Opinion: Why Google doesn't get the enterprise

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Opinion: Why Google doesn't get the enterprise

It's about people, not products.

OPINION: Google is pushing in the wrong direction when pitching to the enterprise, to its absolute detriment.

The search engine giant is working hard to sign up big businesses to its SaaS play, Google Apps, and to have people embrace its PayPal-like service, Checkout.

Take this piece of viral marketing, for example

The premise of this marketing is simple: "Let's do enterprise grassroots style; have disgruntled employees, sick of their shitty Microsoft products, take these presentations to their managers and say 'damn it, we should be doing it this way'".

Then Google doesn't actually need to do sales because the customers will do it for them. How deliciously clever!

But it won't work, for one reason: Enterprise is about relationships.

Google's strategy has always been "engineering first", and engineers don't like the messy human stuff. It's inelegant. Inefficient.

Instead, Google makes well-crafted products, markets them poorly, doesn't support them, and trusts that the innate quality of the product is enough to have it succeed. Which, in fairness, the products often do. But not for enterprise users.

When a business manager is looking at laying down a hefty slice of the budget on a product, they want to know who that money is going to. They know from bitter experience that the server will go down the day they have to do payroll, that their spreadsheets will disappear an hour before the meeting, that everything, one day, will break when you need it.

And when it does break you need to call somebody, or you're in hot soup.

The idea of setting up individual sales meetings, opening call centres and hiring swathes of support people is completely antithetical to the Google model. It relies on forums.

The typical Google answer is "don't worry about it, it just won't break."

Only it does. Here's a forum post about a guy who's got about US$125,000 locked up in Google Checkout and he can't talk to a human to get it out!

When the products are free, for my personal use, I'm the world's biggest Google evangelist. Google make great products.

But when my livelihood's on the line, when people are depending on me, I need something I can trust.

I trust people. I don't trust products.

Sam Gentle is a software developer at the University of NSW.

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