Kevin Mourey System Engineer at Clear Choice
Andy Serwatuk Applications Administrator of Google Apps at Cadillac Fairview
David Malone Google Apps for Education Deployment Architect in the San Francisco Unified School District.
Andrew McGonnigle The Gooru
Why did you decide to move to Google Apps?
David Malone- Our district transitioned to Google a year ago. It was a slow roll out. We gave accounts to all students and staff in the district, so about 67,000 seats total. We then manually enrolled about 700 chromebooks in a week to make them compliant. There were very few problems. Now the District has upwards of 3,600 devices at 63 schools. Since the beginning of 2015 we’ve rolled out 3,000 devices. Having the Google platform that isn’t device specific that allows for a continuity of experience is very key in the success of this program. Access anywhere allows students of all income brackets to work on the same level.
“Access anywhere allows students of all income brackets to work on the same level.”
Andy Serwatuk- The driving force behind the switch is that they wanted something cheaper than the current system, Lotus Notes. Our offices are spread all over the country and maintaining servers at each location didn’t seem feasible, so Google Apps was the perfect solution. I wasn’t here when the decision was made but if I were I would have made the same decision.
Kevin Mourey- In 2011 we switched to Google Apps from Microsoft Exchange. At the time, our Exchange was sitting on some failing hardware and the cost of replacing that hardware was significant, so we explored other options. Google Apps came up as the prime alternative to our current system. The features were enticing and the price point was fantastic.
Did you go Google Apps to help manage the device roll out or did you decide to go Google Apps and roll out the devices to encourage the usage of Google Apps ecosystem?
David- I wanted to encourage collaboration and there is no other tool out there that is geared towards that as much as Google Apps For Education. The Chromebooks were a great way to transition into Google Apps ecosystem. Students and teachers take to Google Apps so naturally that it makes it easy to scale and expand upon quickly.
What has been the biggest success or challenge since starting the implementation?
David- We only have Gmail turned on for intra-communication but we cannot email outside the domain. It is difficult to deploy on this scale without email, because the more accounts people have to check on, the more complicated things get. The Gmail hurdle has been difficult for end user buy in. Even with this hurdle, we have 12,000 active users on a weekly basis which is about 20%. Once we address the Gmail thing and get everyone an account, adoption will go through the roof.
Andy- Adoption. Google does things differently; starting from the interface and even how they roll out changes to the platform. End users were used to things being done a certain way, so there was some adjustments. Many platforms are starting to make the change but Google is the driving force in these changes. It is very new to people who have been working a certain way for a very long time. However, the younger generation picks it up very quickly – many have used it in school because Apps for Education is free.
The IT side is usually the last to adopt. They are very systematic, and may not initially respond well to the concept of rolling innovation and constant updates. It certainly takes some adjusting.
“In fact I can count on one hand the number of times we had people whose Gmail was not working, and that was over the last 4 years.”
Kevin- Our biggest success has been the uptime. It’s a relief to not have to worry about whether someone’s email will be down. In fact I can count on one hand the number of times we had people whose Gmail was not working, and that was over the last 4 years.
The biggest challenge has been adoption and making users aware of all the features they could be taking advantage of.
How do you stay on top of Google’s rapid release schedule?
Andy- Google operates on its own schedule and you get accustomed to that. Only experience will show you which features you’ll actually see soon and which will take some time. You have to manage upwards with your internal management so you can have a roadmap for which features are upcoming.
What is the value of the Chromebook deployment already and what do you hope to see moving forward?
David- I have personally deployed 3600 Chromebooks in two months. That’s incredible. With any other platform that would present significant issues. We have a 3rd party that does the whiteglove enrollment for us. So once I create the org unit structure with appropriate permissions then my job is done. The uniformity of experience across devices is helpful in training teachers. We are hoping to get 20% usage this year from the 67,000 students.
The amount of support requests for Chromebooks is so small – and when there is one it is usually someone forgetting to take it out of developer mode. Chromebooks are like pencils. It doesnt matter which one you pick up, it will pretty much be the same. Teachers like that. The biggest success with a Chromebook is the focus on learning and collaboration and the ability to scale immediately with minimal resources.
“I have personally deployed 3600 Chromebooks in two months. That’s incredible. With any other platform that would present significant issues.”
What has Google made easier or harder in the deployment process?
David- I think the hardest thing to translate to people is the data sharing and the questions that come along with storage – how long should we store the data of previous students? Things like that. The great thing about Google is it is always improving. When I have an issue it is probably already in the timeline to be addressed.
What do you see yourself doing in term of training on Google Apps?
Andy- I’m in the process of building the strategy on how to manage the adoption. I am taking two routes. The first is making sure there is a complete training program. It will walk users through the basics; this is your email, this is your calendar, and this is how they work.
A second level training program will transform users from being sufficient to proficient. This will go over best practices and more power user functions.
The third level will be selecting regional Goorus to ensure I am not the one to have to field every single question. The second part would be to interview employees, find what inefficiencies we can fix with Google Apps, and then create a marketing campaign based on that success. An example being a meeting where everyone has their own spreadsheet and are copying identical info into the spreadsheets. Then one person mails out the spreadsheet to everyone so everyone has 2 copies of the same spreadsheet. This is an inefficiency that is easily fixed by Google Apps.
“Everyone has their own spreadsheet and are copying identical info into the spreadsheets. Then one person mails out the spreadsheet to everyone so everyone has 2 copies of the same spreadsheet. This is an inefficiency.”
What is one thing you have learned being a Google Apps Admin?
Andy- Adoption is hard. People aren’t looking to change, so you have to give them a reason to. I have been at other companies where they turn on everything at once to see what sticks, and then they build from there. That doesn’t work – it’s too slow a process. You really have to push for adoption and show people where they can benefit from using Google Apps.
Could you tell us about your rollout of mobile device management?
Kevin- We have 700 users and we don’t know how many of those users are connected to mobile, so we set up a test org with a few users. Everything went smoothly, so I started preparing for the actual rollout. I predicted it would take two months. I sent out multiple notifications and then launched it location by location. I was surprised at how few support requests I received. The entire rollout ended up only taking 2 weeks. The best part about mobile device management is that it was already part of the Google Apps admin console, it didn’t cost anything extra. We were able to use our pre existing communications platform to integrate all the mobile devices.
The one challenge to keep in mind is that you should turn off pop/imap. In iOS if you use Google on your native mail client it will use pop, so make sure to turn it off.
How are you controlling usage of 3rd party apps by end users?
Kevin- We are using FlashPanel to look at what is going on in our domain. We are looking into limiting what permissions our users can grant to 3rd party apps.
How are you leveraging Google+?
Kevin- We have started to use Google+ and circles to communicate relevant updates that we didn’t really need to send emails for. Although we use sites as an intranet platform, we have found that communities works as a great internal communication board and it is a much faster method. We can use it to train, schedule events, take polls, and more. It allows for a much deeper collaboration.
What is the difference between how your teachers are using sites and classroom?
David- Adoption is difficult and incremental so it is important to manage expectations. Classroom has a less complex feature set than the full Google Apps. It allows us to get them from zero to paperless in about an hour. It models social networks they are already familiar with and as we get more devices in student’s hands, it is beginning to take off.
“It allows us to get them from zero to paperless in about an hour.”
What is the biggest challenge for users who are coming over from Microsoft?
Andy- Sorting. Being able to sort things easily by date or by sender. I address this by sending them a cheat sheet on how to use the advanced search features in Google.
Can you give any advice on moving large number of users from one primary domain to another?
David- Migrating data can be difficult. There are third party apps like backupify that can help with this. In some cases the student data isn’t critical so you could focus on transferring teachers.
What auditing tools do you use for sharing with everyone in the domain or publicly?
Kevin- FlashPanel allows you to look on a file by file or user by user basis who is sharing what with whom on Google Drive. You can also set policies that can control the sharing of users. I couldn’t speak highly enough of FlashPanel and what it allows us to do on this front.
How can you use Google Drive to replace typical file servers?
Andy- It is best to think of Google Drive as peer-to-peer file sharing. It’s not supposed to be used as a file sharer.
How can Google+ communities be integrated with an intranet site?
Kevin- Google+ communities are part of Google+. I don’t integrate them to an intranet site, that’s a completely different service.
What are best practices for Google Apps for Education settings?
Andrew- There are two fantastic Google Apps for Education Google+ communities where a lot of info is being shared so please check those out.