Google has made a significant gain in its attempts to replicate consumer successes in the blue-chip enterprise world. Construction and facilities management giant Taylor Woodrow said early this month that it has deployed about 1800 seats for Google Apps, the search giant’s business-focused suite of applications for email, calendaring, voice calls, productivity and collaboration tools.

“We have run a pilot from November 2007 and ramped that up to a more extensive deployment of 1800 seats in the first week of May,” said Rob Ramsay, Taylor Woodrow IT director.
Ramsay said the deal will provide “a step change in how we use email in the organisation”, providing users with a Google-hosted, web-based service to replace the previous installation of HP OpenMail with a Microsoft Outlook front end.

“We had major challenges in our email with very limited mobility and very limited scalability in terms of taking it forward to provide email to new appointments. We have embedded teams within clients, we sponsor over 100 students and we have major projects such as Heathrow and the Docklands Light Railway. Gone are the days where people work on a site nine to five, five days a week. The model of communicating had changed and we were keen to move into a situation where mail was accessible from anywhere.”

Ramsay said that having Google host Apps could also lead to ancillary savings in antivirus, content filtering and archiving as well as providing users with access to mail for any user with a web connection.
Although many watchers view Google’s low cost offering as a threat to Microsoft’s dominant position in client IT infrastructure, Ramsay played down the broader implications of the challenge, saying that Taylor Woodrow was primarily interested in the email and calendaring capabilities of Google Apps.

“When we bought Apps, our initial need was mail and calendar,” he said. “”What’s interesting is that there’s been a natural evolution in using Docs [Google’s set of word processing, spreadsheet and other desktop tools] and Sites [Google’s website creation tool]. They’re not seen at this stage as a replacement for Office-based products but if people want to use them, so be it.”

Taylor Woodrow is already a customer of Google’s other key effort to break into the enterprise – the firm’s Search Appliance product for seeking out information buried across the organisation. Other Google Apps business customers include Procter & Gamble, GE and Salesforce.com. Technology consulting giant Capgemini is also helping Google with Apps deployments in the UK.

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