Waitrose has highlighted the benefits of embracing the cloud after moving to Google Apps for Work across its 340 outlets and 65,000 staff.
The supermarket chain embarked on the switch to Google in late 2013 to improve collaboration across the firm as part of a wider decision by parent group John Lewis Partnership.
The move saw the company switch from its existing on-premise Lotus Notes deployment and adopt cloud services like Google+, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides and video chats with Hangouts.
Cheryl Millington, IT director at Waitrose, said that she chose Google Apps for Work as a way to modernise the technology in use at the company.
“I wanted a modern technology that would fit with our brand and our style of working and help us accentuate that sharing of knowledge,” she said.
Food, wine and flowers
The rollout was completed just over a year ago and Millington said that the benefits have already been seen for staff in various parts of the business.
“We have people in the partnership who are experts in different areas like food, wine and flowers, and Google’s collaboration tools have allowed them to share that knowledge with partners across all of our branches,” she said.
“That allows us to leverage their expertise and train new people as quickly and as effectively as possible so they can then pass that information on to our customers.”
Real-time, cloud-based document editing in the Google environment has also been successful and reduced development times notably.
“If you can get everyone in the same document, you don’t have to worry about version control and sending emails asking for feedback. Because everyone can co-create a document, we can formulate ideas in real time,” she said.
“As a result, we’ve found that our time to develop something has been cut four, five even tenfold at times.”
Waitrose called on the services of consultancy Cloud Sherpas to help with the transition to Google Apps for Work.
Ciaran Cosgrave, European vice president at Cloud Sherpas, told V3 that the company worked with Waitrose to migrate its entire IT system to Google in just four months.
“We spent about two months planning the change with the leadership at Waitrose and then began implementing it during February and March,” he said, before the go-live in April.
Cosgrave explained that since then staff have rapidly adapted to using the Google services, another indication of how the experience of using business tools has changed over the past few years.
“We found many branches had numerous members of staff who are already ‘Google-friendly’ from their own consumer experiences,” he said.
This work with Cloud Sherpas ensured that the process went smoothly and did not disrupt Waitrose's business workflow, according to Millington.
“When you replace your email and calendar system, it’s quite high risk because it touches everyone in the business. It was really important to us that this was a smooth transition,” she said.
The experience and brand reputation of Waitrose as a customer will no doubt help Google to entice others to consider its services, especially as the uptake of cloud services continues to rise.
Iain McDougall, head of sales for Google for Work in the UK and Ireland, said that the rise of mobile devices in businesses, coupled with growing awareness of the benefits of the cloud, is driving rapid adoption.
“I think we’ve crossed that threshold for cloud from early adopters to the mainstream. The last six months have probably been the busiest in terms of adoption we’ve seen,” he told V3.
“The exciting thing is we are seeing bigger and bigger organisations adopting our technology as the convergence of mobile devices, distributed workforces and the cloud come together.”
Millington added that the mobile aspect had been a key benefit of the move to Google's services, allowing staff to access information on devices such as iPads while remaining on the shop floor.
“Google has allowed us to provide information instantly to partners and to managers so they are always available and visible to customers dealing with issues as they happen on the shop floor rather than in the office," she said.
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