Welcome to the One on One conversation series, where Small Business Trends will be speaking to some of the best minds in business today. The goal of the series is to pick the brains of successful entrepreneurs, best-selling author, and executives with organizations serving the small business community, to provide the Small Business Trends community with their valuable business insights.
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Scott McMullan, Partner Lead for Google Apps, spoke with Brent Leary in this interview, which has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, page down to the loudspeaker icon at the end of the post.
Question: There are a lot of applications Google has put together that can be a great source of productivity tools for small businesses. I don’t know if a lot of small businesses really understand that. Maybe you could talk a little bit about Google Apps, what it involves and how it can impact small businesses.
Scott McMullan: Google Apps is our suite of hosted messaging and collaboration applications. They include Gmail, Google Doc, Google Calendar and things like Google Sites. These are all bundled [apps] that businesses can run on their own business domain. For example, you mentioned Gmail. Folks know that from their personal accounts; a Gmail.com account. The Google Apps product allows businesses to brand these applications using their own domain.
We’ve got over 2 million businesses and 25 million users using Google Apps today, and we are growing like a weed. We are helping small and medium-sized businesses take advantage of cloud computing in a more direct way.
Question: You used the term “cloud computing,” and I know a lot of people may not be familiar with this. It is basically being able to run applications from your browser or your mobile device without having them installed on your laptop or your desktop. Could you talk a little bit about some of the specific applications that go into the Google Apps Suite?
Scott McMullan: The thing we are most known for is Gmail. We help to make folks more productive, give them bigger quotas, innovate around helping them sort and process their e-mail better, so they can get more done. Beyond that, we’ve got collaborative calendaring. Small businesses like the fact that Google Calendar allows you to set up a site where your customers can make appointments with you. If you are a hair salon or some sort of business that user customer appointments, it’s very simple to make that happen.
Beyond that core, we have been pleased to see the adoption of our collaborative tools, like Google Docs. Imagine having multiple colleagues, partners or even customers working on documents such as spreadsheets at the same time and collaborating on their content. We are moving from an era where you e-mail attachments of documents, spreadsheets and presentations to an era where you share them online and edit them together. It’s about making collaboration more efficient.
Question: To me that is a real killer aspect of the applications. You have Google Sheets and Google Docs and you are able to work with people wherever they are, in real time.
Scott McMullan: The other thing that we are trying to make happen is to take our origins, which are around search, and make the ease of use and familiarity of these tools available to businesses. We are trying to create a level playing field for small businesses that have historically been shut out of some of the more advanced applications and ITs due to cost complexity or maintenance.
Question: In addition to all of the applications that Google itself is making under the Google Apps umbrella, you also have the Google Apps Marketplace, where third-party developers can create applications or integrate applications that work with the Google App Suite. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Scott McMullan: The basic idea is, when you have a smartphone like an iPhone or an Android, you use it for a lot more than making phone calls and checking your calendar. You get new applications to help you be more productive. We are doing the same thing, but in a business application context. Think of Google Apps as a handful of applications from Google that do core messaging and collaboration functions as well as other needs for your business. For example, if you need CRM, accounting or invoicing, there is a vendor for that out in the Web world. Our aim is to work with the best developers to bring those applications into our Suite and make it easy to discover and deploy those applications through our Google Apps Marketplace.
Question: There seems to be a very vibrant CRM application store for the Google Apps Marketplace. As I saw on a recent blog post on the official enterprise over at Google, CRM is one of the hottest areas from a customer perspective.
Scott McMullan: We’ve got 2 million businesses using Google Apps – businesses that need to serve their customers. They need to sell and engage with their products to keep the lights on and to grow. These businesses are turning to Google and saying, “Google, we love the way you are bringing ease of use and messaging collaboration. We would like you to help us with our customer relationship management.” Again, we are not building those applications. There are a lot of great CRM applications out there. Our goal is to make it easy for our customers to discover and use all of these different CRMs.
Question: What other kinds of applications are drawing a lot of interest in the Marketplace?
Scott McMullan: One is around project management and project collaboration. People are working together to do all kinds of projects, whether it is sales and marketing projects or internal product development. We have a lot of great apps in the project management collaboration space. We also see a growing interest in finance apps involving accounts payable and full-on accounting packages.
Beyond that, there is a particular style – we’ll call it integration – which people are getting excited about in the Marketplace, and that is integration with Gmail. Most folks are opening their e-mail and working out of their inbox for the better part of the day. That is where a lot of their communication flows.
We are trying to extend Gmail with things like contextual gadgets, which allow our partners and our apps to do more with the type of information that is flowing into people’s inboxes. When you get an e-mail from a customer, wouldn’t it be great if you could have that context brought in from your CRM system, right into that customer exchange? These are the things we are looking to work with partners on to innovate around the user experience and make the whole thing simpler for businesses.
Question: You mentioned Android. How is the proliferation of Android devices impacting how people are using Google applications?
Scott McMullan: Android is seeing great growth, and we are excited to see all the different options and devices for Android. We don’t have any particular affinity or integration with Android in our Apps Marketplace today. It is really more about Web applications that are used traditionally in a full-screen browser. But we are looking forward to seeing the innovations coming out on the mobile side as well.
Question: Peer out a year from now. Where are we going to be with Google Apps Marketplace? How many applications are going to be out there? How are small businesses going to be able to leverage the applications as they start getting more comfortable with using them?
Scott McMullan: Our goal is to work with the best and most innovative Web application developers and companies out there. We think that we are off to a great start. If you think about the difficulty of finding what is great for your particular business, it’s tough. Of course we love Google Search and the open Web, but a lot of times you need more information to make those sorts of decisions about software. In a year, I would love to have all of the best and most innovative applications working on our Marketplace, driving great value to our customers, because they can go and find the exact right set of apps that make their business run in the cloud the best it can.
Question: Scott, where can people go to learn more about Google Apps?
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.