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Google's CIO welcomes demanding users

Juan Carlos Perez | April 8, 2011
When Ben Fried left his post as IT managing director at Morgan Stanley and took over as Google Inc.'s CIO in May 2008, he knew what he was getting into.

But my mission, writ large, is to make this an incredibly productive organization. A way to do that is through a philosophy of choice. We allow users, within certain constraints, to choose the tool set with which they can be more productive. That produces the best overall environment. Of course, over the course of time, we may change our minds over what the scope or spectrum of those choices are.

Are you standardized on Google Apps and Docs or do you also use Microsoft Office?

We definitely use Microsoft Office inside the company, as well as Open-Office. What we've found is that in an environment of choice, people use Google Apps for a majority of their work. Apps was designed around observations of the way we work here. In some sense, it's almost a false comparison with other office suites. Apps is optimized around a workforce and style of work where collaboration is at the core. That's the most important thing. There are lots of things that Apps doesn't do, and the Apps team would be the first to tell you that, but what it does do and the style of work it does enable is how Google works as a company.

How much input do you and your team get asked for regarding product development decisions?

We have very strong relationships with the enterprise team and other related areas. It depends a lot on the particular area. There are a bunch of products on which we spend a lot of time talking to product managers and product teams about what our needs are. We do a lot of it. It's an important part of what we do.

You've mentioned that tablets are something CIOs need to pay attention to. Why?

There's going to be a ton of tablets out there, and people will bring them to work. It will follow the path of BlackBerries. My advice to CIOs now is to look at tablets and think hard about what your strategy is. If you look at the variety of Android tablets coming out, it's clear that it will be a diverse landscape and you have a chance to get in ahead of this. CIOs are going to have to think about software delivery. Are we going to buy software for these tablets? Do we have to think about training for our development organizations to learn how to build for these things? Do we have to think about optimizing Web browser experiences to work for this stuff? CIOs need to have a strategy and opinions about tablets because it will be the next personal computing platform that we're expected to provide at the enterprise, and very quickly. It will be this year.



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