'Five years ago bigger was better, but it isn't now'

Google Enterprise boss Thomas Davies talks Chrome OS and Google Compute

Thomas Davies

Google Enterprise is one of the four main pillars of the search giant's business. It's responsible for Google Apps, the company's cloud-based productivity offering that's used by over 5 million businesses, in addition to its Enterprise Search and geospatial services.

We caught up with Thomas Davies, Head of Google Enterprise for the past seven years, to discuss the changing business landscape for SMBs, 'bring your own device' (BYOD) trends, Chrome OS in the enterprise and why smaller companies should pay attention to its emerging cloud platforms.

TechRadar: How has the tech industry changed since you've been in the role?

Thomas Davies: There's so much change going on, but it's the accelerating pace of change that catches everybody by surprise, including us. Take Android, for example. Three or four years ago we had no idea Android was going to be the success that it was. There's so much innovation now in the industry for the first time in 20 years in both enterprise and consumer tech. We've reached an incredible time.

One of the biggest challenges for the mainstay of what is known as enterprise technology is that you have these amazing trends that are going on in the market. So there's cloud, social, mobile and big data, but there's a bunch of others too.

They're causing a lot of headache for big customers and well-known industry CEOs because SMBs have this inherent agility and capability to take advantage of those trends more quickly than industry incumbents. If we look back four or five years ago we said big was better, but it isn't now. Operating in a start-up environment and operating model is now seen as a big advantage.

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Different challenges

TR: How do the technology challenges faced by SMBs differ from those faced by larger enterprises?

TD: I think the exciting thing for SMBs is they have the opportunity to look at an existing value chain of an incumbent and say 'Right, we're going to do this and we're going to do that, and we're going to do it better, be more responsive and focus our efforts on customer service'.

On the other side, the big CEOs are saying 'How do we maintain our relevancy over the next five to 10 years?' and the only way they can really do that is to bring this notion of ideation (idea generation) and innovation and try to operate actually as an SMB.

TR: How many SMBs do you think use Google Apps for Business to lower total cost of ownership (TCO) versus those that use it to drive creativity?

TD: If you went to a traditional environment five years ago, you'd have spent six months just designing your architecture. Over the past six years, the average TCO for companies using Apps has been 50%, which can be an awful lot of saved capital expenditure for an SMB. Reducing cost is important when you're an SMB, but getting people to work on more strategic things is actually the advantage.

In terms of TCO, many CIOs continue to report to the CFO. What we're starting to see as a general rule is that more decisions are being made by CEOs, because they see this five year need to have a genuine agile platform that they can use to take advantage of these big trends.

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Equal opportunities

TR: What is Google Enterprise doing that's giving smaller businesses a level playing field on which to compete?

TD: It's great that we live in a time where IT is being democratised, that's the key thing. If I'm an SMB thinking about the market opportunity now, what with the next 5 billion people coming onto the internet, the fact that a CIO or IT manager from a company of 20 employees can make the same decision as an IT manager from a FTSE 50 is fascinating.