Moving off Microsoft and onto the Google platform has increased communications and improved collaboration and health research organisation the Clinical Research Network (CRN), says its CIO Richard Corbridge.

The CRN is part of the Department of Health’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and is operated via a contract with the University of Leeds. The CRN provides information systems and business intelligence to 10,000 research-related NHS staffp; who were responsible for the recruitment of over 630,000 participants into clinical studies and trials in the past year.

Corbridge became the first CIO for the CRN in August 2011 and alongside creating the Open Data Platform for information sharing and the Reference Data Service, the young business technology leader has switched the organisation to Google Apps, away from Microsoft.

“We have moved everyone within the CRN off SharePoint and on to Google, and done so in about two months using PA Consulting for the implementation. The opportunities with Google Apps are massive,” Corbridge explained, but said it is not without its challenges.

“You can imagine, moving an organisation with an academic research culture from Outlook to Gmail, where there are no storage folders, was at first challenging.

“But the collaboration piece within Google is a change to the way of thinking. So it is about ‘Do I really need to work on this on my own, or do we try and knock this together as a group?’”

“What is surprising me is that it has not been the big learning curve we expected. It [Google] is increasing the speed of reaction for the organisation and people don’t need to travel,” he said.

Corbridge assessed Microsoft Office 365, but felt the Google ethos of collaboration was closer to the way his organisation needed to operate.