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How Motorola Solutions (and its 22,000 workers) ditched Microsoft for Google

Matt Kapko | Sept. 24, 2015
One CIO's mission to move thousands of employees to Google for Work from Microsoft Office turned into the most significant IT training exercise of his career. Here's how he made sure the company continued to run smoothly during the transition, along with lessons learned from the project.

businessman looking down at laptop computer 42 19748591
Credit: Corbis

When Greg Meyers joined Motorola Solutions in 2014 he found himself facing some rather lackluster and underperforming technology; a 15-year-old phone with about 50 buttons sat on his desk, and the company's fragmented solution set included InterCall for voice conferences, Microsoft Lync for screen sharing and Office 2007 for everything else.

"It was kind of hard to believe, having just become the CIO of a Fortune 500 technology company, the fragmentation and the antiquation of a lot of the tools that we had," says Meyers, Motorola Solutions' corporate vice president and CIO. "It was a pretty bad environment, and we had to do something."

greg meyers
Greg Meyers, Motorola Solutions corporate vice president and CIO. Credit: Motorola Solutions

Meyers' clarion call was to drag the enterprise technology giant out of the IT dark ages. Within three months, he'd signed a deal to move roughly 22,000 workers to Google for Work. When the company completed the transition last April, it represented the largest Microsoft-to-Google transition ever, according to Meyers, though some employees do still use Microsoft software. 

"When we made the decision to make the change, it was bigger than just Google," he says. "We upgraded the [local area network], and we replaced over 3,000 wireless access points. The philosophy I had was to really try to get the company into the 21st century."

Motorola Solutions picks Google over Microsoft

A sort of "war on wires," as Meyers puts it, came next. Motorola Solutions' IT team disabled Ethernet ports, removed hardline phones and tried to move the company to a new framework of mobile connectivity and cloud-based infrastructure.

"It was between Microsoft and Google, obviously," he says. "We had a long relationship with Microsoft."

Meyers and his colleagues did research and piloted Office 365 and Google Apps, experimenting with both platforms, before making a final decision. The entire IT team of about 300 employees got Google for Work in January, and other departments received access during the proceeding months, according to Meyers. "We really wanted to live with it and learn it."

'G Day' at Motorola Solutions

When the big day arrived on April 14, known internally as "G Day," Motorola Solutions moved its entire workforce of 17,000 employees, and about 5,000 contractors and vendors, to Google for Work. The company set up drop-in training centers in the cafeteria. IT staff worked the help desk for two days. And 1,000 staffers, trained beforehand to help ease the process for others, wore bright orange shirts and tied orange balloons to their cubicles so they were easy to spot.

 

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