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Posted by TJ Keitt on February 6, 2013
Over the last couple of years, I've fielded a number of inquiries from Forrester clients who are trying to decide whether their company should move their email and other collaboration workloads into the cloud via Google Apps for Business or Microsoft Office 365. This conversation has gained so much momentum that I recently did a podcast with my colleague Mike Gualtieri on the subject, will host a teleconference covering the topic on February 26, and will soon publish a report detailing answers to five of the common questions that we get about online collaboration and productivity suites (which include Office 365, Google Apps, and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business). Fueling this extended conversation are business and IT leaders' deliberations over one question: Is there a right or wrong in selecting one vendor's offering over the other? I'll use a typical analyst hedge to answer: It depends.
Fundamentally, Microsoft and Google provide their clients elements of the four basic collaboration workloads: email, teaming, real-time communications, and social computing. The differences in the portfolios, however, reflect the unique origins of the offerings and the divergent visions of the vendors. Office 365 is indicative of the delicate balance Microsoft is attempting to strike between embracing an online services model while maintaining on-premises software which serves a sizeable customer base. Google Apps embodies the Mountain View, CA, search giant's belief in a web-based services world in which the vast majority of business applications are tuned to the browser and multiple mobile operating systems. The choice for business and IT leaders looking at these two offerings then boils down to how these different views of collaboration technology align with the organization's collaboration (and broader business application) strategy. In our study of this topic over the past 24 months, we've found this alignment typically boils down to:
So, as business and IT leaders look at these offerings, it's important to start with the understanding of the organizational goals and what you need to enable the workforce to do in order to achieve it. Microsoft and Google each have their respective strengths and weaknesses as online providers. Those qualities should only be assessed in light of the business's needs and not in a vacuum. What are your thoughts? How are you evaluating these collaboration technology portfolios?