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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.

"We knew what a burden [the transition] was going to be," says Meyers. "We've done more training for this thing than any other project I've ever been apart of in my career, and I think almost everybody who's in my department would say the same." 

The word "training" is a "vast understatement" of the IT team's efforts, Meyers says, because they empathized with Motorola staff and knew the project would be a major disruption. "IT people tend to look at the world in projects, users and technology," he says. "It was all about getting the IT organization tuned into the human element of this."

Chief challenges and biggest benefits

Myers and his group faced technical challenges during the transition period, but the IT staff, and the rest of the company, got through it relatively unscathed, he says. And he gives a nod to Microsoft. "This was a tough loss for them, but I thought they were really collaborative and helpful."

The team tackled its biggest technical hurdle on the eve of the deployment, when email and calendar entries migrated slower than expected due to throttle controls Microsoft mistakenly put in place, according to Meyers. "It was really kind of fun to watch the Microsoft and Google people on conferences calls talking to each other. It was very constructive."

More than five months have passed since Meyers shepherded the company-wide change to Google for Work, and he says the biggest transformations occurred around collaboration and meetings. The company is also seeing major changes in organizational process and workflow, but they're still a work in progress, according to Meyers.

"It takes so much less time to have 10 people develop a Google Slide than it did … emailing around different versions of a PowerPoint," he says. "That's really changed the way it feels to work here, which has been great."

Motorola Solutions has 108 office locations around the world, and its staff's level of familiarity with Google's services prior to the switch, and the associated amount of training required afterward, varied widely. Almost everybody at Motorola Solutions had a personal Gmail account already, according to Meyers, but few had used Google Apps such as Docs, Slides and Sheets. 

The use of these latter apps is still voluntary, at least for now, because many employees still have licenses for Word, Excel and PowerPoint on their machines. Meyers says he isn't concerned about the use of the other apps, because different workers have different needs. The company's finance department still uses Microsoft Excel, for example, while the IT department completely shifted to Google Sheets. Excel is typically the hardest habit to break, according to Meyers, because so many businesses depend on it.


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