While digging through some older posts, I came across the “Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook” release announcement from 18 months ago. Google recently released version 2.5 of the product just over 1 week ago. An open question was how Microsoft would respond. Windows Live was the response. The functionality matched Google Apps for email, contacts and calendar. Windows Live versions of the Office suite have followed.

Exchange has long been a category killer for Microsoft. Google is going for the jugular. The most obvious objection to Google Apps will be “our guys love Outlook.” You do not hear much about the product, yet it is still being updated while scores of other Google projects bite the dust. Windows Live did go through a major upgrade over the summer. I use the Windows Live email for one of my accounts. I have been a happy gMail user for years, but wanted to see how the service matched up. The summer upgrade helped tremendously. No longer will emails from the same domain end up in my spam folder. The down side was that I lost 6 months of emails in the upgrade. Nothing terribly important, but occasionally, I find myself searching for one of those lost messages.

The Google vs Microsoft enterprise battle is just starting to heat up. Will be interesting to see what this looks like in a year.

Will Google enter the enterprise applications market?
It is a matter of time.

The recent GM announcement signal that the company is almost there. For many enterprises, the first business process to be put into place is CRM. Google will enter the enterprise application space in CRM to better leverage existing services.

Considerations:
1) gMail is becoming widely used in the enterprise. The cloud is proving privacy can work.

2) Email is the de facto CRM application. Sales, service and marketing all rely on email to connect with customers.

3) Google has great corporate data research with finance.google.com.

4) Searching for anyone (customer, prospect, etc.) involves a Google search in addition to searches in other services like LinkedIn, Jigsaw and Gist.

5) Alerts could be configured to prompt action based on search results.

6) Sales, service and marketing are becoming more about individual and less about the company due to social tools.

7) Microsoft and, Google partner, Salesforce are battling it out for cloud-based CRM. gCRM would be less robust, but give companies a reason to move from Office to Google Docs.

So what does Google need that they do not have today? I see 3 big pieces.

One, process across marketing, sales and service:
Process is a must. Organizations turn to a CRM system to give them best practices and process flows that they do not have. In my experience, all CRM clients are looking to improve process through technology — not the other way around. Process for marketing, sales and services organizations are very different, but all have a common thread of measuring the cost per call (also called contact, customer, or incident).

Two, sales pipeline and forecasting
Sales pipeline and forecasting is an extension of process, but it needs to be more flexible and dead simple to configure. Why? Because the average VP of Sales is on the job just 19 months. Every new VP of Sales will want to be measured by his or her own agreed to metrics, not by the old metrics that got the last VP ousted. This is very common and will be so for the foreseeable future.

Three, integration to back-end systems. Integration with back-end systems is one of the constants in CRM. This can be any system from ACD call routers to an ERP system. In the 30 or so CRM deployments I have been involved with, integration has played an critical part every time.

If Google will address these three missing pieces in a way that is robust yet flexible, gCRM will be a winner.

Because Google is getting serious about the enterprise. I believe it is just a matter of time that they will release a CRM application. How serious is Google’s enterprise? Leading VCs are taking notice: Brad Feld: My Increasing Love Affair With Google Apps.

CRM is a logical next step, because of the transactional nature of CRM. Every contact, prospect, account, incident and opportunity are a part of a transaction. A contact point. An opportunity to extend the company message, brand and reputation. Most of those transactions happen today in email. Even social tools like Twitter or real time chat can be configured to work in an email paradigm. Enterprises are realizing that the Office functionality can be handled by Google Docs. When that hits a critical mass, the early adopters will start looking for Google Docs extensions. Google Apps has CRM partners such as Zoho, Applane which offer traditional CRM products. Zoho’s CRM is robust, however, its other products are Google Docs competitors. Applane offers CRM geared towards the sales lifecycle, which from the surface it looks like it does well. The approach, however, is not the holistic marketing, sales and service CRM approach seen in more robust CRM applications like Dynamics, Sugar and Salesforce. CRM is transactional in nature and email is transactional. When enough enterprises use gMail, it can become a platform for more robust, and profitable, applications.

Google clearly sees this. They have even posted a job listing. Google: Enterprise CRM Systems Business Analyst Job Post. Yes, this is internal (for now). If you were Google would you broadcast that you are building through your job postings? I would more likely build a CRM tool in-house and then turn it into a releasable product. Based on the skill set, I have to say that even the “CRM salt” in me is intrigued.

So what does Google need that they do not have today? I see three big pieces. Process across marketing, sales and service, sales pipeline and forecasting and integration to back-end systems. Process is a must. Organizations turn to a CRM system to give them best practices and process flows that they do not have. In my experience, all CRM clients are looking to improve process through technology — not the other way around. Process for marketing, sales and services organizations are very different, but all have a common thread of measuring the cost per call (also called contact, customer, or incident). Sales pipeline and forecasting is an extension of process, but it needs to be more flexible and dead simple to configure. Why? Because the average VP of Sales is on the job 19 months. Every new VP of Sales will want to be measured by his or her own agreed to metrics, not by the old metrics that got the last VP ousted. This is very common and will be so for the foreseeable future. Integration with back-end systems is one of the constants in CRM. This can be any system from ACD call routers to an ERP system. I have been involved with 30 or so CRM deployments, integration has played a part in every single one. Google will need to consider how to approach these three critical pieces and make the robust and flexible enough to gather the market traction that gMail and Goggle Docs are beginning to see.

gCRM will happen.

Will Google enter the enterprise applications market? Are they there already with gMail and Google Docs? Clearly, the company is targeting the enterprise. They are running print ads in Forbes saying as such. For many small to mid-size businesses, the first business process to be put into place is CRM. I would bet that Google will enter the enterprise application space in CRM to better leverage existing services.

Considerations:
1) gMail is becoming widely used in the enterprise. The cloud is proving privacy can work. CRM is the next logical application.
2) Email is the de facto CRM application. Sales, service and marketing all rely on email to connect with customers.
3) Google has great corporate data research with finance.google.com
4) Searching for anyone (customer, prospect, etc.) involves a Google search in addition to searches in other services like Jigsaw and Gist.
5) Sales, service and marketing are becoming more about individual and less about the company due to social tools.
6) Microsoft and, Google partner, Salesforce are battling it out for cloud-based CRM. gCRM would be less robust, but give companies a reason to move from Office to Google Docs.

A solid read on this topic worth checking out: The Software Advice Blog: Will Google Enter the CRM Market?

iGoogle is Now Social: Google Launches Social Gadgets

Google Gadgets now have social features. This will be very interesting. I have developed Google Gadgets. Making them social is a great move. Like the linked Read Write Web article states, it will be a little while before the developer community makes most of these new features.

Gadgets are a great way to drive traffic. The two gadgets for my photography portfolio site drive 80% of the traffic. The Google Gadget above can be found at http://www.salmonbay.net.

Great read by Holman Jenkins, Jr. in the WSJ Opinion Page discussing the recent Google OS and Office Live announcements.

Check Techdom’s Two Cold Wars at the WSJ.

Interesting move in the cloud application space yesterday with Google’s announcement of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. An often touted problem of the cloud is “lock in”. The enterprise is looking to move beyond proprietary solutions and blend the best for their own competitive advantage. This announcement is the first step to solve that problem. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds.

Check the Official Google Enterprise Blog for more details: Use Microsoft Outlook with Google Apps for email, contacts, and calendar.

100th post. That did not take too long.

Interesting read @ CNet by Ina Fried, Ray Ozzie’s cloud hangs over the Valley.

And yes, it only rains in Seattle. It is never sunny. Ever. You would not want to visit. Especially in July or August. We all grow gills.

The Google Wave preview is worth the time to check out. My take, like many others, is that Google Wave is clearly aimed at Microsoft Sharepoint and Exchange. There are many cloud versions of Sharepoint-like collaboration tools already. As companies get more comfortable with their corporate email, they will be looking for the 1-2 punch offered by Microsoft and now Google. I would expect these two giants to continue to slug it out in the cloud application space. It may be just a matter of time before Google swallows Salesforce.com. If that does in fact happen, the fireworks will fly.

The best concise overview of Google Wave I have found is @ Mashable: Testing Google Wave: This Thing is Tidal

Google Wave: wave.google.com

Update
Another great read on Google Wave and Microsoft @ TechCrunch: The Manhattan Project.

Update 11/23/11
Well Google bombed on this one. Wave never gained traction despite the hype. Development stopped over a year ago and it is officially on life support. The plug will be pulled on April 30, 2012. So long, we hardly knew ya.
The Official Google Blog: More spring cleaning out of season.

Interesting read over at Ars Technica: Canonical developers aim to make Android apps run on Ubuntu.

As computers get smaller and phones become more functional, it seems to be a natural step to run the same applications on multiple devices. Interesting that this would start in the Linux domain given Microsoft’s huge head start and Apple’s closed environment advantage. This trend would be great for developers as the article points out.