting with e-mail and shared traditional docs and wiki but extending towards volatile interactions (phone, video) and in the other direction towards highly formal records management. Should be kind of an SOA if it's to be cloudable. Should be kind of SOA anyway...