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Migrating 6,000 users in Google Apps

At the end of 2008, we were at a crossroads for our email and collaboration tools. We had to make a long-term decision on what direction to take. At the time, we had over 6,000 Lotus Notes/Domino users around the world using an older platform (Lotus Notes/Domino version 6.5). We had some serious challenges: our users were frustrated with the outdated Notes/Domino functionality, the IT environment was complicated, and the ongoing maintenance costs were high. At the same time, we were working to implement an email archiving and e-discovery solution that was, frankly, not going well. To add to the mix, the world economy was in free-fall and our business was seeing those effects.

We wanted to improve our messaging tools while simplifying the IT environment, but needed a cost-effective approach. We originally thought we should upgrade our existing solutions to the latest releases, but knew that was going to be a time-consuming and expensive approach. So, we started seriously evaluating other options. During our review, we considered the hosted versions of the Lotus and Microsoft offerings, but ultimately focused our attention on evaluating Google Apps.
When Paul Lones, our SVP of IT, first suggested taking a look at using Google Apps as our enterprise email tool, we thought he was joking. But when we started looking at the capabilities, benefits, and costs of Google's enterprise offering, we were very impressed. We then began a more thorough technical and functional review. We determined that the core capabilities for email, calendar, contacts, and IM would probably meet our needs. Since email archiving and discovery were also critical for us, we looked at the Postini solutions. Again, we thought the delivered Postini features would work for Fairchild. Beyond the basics, we also saw the added value of Google's collaboration features available from Google Sites and Google Docs, and the anywhere/anytime access provided by Google's cloud-based services. Finally, we did an ROI analysis and estimated we’d save about $500,000 per year by migrating off of Lotus Notes/Domino. So, we made a case to our CEO and executive team to move forward with a pilot project using Google Apps.

For the pilot, we selected a core group of IT and business employees and asked for some volunteers. To our surprise the CEO and the entire executive team volunteered. As a result, we also included the executive assistants. Although having the execs in the pilot raised the stakes, it turned out to be one of the keys to the project's success. To help us get up to speed quickly and run the pilot smoothly, we partnered with Appirio Consulting. Appirio had previous experience converting large corporations from Lotus Notes/Domino to Google Apps. Appirio conducted one-on-one or small group training sessions for the pilot users and targeted training for the executive admins because of the complexity of their jobs when it comes to collaboration, email, and calendar management.

After a successful pilot, we made the decision to migrate the whole company to Google. The next group of employees migrated were 400 "early adopters" from across the company, including all owners of Notes/Domino applications and databases. The idea was to give these people a head start in moving any important non-email content from Lotus to Google Apps. For the early adopters, we used a combination of live and recorded web-based training. These early adopters also became "Google guides" for the rest of the user base during the full company migration.

Ultimately, we deployed Google Apps to over 6,000 users in 20 countries in less than five months. This deployment included migrating contacts, calendar entries, and up to 12 months of historical email, plus providing BlackBerry support. At the same time, we implemented the email security and email archiving capabilities available using Google's Postini platform.

Now we are providing our employees with a lot more functionality for a lot less money. Google Docs and Sites are really changing the way people work as teams, and the way information is shared. This new way of doing working is really powerful, especially for a company that does business in so many countries and timezones. We are now looking at Google Sites to replace our existing intranet. But the ability to access Gmail and the other Google Apps from anywhere – without having to use a VPN – has probably been the biggest hit.

We learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout the process of evaluating and migrating to Google Apps that we’d be happy to share with you. Please join me to discuss our experience in more detail and to learn how you might leverage Google Apps for your company.

Source: (2010, Google Enterprise)

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