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    Agosto Blog

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    Friday
    Mar142014

    Visualizing Success as a Google Enterprise Global Partner of the Year

    Rick Erickson (Agosto EVP), Paul Lundberg (Agosto CTO), Aric Bandy (Agosto President), Amit Singh (VP Google Enterprise), Irfan Khan (Agosto CEO), Alan Wrafter (Google Enterprise Partnerships)

    Sometimes it's all in how you focus. Before last week, Agosto was focused on delivering high levels of service to our Google Apps and Google Enterprise Search clients, and on building products on Google Cloud Platform. Then last week in San Francisco at the 2014 Google Enterprise Global Partner Summit, Agosto was named Google Enterprise Global Partner of the Year for Cloud Platform.

    Taking a look back, Agosto set out at the beginning of 2013 with a singular goal: to become the leader in building products on Google Cloud Platform. We had already grown our organization into a thriving managed IT services provider, and over the past five years into one of the top Google Apps providers in the world. More recently Agosto has been expanding into providing services around implementing Google Enterprise Search with the Google Search Appliance, and on increasing our expertise in building products on Google Cloud Platform. It was the goal, however, to place our product development at the top of the list.

    As a result, during the past year Agosto created a product engineering and lifecycle management framework that enables us to help clients envision their products, move projects to completion in new and efficient, cost effective ways, and bring industry-leading products to market. We helped several clients launch products and working on ways to make the process even more efficient and powerful, leveraging the power of Google's Cloud Platform.

    In visualizing and focusing on our success, we were able to set goals, meet deadlines and achieve this top award from Google Enterprise. We've got a lot of work to do now to keep the momentum going, and are excited for the future.

    Tuesday
    Mar042014

    Engineering Success for Habitat for Humanity and Agosto’s Google Apps Clients

    Today’s guest blogger is Kaj Moenck, Success Engineer for Agosto clients, who just returned from his fourth and latest trip to El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity. He has also built homes in Alaska and Mississippi.

    Habitat trips give me the chance to recharge my batteries. I love to travel, build with my hands, and to meet and lead people. Habitat gives me the opportunity to do all that on one trip, but it also allows me an opportunity to give back. Not everyone has had the same opportunities in life and I feel it's important to give back something to the global community, whether it is local or abroad.

    What we do through Habitat means so much to the people we help. Most of the people we help can't understand why someone would travel so far or do so much just to help them, but honestly it feels really good to do this.

    I was thinking about how this relates to my work with Agosto. In both situations, I help build relationships. In El Salvador, I play games with kids - they’re always curious when they see a tall guy that looks different from them - so I invite them over and talk to them and get to know them. They appreciate that I’m there helping, and I get to know about the families and neighborhoods that we’re helping.

    I do a lot of the same things at Agosto. I spend a lot of time speaking with our clients to find out what they’re interested in, and what they dream of for the future of their companies. I really get to learn their story, where they’re coming from and where they want to go.

    In both my Habitat work and my work with Agosto clients, I hope to empower people to be the next leader of their own communities. I encourage them to work with me, with the tools I can help provide, to get a feeling for what’s possible. Then they can come up with something completely new - in the case of work, with something Google and Agosto can help them to achieve.

    I am fortunate at both Habitat and at Agosto that I know how good it can feel to do the work that I do, purely because I have something to share. And others do as well. Maybe it’s talent for building a house, maybe for teaching kids, maybe it’s helping a Google Apps administrator work through an issue. Helping other people means that I get so much more out of my work than those that I help could ever know.

    In the case of Habitat, and Agosto, the world keeps getting smaller. It’s just not that big a place. The families I help through Habitat have the same hopes and dreams for their kids as I do for my own. And the companies I help at Agosto are seeking the pathways to success that I can help guide them toward. I am lucky that I get to see my small impact on both.

    Saturday
    Feb082014

    Agosto Sponsors, Presents Keynote at Google DevFest

    Today in Minneapolis, Agosto sponsored the Google DevFest, a one day conference with speakers from Google and the developer community. The day is divided into 50 minute sessions led by either a single speaker and topic or with a longer, workshop format. A demo/code-lab/lounge area is also provided. Agosto's CTO Paul Lundberg also delivered the day's opening keynote presentation.

    The two major topic areas for the Twin Cities DevFest conference are Android and Web/JavaScript development. Throughout the day, attendees can follow those tracks, or learn about other Google related and open technologies, like Google Glass. Agosto's sponsorship included giving away a new Acer Chromebook and a new Nexus 7 tablet.

    Lundberg's keynote entitled "Platform Matters" touched on the scalability of Google Cloud Platform and how companies can build products and re-think teams.

    The Twin Cities Google Developer Group or "GDG-TC" is a group that meets throughout the year to explore the development possibilities and applications of Google Cloud Platform development tools.

    Friday
    Feb072014

    Leadership Changes at Agosto to Support Growth 

    As Agosto grows, so do the responsibilities of its leaders. Over the past several years, Agosto has built what was initially an IT consulting company into a true cloud service and product development business. To continue to grow the company into the future, Agosto has split the company's top responsibilities into separate roles by naming a president and a chief executive officer. We have also named a new chief technology officer.

    Aric Bandy is continuing his leadership role as president. Bandy's dedication to guiding the company and our clients to success has helped Agosto to become one of world’s top Google Enterprise Premier partners. Bandy will also guide and lead the company’s sales team, leveraging his unique combination of fiscal, relationship, creative and business acumen.

    Irfan Khan, co-founder of Agosto, has stepped into the role of chief executive officer. Khan's experience in leading several companies, as well as his tenure with Agosto, have well-prepared him to share the top leadership responsibilities. His industry relationships in the Twin Cities, with Google and around the globe will enhance Khan's ability to bring Agosto and its clients forward.

    Because of these changes, and because of the growth of Agosto’s product development division, Agosto has also named Paul Lundberg to the position of chief technology officer. Lundberg has long served Agosto as director of development, and expertly led its development teams. He has built a strong relationships with Google’s Cloud Platform team, bringing Agosto Google’s recognition as leaders in the industry. Lundberg's visionary perspective is helping to open new revenue opportunities for the company.

    Rounding out the leadership team and continuing in their roles are Rick Erickson (co-founder and EVP business development), Caroline Life (director of marketing) and Gabriel Rein (director of managed services).

    Wednesday
    Feb052014

    Premier Utility Services Improves IT Data Delivery with Google Apps

    About Premier Utility Services:

    Premier Utility Services (Premier) is a division of Willbros Group, Inc., (NYSE: WG) a specialty energy infrastructure contractor serving the oil, gas, refinery, petrochemical and power industries.

    Premier provides damage prevention services which include underground utility locating, gas leak surveys, electrical services, contact voltage surveys, pole surveys and inspections, emergency management, storm assessment, sign assessment, along with quality assurance audits and operator qualification training. Real-time updates on its secure, online database allow visibility for all client projects. The Company’s call center is available 24/7 to guarantee project success and client satisfaction.

    Challenge:

    When Premier was acquired by Willbros, the Company’s IT management team was working with Microsoft Exchange. However, the system was not scalable enough to meet the needs of the quickly growing entity. Significant stability and reliability issues started causing business disruptions, so the Company’s technical staff began to investigate alternative platforms that could provide more reliability. Marc Makely, President of Premier, suggested the Company move to Google Apps. Premier was already working with Google Geo (mapping) tools, and Makely believed in the cloud and in Google’s powerful solutions.

    Agosto and Google Solution:

    Premier’s IT team engaged Agosto to help them work through a well-defined project and technical plan. Agosto migrated Premier’s mobile field workforce and corporate users across 22 states from Exchange 2010 to Google Apps. Additionally, Premier now has an email archiving and eDiscovery solution in Google Apps Vault.




    Results:

    Premier is working well together and the team is finding new ways to improve business using Google Apps. Makely and Jason Cradit, Director of Information Solutions at Willbros, and Chris Bartlett, IT Manager at Premier, shared the story.

    “Premier’s former Exchange environment had so many outages, we had to do something,” said Cradit. “We were at risk of losing our ability to provide top-level service to clients. I was actually skeptical but our move to Google Apps went really well with Agosto’s help.”

    Bartlett joined Premier just as the Company was transitioning to Google. “My background was in the legal and financial industries, so I had concerns. The cultural shift of moving users away from Outlook is tough, until you get to know the new functionality, efficiency and speed that you can get from Google Apps. It has also freed IT up, so we’re able to focus on more strategic activities.”

    The Health and Safety team at Premier is excited about the use of Google Docs which allows for a step-change in live collaboration. Additionally, the field teams are working more productively because they can now securely communicate with other colleagues in real-time using any device, from anywhere. Premier also collects a tremendous amount of field data for their utility company clients. Cradit is excited the Company has started to use Google Sites (included with Google Apps) and inexpensive Android devices to almost immediately show clients their information.

    “Our customers are highly regulated and required to take action on situations in the field promptly,” said Cradit. “We can provide them with map visualizations and actionable information so much more quickly than ever before, using equipment that’s not cost-prohibitive and tools that are easy to use. That means Premier is more efficient and our customers are more able to act quickly on their data. We find new uses for the platform all the time”.

    Premier’s return on investment is already paying off.

    “The investment in Google has been extremely positive,” said Makely. “Google is the platform that got us to start making positive changes across the board, and we are working now on migrating more and more of the business to the cloud. We have reduced our capital expenses and management costs and we’ve gained productivity. We’re still early in our deployment and are still discovering new ways to use Google Apps. We are even exploring using Google Glass for field collection. Really, we couldn’t be happier.”




    Tuesday
    Feb042014

    Arrow Transportation Systems Inc. Drives Success with Google Apps

    About Arrow Transportation Systems Inc.:

    Arrow trucks began hauling goods in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1919. Today, Arrow is one of Canada’s largest bulk commodity haulers and reload operators, and has solidified its reputation as a carrier that truly represents quality, value and customer service. With 34 locations in both Canada and United States, and almost 1,000 employees, Arrow is leading the way in developing service-focused transportation solutions.

    Challenge:

    Arrow was reviewing options to move from its legacy Microsoft Exchange email platform, and had started discussing Google Apps with Agosto. The two companies had just begun executing the deployment plan as Arrow’s Exchange server failed.

    Agosto and Google Solution:

    Because of the catastrophic nature of the hardware failure, Arrow needed assistance to migrate extremely rapidly to Google Apps, which Agosto was able to assist and complete within just two weeks.




    Results:

    “Agosto helped Arrow move to Google Apps very quickly, turning an extremely volatile situation into a smooth transition,” said Mitchell Zulinick, Chief Operation Officer for Arrow. “Our move to Google Apps started the entire company on an exciting transformation to new levels of productivity. As a transportation company approaching our 100 year anniversary, it’s great to be able to say that team collaboration is up, IT costs are down and we’re working more efficiently and effectively.”

    Sheets, Google Apps spreadsheets, have made particular impacts. “Sheets allow for real-time collaboration between several of our company’s branches across North America,” said Mitchell. “We securely share the latest safety information, production figures, and more. It’s an incredible time saving tool.”

    Hangouts are now being used extensively at the company, too, without a big push. “We really didn’t know how widely some Google Apps features would be used,” said Mitchell. “We were initially focused on a replacement email and document system. But now, instead of emailing back and forth, or having to schedule a call, our team members just start a Hangout chat or video call, and it’s like being in the same room. It’s saving us a bundle on travel costs, too. We can work from any device, anywhere in the office or on the road, and we get things done faster, save on stress of having to travel for meetings and don’t have the usual wait for replies.”

    Productivity overall has improved at Arrow. Collaboration and creativity at the company are on the rise. “We are able to measure that document collaboration has increased by 26%, due to the reporting by our teams”, said André Larouche, Chief Information Officer. “And overall new document creation has increased by 13%. We are very pleased by the changes.”

    Even IT calls are down, way down. “Our support calls surrounding email issues are down 98%,” said André. “Our IT team has been able to focus on valued added technologies across the board, instead of having to hang on the line all day to fix the same email issues over and over.”

    “With Google Apps, Agosto has helped us elevate the level of service we provide to both employees and clients. We’re saving time and money, and improving the way we work. It’s a winning situation as we grow into the future.”




    Monday
    Feb032014

    Life After Outlook: How Change Management Impacts Google Apps Adoption

    If you're considering the transition from Outlook to Google Apps, ask your deployment partner if you need change management to make it a success. At Agosto, we know the answer is yes, and here's why.

    Humans are creatures of habit, therefore they are often resistant to change. Migrating to a new email and collaboration system is a major undertaking for any organization. Those organizations running Microsoft Outlook and looking to migrate to Google Apps will need to plan for resistance from some users.

    Early in the project, these organizations will find they have die-hard Outlook fans among their users. While many of these fans have personal web-based email accounts, some even Gmail, the idea of leaving Outlook behind for their business life will cause push back. By assessing the reasons behind the push back, you will likely learn there are several factors. These might includ lack of time, lack of Google Apps knowledge and fear that they will struggle in learning.

    This is why change management is important. It provides a structured approach to the user-side of the Google Apps deployment. Ensuring that you communicate, educate and support effectively will make the transition easier for everyone involved. The time and effort given to change management before, during and even after the transition will be reflected in the ultimate ROI of the project.

    Google has an excellent guide called “Going Google: A practical guide to change management for Google Apps adoption.” They report that with a solid change management plan in place, you'll:

    • Increase user adoption, usage, and proficiency
    • Reduce risk related to acceptance of Google Apps by users
    • Lower costs related to unplanned disruptions to business operations

    A few of the major points from the guide are list listed below:

    • Create a change management plan timeline: A timeline will ensure that everyone involved in the project will know what is happening and when.
    • Gain support and help: Engage senior management for support on the deployment. Human Resources can provide additional understanding of users. Marketing can assist with communication. Recruit power users as Google Guides. They will be excited about the change and have the ability to influence others. If you are using a Google Apps partner, look to their experts for guidance, they will help plan, manage and execute change management activities.
    • Communication: Communication and more communication. Spreading the word that we’re “going Google” can be accomplished in many ways. Popular ways include email, company newsletters and the company intranet.
    • Training: It is important to identify the needs of different user groups, some will need more training than others and some will need tailored training for their role. Provide training materials in different formats online, via printed handouts and in classroom sessions. Continue to support users with training resources after deployment.

    Bringing in expert help on change management is a good idea. Google Enterprise Partners, like Agosto, have change management and training experts that have successfully guided many organizations in making the migration from Outlook to Google Apps. They have first hand knowledge of issues that can arise and ways to prevent or alleviate them. Contact us for more information.

    Friday
    Jan312014

    Corel Strengthens Global Business Operations with Google Apps

    About Corel:

    Corel is one of the world's top software companies providing some of the industry’s best-known graphics, productivity and digital media products. Boasting the most comprehensive portfolio of innovative software, the company has built a reputation for delivering solutions that are easy to learn and use, helping people achieve new levels of creativity and productivity. The industry has responded with hundreds of awards for innovation, design and value. Used by millions of people around the world, Corel’s product lines include CorelDRAW® Graphics Suite, CorelDRAW® Technical Suite, Corel® Painter®, Corel® PaintShop® Pro, Corel® VideoStudio® and Corel® WordPerfect® Office, Winzip, Roxio Creator, Roxio Toast and Pinnacle Studio. For more information on Corel, please visit www.corel.com.

    Challenge:

    Corel has reinvented itself over the years through an expansion of its offerings in the Graphics, Digital Media and Productivity space. The company's management team recognized the need to adopt a simplified yet scalable infrastructure on a variable cost model.

    Agosto and Google Solution:

    The company had already migrated from an on-premises CRM to Salesforce.com, and next identified Corel’s email and collaboration systems to move to the cloud. As a part of the evaluation process, the team looked at Google Apps and Microsoft 365. Corel’s Vice President Information Technology, Mark Fernandes, shared the company’s story.

    “We were already a Google customer, using Postini to manage spam and email security,” said Mark. “We were also a Microsoft customer, running on-premises Exchange. With extensive global operations, including in Taiwan, China, Japan, the Philippines, Europe, and North America, we have teams working 24/7. We reviewed both Google’s and Microsoft’s options for email, scheduling and calendar, and wanted to communicate better and reduce costs. We found Google particularly attractive, with Chat, Sites, Docs and the ability to collaborate.”




    Results:

    Mark described that the team was initially skeptical about whether Google was mature enough for an enterprise offering. Many of Corel’s employees were home users of Gmail, though, so there was a certain comfort level in making the change to Google at work.

    “Though we encouraged employees to go Google, one of our key strategies lives in giving people choices,” said Mark. “Some of our team members were glued to their Outlook clients, and GASMO (Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook) helped to ease the challenge of synchronizing email clients and created a common, seamless platform that enables our global teams to work from anywhere, at any time, from any device. We have had a lot of success with users starting on Outlook and eventually transitioning to full-blown Google Apps, taking advantage of Gmail, Chat and even Sites.”

    Mark commented on the transition. “We were actually very impressed with the transition to Google Apps,” said Mark. “Our experience with Agosto was great. I like that Agosto focused on change management, bringing us the tools to support this major change for our business. Agosto was instrumental in holding our hands throughout the implementation, which we rolled out in a phased approach to our IT team and finally to the larger organization. We also involved our senior management team early, which I believe led to our success.”

    One of the first Corel divisions to officially go Google was WinZip, one of Corel’s main divisions. During Corel’s transition to Google Apps, Hurricane Sandy threatened the northeast coast of Canada and the United States, where WinZip is located. Acting quickly and efficiently, Agosto migrated WinZip’s entire domain to the Google platform in under five hours.

    Feedback from Corel team members is also positive.

    “Our marketing and product development folks appreciate the increased ability to collaborate,” said Mark. “Using Google Docs and Sites enables them to manage content. All of our teams are appreciate the secure, easy, device agnostic access to their mail and content. We’re an organization that doesn’t prescribe a particular device so granting access anytime, anywhere, with no need for a VPN for our Android or iOS users. And Google’s archiving and ediscovery keeps us secure so we haven’t had to add anything.”

    Mark also shared how Google has helped him meet his objectives to save on costs.

    “We have successfully decommissioned three Exchange servers, which has saved on IT costs” he said. “Google Docs and Chat also save on communication costs, plus we are enabling employees to collaborate in real-time from anywhere, on any device. I’m really pleased with the results financially.”

    Tuesday
    Jan282014

    Google Apps: Bringing Senior Management and IT Teams Together

    Changing email platforms and moving collaboration systems to the cloud can actually unite a company's C-Suite and its IT department. At Agosto, we hear often that both IT management and the folks in the boardroom are pleased after going Google. However to get there, it takes planning, change management and of course it takes time.

    Though the evaluation process and cultural shift from an on-premises email server and document collaboration system can be a little painful, the end of the rainbow is in reach and also can hold a pot of gold in cost savings. That certainly makes everyone happy, from the CFO and CIO to the IT Director. And we hear this a lot from our clients: Google Apps saves on IT costs, and improves collaboration and productivity.

    Having a solid change management plan to make the transition is part of what Agosto provides, and might include on-site or virtual, instructor-led training. We also work to stay in touch with our clients post-deployment, offering support and a continuous success strategy for the duration of their Google engagement. That way, if there are bumps in the road or challenges on the horizon, we can help find a way to make things smooth again.

    When a company makes the transition to Google Apps, the actual move is often termed a "non-event" by our clients. We have had many people tell us that there is a brief spike in support calls the first day, or maybe even through the first month, but then the calls drop off significantly. Positive feedback picks up. Teams start collaborating in ways that they never have before. But again, it takes time.

    Also, with Google Apps, there's very little downtime. In fact, Google Apps Gmail includes a 99% uptime guarantee SLA, 24/7 phone support for "unavailable service" emergencies, as well as email and self-service support. When something goes "down", which is rare, it's Google's job to fix it. That means IT teams can more strategically schedule team resources, saving their companies even more.

    So if you're an IT leader being asked by your C-Level supervisor to help move your company to the cloud, or if you're the CIO preparing for the battle with your IT team about going Google, take heart that the end results for most of our clients have been, to quote one of them, "overwhelmingly positive." And if Agosto can help, please contact us for more information.

    Friday
    Jan242014

    Concerned About Losing Custom Sign-In Page?

    For those concerned about losing their Google Apps custom sign-in page (see announcement from Google earlier this week about the consolidation of sign-in across all Google Apps products), Agosto can help. Our team of technicians can provide recommendations and implementation support for other products (like those from Okta) that incorporate single sign on (SSO) and provide similar functionality to that of Google's old custom sign-in pages.

    For more information, call our team at 612.605.3520 or contact us by email.