Fairfax introduces Google Apps

CIO Andrew Lam-Po-Tang says Google Apps will be rolled out to around 10,000 users in New Zealand and Australia

Fairfax Media will introduce Google Apps for Business to all its divisions by November, CIO Andrew Lam-Po-Tang announced today. The Google suite of tools includes Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, Talk, Hangouts, Google Sites and Google Video for Business. Lam-Po-Tang says in addition Chrome will replace Internet Explorer as the default browser.

Google Apps will be rolled out to “every single Fairfax user today, which is not the same as headcount and is about 9,000 to 10,000 users.” This will make Fairfax one of Google's largest enterprise clients in the region.

The decision to move away from the current Microsoft office product suite represents the first significant move for Fairfax Media into the cloud.

“Both vendors were incredibly competitive,” Lam-Po-Tang says. “When you look down the list of their product suites they are almost matching in terms of basic functionality they offer. We felt in some ways that Google’s slightly simpler approach to some of the office productivity tools was advantageous.”

Google also came in cheaper.

“Our conservative estimate relative to our costs today is 40 percent on an ongoing basis,” he says. He would not disclose the dollar amount.

However Microsoft office applications will be maintained for “power users” who have a genuine need for them. “We expect to have to do that for a substantial proportion of the workforce, we recognise that for power users that’s the default tool set and we don’t intend to take that away from people.”

An example of a power user is finance people who have large complex spreadsheets with extensive programming (macros) and integrations with accounting systems and databases. Another example is in sales, where some presentations make use of the advanced features to create "all singing and dancing" presentations, Lam-Po-Tang says.

However, he anticipates that users will see the attraction of moving away from Microsoft products. “The practical reality is we think, based on the experience we’ve seen of other enterprises, that people will probably migrate themselves (to Google Apps) pretty quickly.”

He says the move to a cloud-based office productivity tool set creates a more flexible environment to enable Bring Your Own Device and remote access. “I’m not just talking about (using) your PC, iPad, or iPhone out of the office, I’m also talking about two-factor authentification and being able to access those services from a home machine.”

The company has employed Google partner Cloud Sherpas to ensure a “smooth deployment” by offering training for all employees. Lam-Po-Tang says the company has deployed Google Apps in larger organisations than Fairfax. Cloud Sherpas bought Wellington Google apps company WaveAdept last year.

Lam-Po-Tang says Fairfax has also evaluated whether not knowing the physical location of data will pose any legal risk.

“We don’t know where the data is stored... in terms of geographic location,” he says. “So we have had that carefully look at by general counsel and their evaluation after quite a period of consideration with Google and others is that that doesn’t pose an extraordinary risk to the risks we face today.”

Lam-Po-Tang joined Fairfax in February and says the move to Google Apps is the first of “several big moves”

“We’ve got a whole technology strategy that we need to roll out across the group. Our team is going to be a big part of help making Fairfax digital first.”

Last month Fairfax said it would be cutting 1900 jobs in Australia, closing two newspaper printing plants, reducing the size of its two major daily newspapers and re-engineering its news rooms and business model to cater for the new, faster, more collaborative, online media environment.

In New Zealand Fairfax Media publishes newspapers such as the Dominion Post and the Sunday Star Times, as well as magazines, including CIO and Computerworld NZ.

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