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CEBIT Report: Google+ for the Enterprise

March 9, 2012

While I covered the idea already back in October followed by an update with news from revevol I now had the chance to talk to Google directly on the Cebit. The Google exhibit itself was pretty much Google+ focused.

I had the chance though to talk to a contact focused on the enterprise market. After an interesting discussion around Google Apps and privacy, data processing agreements and the roles of resellers in the legal discussion (more on one of the following posts) we discussed Google+ for the enterprise.

For those who have not come across this term yet I will try to explain it quickly. Much like social networks have transformed the way consumers interact, new methodologies of collaboration start to get into the enterprise world. Imagine the same tools you use in the consumer world to be used with your colleagues. Digital collaboration beyond email is a requirement that will challenge more and more IT departments in the coming years. So one of the ideas in this space is to create encapsulated Google+ for enterprise customers where the core groups are the employees of the company.

No News on any Release Date

As reported earlier something like this is in test with some customers and partners already but there was no note so far as to what the challenges are and when it will be available in the market. I have no update on any date, apart from a “Maybe in 2012”, and please keep in mind that even the consumer Google+ is still in beta. I have learned though about some of the challenges that are being reported as part of the dogfooding (as in eat your own dog food) process.

Federation is a major Challenge

Let me start by explaining what I do mean by federation. You can think about levels of collaboration. The first level is the inner core group (the employees of a company). The second level would be a number of contacts outside of the own company but on the same platform and the third level is people outside and on different platforms.

While Google has successfully managed to create the first level view of Google+, an encapsulated version for an enterprise customer, it is struggling with the second level. As an example a user of Google+ for the enterprise in a company can start hangouts with coworkers within the same company. But it is not possible today to start a hangout that consists of users from one company and of users of another company as this would mean bridging them beyond their own encapsulated version of Google+. Secondly the very same challenge is in place towards the consumer version of Google+.

Just to give you an idea, (even if the scope of the service is completely different) look at Microsoft Lync. Here you do have your inner community can decide federate with other companies running Lync as well and also federate with internet or in other words consumer using live messenger.

The third level is even not considered I believe and I have just mentioned it for the sake of completeness. I can well imagine that Google rather wants to pull people over to their platform than to allow federation to users of other software like e.g. Chatter by Salesforce.com or Yammer.

Early User Reporting to unveil more Holes

The Google team expects to get further small and big requests out of the dogfooding internally and with selected partners and customers. One important challenge is that the consumer version is still on beta. An enterprise service would need to be released, covered by contracts and given SLA’s. It seems that this will take some additional time.

Overall it was good to see and to hear that Google is actively working on the transformation of Google+ into the enterprise world. And by the way I also believe that this explains pretty much the advantage Google+ has over Facebook. It is focused on collaboration rather private tidbits. Maybe the whole comparison of Facebook and Google+ does not make sense at all, and all parties calling either one dead have just not grasped the differences.

 Other features and integrations limited by geographies

We also discussed briefly why Google Voice will not be available anytime soon in Europe. It would be a great addition to Google+ for consumers and enterprise alike and challenge classic UC players in the enterprise space. It is though due to the diversified marketplace in Europe that Google is struggling. While in the U.S.A. one negotiation settles the rights for all of the U.S.A. in Europe they need to sit down in each country separately. On top of that the local telecommunications players (Telefonica, vodafone and Deutsche Telekom were mentioned explicitly) are play hardball and do block Google from introducing Voice around Europe. I tried to address other features, like ripples not being available for German-speaking users, but as I said before I talked to an enterprise focused contact it would have not been fair to grill him on the consumer features.

More CEBIT reports to come:

Fujitsu Global Cloud and Business Solution Store

Microsoft’s vision for the digital city

CEBIT tidbits collection

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