Case study: Grass Roots replaces Exchange 2003 with Google Apps for Business

By Stuart Sumner
29 Oct 2012 View Comments
Google Apps graphic

Grass Roots describes itself as a performance improvement company;  it aims to help businesses engage with employees and customers using an array of incentives and rewards schemes. It’s clients include John Lewis, Tesco and Bupa.

Further reading

Its four-person project team recently completed the migration of 1,500 users across 25 countries over from five disparate email systems to Google Apps.

According to Grass Roots’ CIO, Danny Attias, the technology was the easy part.

“There was a lot of data to migrate, but it wasn’t a technology project. The technology was already there, it’s called Google Apps for Business. I didn’t have to worry about making Google work.”

Grass Roots was previously running an Exchange 2003 estate using various different versions of Outlook across the business. “We needed to get onto a new platform because it was old and tired, and the company had grown using an oldish, badly maintained platform,” said Attias.

He explained that initially staff were reluctant to buy into the migration because they were used to their existing email and calendar client.

“You’re taking something automatic for the users, something they use all the time. And the project was perceived by most people as merely a cost-saving exercise.”

He admitted that this perception was the fault of the business case, which had been pared down to a minimum: it was cheaper to pay for the entire Google Apps solution, including archiving, than to pay for just the existing spam filtering system.

“We were paying £50 to spam filter email and keep a copy for litigation purposes, and it was £49.50 for Google Apps plus archiving.  So for the same money we get the same functionality with email, calendar, video and social networking thrown in.”

High-level buy-in from the business was crucial to the project’s success, according to Attias.

“We engaged with the CEO, and he bought in from day one. We brought the business unit managers in from around the world, and when we told them about the migration it was carnage because they all had a view. Then the CEO stood up and said: ‘We’re doing it, it’s not a debate’. If I’d started allowing it to be a discussion, we’d still be talking now, and not reaping the benefits we’re seeing today.”

He explained that everyone has a view on how major rollouts like this should be run, and the chances are high that each view will be different.

“You need to make one decision that will impact everyone equally. Find out how the business uses the tool, be empowered to make the right decisions along the way, but don’t have committee meetings about it,“ Attias added.

Once the business accepted that the change was inevitable, Attias scheduled a phased rollout, where the phases comprised different elements of the Google Apps portfolio – but the entire organisation underwent each phase at once. 

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