Google for Work: CIO Engagement Strategy Comes Into Focus

How can Google (GOOG) gain more business and cloud credibility with corporate CIOs and CEOs? The answer likely involves Google CIO Ben Fried (pictured) -- and the CIOs from Briggs & Stratton, Chicos, Scott's Miracle Grow, and the State of Colorado.

Indeed, those experts are scheduled to discuss the evolving role of CIO during Atmosphere Live -- an online Google event set for Oct. 1. So what can we expect to hear? Glad you asked.

On the one hand, Google has a rich set of enterprise cloud services and mobile capabilities -- everything from Google Cloud Platform to Android. As a whole, Google's offerings allow businesses to quickly deploy and manage IT workloads. But on the other hand, Google's messaging to CIOs and businesses has been mixed at best.

Google Apps: The Great Branding Debate

While Microsoft (MSFT) Azure and Office 365 cloud revenues have gained serious momentum, Google has certainly grown its cloud business as well. Still, the search giant has struggled in some areas with its business branding. One example: For more than a year, sources say, Google weighed changing the "Google Apps" brand.

The internal debate involved an external reality: Customers were confusing Google's SaaS applications ("Google Apps") with apps designed for Android. Within media headlines and in Google's own search results, many business users looking for corporate SaaS app information were constantly shifted to Android app information. Not good.

Here Comes Google for Work

Google finally responded by shifting its Google Enterprise brand to the Google for Work moniker on Sept. 2, 2014. Dig a little deeper and you'll see Google for Work includes:

  • Google Apps for Work
  • Google Maps for Work
  • Google Search for Work
  • Google Chrome for Work
  • Google Android for Work
  • Google Cloud Platform for Work

Ahem... Are you starting to see the pattern?

Memo From Google: Have You Met Our CIO?

Google's other challenge involved FUD. Simply put, many corporate CIOs suffer fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) when they hear about Google's cloud-based business applications. At first, the FUD involved security, reliability and scalability concerns.

But more recently, I think the fear has shifted to something far more personal: CIOs fear loss of personal control when they shift workloads to Google. Those same CIOs also worry that their companies can't possibly innovate as quickly as Google's own cloud platforms evolve.

That's where Google CIO Ben Fried and several customer CIOs enter the picture. During the Atmosphere Live conference on Oct. 1, Fried will discuss the evolving role of CIO. Translation: He won't be pitching Google's products. Rather, he'll likely describe how CIOs must embrace modern realities like tight budgets, intense innovation demands, and the need for competitive insights (i.e., Big Data) that drive revenues.

Fried won't be the only CIO in the spotlight. Additional CIOs set to present include:

  • Brent Hoag, VP and CIO, Briggs & Stratton
  • Scott Hendrick, senior VP CTO & CIO, Scott's Miracle Grow
  • Brandon Williams, IT director, State of Colorado
  • Eric Singleton, CIO, Chicos

And in a nod to the shifting IT buyer demographic -- toward marketing, communications and HR -- guest speakers will also include:

  • Randy Kiodz, digital marketing, US Cellular
  • Ben Darr, manager of product development, Thrillist Media Group
  • Kimberly Thompson, VP of communications, Whirlpool

The Bigger Plan

As Wired pointed out in early 2014, Google has a grand plan to overthrow Amazon as king of the cloud. Part of that plan involves a shift from geek talk to business talk. In my opinion, Google's real corporate plan may have more to do with toppling IBM SoftLayer, Microsoft Azure and Office 365.

Of course, putting a human face on the Google for Work strategy also comes with some risks. During a previous media opportunity, Google CIO Ben Fried made some cloud computing statements that backfired.

This time around, Fried and the Google for Work team on Oct. 1 hope to get down to some serious business. We'll be tuning in to see how the messaging goes.