Google Apps and Cap Gemini – Learn First, Make Money Second

I was reading this post on RWW about how Google and CapGemini are going to work together to drive Google Apps adoption in the enterprise. The post lined up with a bunch of things I’ve been thinking about after reading some Office 2.0 recaps.

Is it just me or does there seem to be a subtle (or not-so-subtle) recasting of web office suites to be less about new functionality and feature differentiation and more focus on the price differential versus Microsoft Office? Early in the web office discussion, it seemed to me that there was a lot more conversation about the benefits of using web-apps (no VPNs, universal accessibility, easier to manage and deploy, etc) versus traditional desktop applications. Repositioning the conversation around price comparisons is a shift, it seems – there are certainly folks for whom price is the major impediment but this recasting strikes me as an admission of how far the industry has to go to reach real competitive parity.

Also, it’s important to note that some of these “disenfranchised” folks who do not have desktop productivity applications on their computer don’t need them. If you are in a task-oriented job where you enter data into a system, you might as well have a terminal as opposed to a full-fledged PC. Why would you need access to spreadsheets, word processing, and email?

More than revenue and sales, this partnership could give Google much more insight into what corporate IT folks need to see out of Google Apps for Enterprise before they start writing checks. It’s worth noting that Google has one major touchpoint with enterprise IT folks today and that’s the Google Search Appliance. The folks who are managing online advertising spend are likely not the same folks who make IT infrastructure decisions. Working with a large system integrator is a good way for Google to get a handle on the key requirements they’ll need to address to make GAFE a more palatable product for larger organizations. I also wonder if spending more time with the guys over at Salesforce.com might not also be the answer – those guys seemed to have cracked this nut before and I bet they’d be willing to share parts of the playbook.

From my experience, many employees struggle to use the tools that they have at their disposal today – adding more tools in might just make life more complicated. I’m sorry, but the whole “Team Productivity” moniker just sounds weird to me. I’ve worked at a handful of places and in almost every case I’ve seen employees befuddled by the full range of things you can do with the existing tools at their disposal. Adding in a new layer of tools and interfaces to learn when the existing products aren’t being fully utilized today might make life harder (as opposed to easier) than it is today. The history of groupware and group-oriented productivity applications has shown that it’s a tough nut to crack. Often times, the individual must find a way to be productive before he/she can worry about improving the productivity of the whole.

All in all, it’s an interesting announcement. I expect it will generate modest amounts of sales for both parties but will help Google get smarter about how to sell, develop, and position their product for a more sophisticated audience.