Google’s willingness to try anything combined with its web scale culture make it an unlikely traditional enterprise vendor – but Google is betting that “traditional” is not what today’s enterprises want or need. The result is an enterprise strategy that is impossible to compartmentalize yet unquestionably innovative.
Google’s Cultural Context
Peel away the layers, and at the heart of Google lies its search engine and the complementary advertising platform that to this day drives most of Google’s revenues. To create such massive tools, Google had to figure out how to build technology at scale and a culture to support it. This culture of web scale remains at the heart of the company.
“At Google we get how to build systems that scale to hundreds of millions of users,” says Greg DeMichillie, Director of Product Management at Google Cloud Platform. But there’s more to Google’s culture of scale than the infrastructure story itself. Everything they bring to market must leverage this scale, which means that everything they work on must have massive scale as a core enabler.
There is more to Google than scale, however. For Google, the flip side of this aspect of Google’s culture is their culture of innovation. “What we’re trying to do is innovate as fast as possible,” continues DeMichillie. “We’re trying to innovate on all levels of the stack.”
In fact, Google encourages every employee – Googlers, as they call themselves – to innovate. Not only are Googlers expected to spend a sizable chunk of their time on pet projects, but they love to run many of those pet projects up the flagpole to see which customers will salute.
Some ideas take off, others founder, and many find themselves in a seemingly never-ending beta state. True, there are products like Google Reader or iGoogle that gain a measure of traction, only to be pulled from the market. But many more ideas take off and remain lucrative, adding to Google’s already impressive bottom line.
Targeting Enterprise Developers
Google’s organizational focus on scale coupled with their try-anything innovativeness have led them to a leadership position in the cloud computing marketplace. The two platforms at the center of the Google Cloud Platform, the Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, began as experiments that leveraged Google’s massive scale.
Today the platform is driving one prong of Google’s enterprise strategy: serving developers. “It’s all about meeting developers where they are,” says DeMichillie, by building tools that developers are comfortable with.
Targeting enterprise developers is a common approach to penetrating the enterprise market, although it has its risks. After all, developers rarely control much of the enterprise IT budget. Relying solely on developer preference, therefore, would be a weak enterprise strategy.
Instead, it’s essential to target strategic enterprise business drivers. For many cloud players, cost savings is the cloud value proposition that brings the enterprise to the table. Google, however, sees a different enterprise pain point. “Really good enterprise IT is just not trying to cut costs ten percent,” explains DeMichillie. “They’re trying to add value to the business.”
In other words, Google Cloud Platform targets the enterprise top line via greater innovativeness – a key component of business agility. “The whole notion of agility is the real reason why cloud platforms are so interesting,” DeMichillie says. “When you really start to get more experimental, and you try new things as a company.”
Driving toward Digital Priorities
While Google’s ability to scale promises to steal away some market share from public cloud leader Amazon.com, scaling alone doesn’t offer a clear differentiator. After all, Amazon as well as cloud leaders Microsoft, IBM, and others also understand this fundamental cloud principle.
Amazon, however, does have an enterprise weak spot: its digital strategy. While Amazon doubles down on its technical capabilities, Google is also deepening its tech cred while simultaneously moving toward improving the user experience at the heart of digital initiatives.
This digital story begins with mobile application development. “On the mobile front, we think that all the interesting apps being built today are mobile apps, “DeMichillie explains. “They aren’t only mobile, they’re social, they’re real-time, they’re connected, and they’re incredibly difficult to create and manage.”
By easing the creation and management of such digital apps, therefore, Google is hoping to gain traction with both the enterprise digital professional as well as the enterprise developer. Google realizes, however, that there’s more on the digital professional’s wish list than mobile apps.
In fact, in many cases marketing is responsible for enterprise digital efforts, as marketing has historically been responsible for interactions with the customer. As a result, targeting the priorities of the digital marketing professional is an important enterprise differentiator for Google.
Mobile apps – or app development in general – are important to digital marketers, of course, but for Google, the digital marketing entry point is Google Analytics, the free widget that tracks web traffic on hundreds of millions of web sites around the world.
Google Analytics, however, is simply the tip of the iceberg. Under the water line sits BigQuery, Google’s massive big data platform they deliver as a cloud service. Combine BigQuery with Google Analytics and you get Google Analytics Premium, an enterprise-class digital analytics tool that sits at the center of the digital transformation storm.
“The Google Analytics Premium solution not only gives us a business advantage, but helps us shape a great customer experience, and ultimately ties in to our values of industry-leading innovation and world-class customer service,” says Katie Birmingham, digital and e-commerce analyst at U.S. Cellular. “We’re now in the enviable position of having an accurate view at each stage of our customer journey.”
Other cloud providers have various big-data-as-a-service offerings as well, but Google has excelled at tying the value of this platform to the customer-centric goal of the digital marketer – providing a solid entry point for the enterprise customer as well as an important leading use case for the BigQuery platform.
The Enterprise at Work
Enterprises are made up of more than developers and marketers, of course. For everyone else Google offers the recently renamed Google for Work. This division’s previous name was Google Enterprise – somewhat of a misnomer, as Google for Work apps and services are for small companies as well as large.
“This is one of the big growth opportunities for Google,” explains Amit Singh, president of Google for Work. “This kind of branding, the investments that we’re making in the product, reflects some of that.”
Google for Work includes a full spectrum of tools for people in various roles across diverse organizations. Essentially, take any Google tool and make it suitable for use by people at work, and it fits within Google for Work.
“What was called Google Enterprise is now, simply, Google for Work,” according to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google. “When we use the tools that make our lives easier—Google Apps, Maps, Search, Chrome, Android, Cloud Platform and more—work gets better. And that’s what we’re working on—the best of Google, now for work.”
Google is reinventing enterprise technology for the cloud-enabled digital era. Today, the nature of work itself has transformed. Shifting technology choices reflect this transformation, and Google has the foresight to lead the enterprise rank and file to this new vision of work at web scale.
Attempts to categorize Google’s enterprise approach as a cloud strategy, a digital strategy, or an apps strategy, however, misses the big picture. In fact, Google’s strategy is a combination of all of these and more. The best way to categorize the enterprise story at Google is perhaps as an innovation at scale strategy.
After all, the world of web scale is Google’s culture and its foundation, both its technical foundation and its raison d’être as a business. But more importantly, web scale and innovation are at the core of the value proposition it brings to customers, whether they be developers, marketers, or anyone else.
Jason Bloomberg will be covering next week’s CES conference for Forbes. Vendors at CES with disruptive offerings for the Internet of Things are invited to contact him at email@example.com.
Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: M A Felton.