Specsavers is migrating its 2,500 staff across the world to Google Apps in an effort to ramp up the pace of expansion into new markets.

Speaking to CIO UK, European IT director at Specsavers, Karl de Bruijn said the migration would make it easier for the company to open up new points of presence cost effectively.

The company is moving away from the Scalix open source collaboration platform, on which a new site was brought on line in three to six months. With Google Apps, the retailer can cut this process down to a month.

de Bruijn said: "We have just completed a pilot roll out with a new manufacturing facility in Hungary. We set up the email in less than a month with only a single IT support."

However de Bruijn maintains the move is not about reducing IT team FTEs, but about doing more with the same staff resources.

None-the-less, de Bruijn admitted the biggest concern of the project is change management, rather than technical requirements, sensing the possiblity of some user hostility over being moved from messaging platforms they were familiar with.

The company has hired cloud computing specialist Ancoris to help with this change management process, which requires the full roll out of Google Apps to take until the middle of this year, even though the technical aspect of the project requires much less time.

De Bruijn said: "Staff may be anxious about moving from platforms like Outlook but the change management process has been critical in showing people the benefits of the move. One of the major ones is connectivity over mobile devices. We can connect user devices such as iPads and users like that flexibility."

De Bruijn and his team took feedback from a special power-user group – the directors' PAs.

He told CIO UK that the migration is a toe in the water for adopting other cloud services.

He said: "Moving to a core collaboration platform that is scalable allowed us to gain access to a cloud infrastructure. This enables us to consider things like serving up things like retail applications to stores in the future. It's a low-cost introduction to cloud services."

Specsavers is one of a number of high profile organisations moving to Google Apps. But, de Bruijn doesn't think it's entirely the death of on-premise messaging platforms like Outlook.

He said: "Back-end infrastructure is definitely moving into the cloud, but there will be niche suppliers of front-end messaging systems. With the adoption of devices like iPad and Android though, there's little need to have offline working though."

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