The Future of Yesterday’s Past

Artificial intelligence breakthroughs are closer than you think. Agosto’s CEO, Irfan Khan, met someone who is not only sure of this, but he’s actually working on the next breakthrough as you read this.

Khan met one of his heroes, Ray Kurzweil, at Google I/O last month in San Francisco. Inspired by technology pioneers at Google, including Kurzweil, Khan shared how exciting it is to be able to work so closely with a company that boasts the greatest innovative minds of our time.

Kurzweil, a tech pioneer, is an acclaimed inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist. He spoke at I/O about his new book, How to Create a Mind – The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. It includes behind the scenes views of Google’s artificial intelligence division, predicted technology breakthroughs, and the future of AI.

Labeled by Inc. Magazine as the rightful heir to Thomas Edison, Kurzweil has been the principal inventor of things like the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments; the first text-to-speech synthesizer; and the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind.

A few years back, Kurzweil took Moore’s Law (the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years) a few steps further. His Law of Accelerating Returns has been the basis for near prophetic claims about when certain technological breakthroughs will occur. Kurzweil’s law states that evolutionary systems tend to increase exponentially. With it, he predicted the demise of the Soviet Union due to cell phones and fax machines being widely released, making it difficult for the government to control information flow.

In his new book, Kurzweil provides theories based on his and others’ neuroscience research, and the evolutions and inventions in AI. He is reverse-engineering the human brain to understand exactly how it works, and is using his knowledge to create AI even more intelligent than humans, which will allow us to better address our planet’s biggest challenges.

Khan was honored to have met Kurzweil, and is excited about leading Agosto forward in our partnership with Google and in our own software development evolution. For more information about Ray Kurzweil, or to purchase his book, visit www.howtocreateamind.com.

Have a thought or a question? That’s what comments are for! What are some technology trends you think will become popularized in the next 5 years?

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 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 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. Learn more about why Agosto was named Google Enterprise Global Partner of the Year here.

We’ve got a lot of work to do now to keep the momentum going, and are excited for the future.

Leadership Changes at Agosto to Support Growth

As the company grows, there has been leadership changes at Agosto.

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).

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 who recently made the move to Google Apps.

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.”

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. Thankfully, Agosto was able to assist and complete this 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.”

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 include 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.

Corel Strengthens Global Business with Migration to Google

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 their website.

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 about their migration to Google.

“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 migration 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 the migration to 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.”

Google Apps Vault New Feature: Preserve Specific Messages

The news today from Google about the expansion of Google Apps Vault capabilities is sure to excite Vault administrators!

To date, admins can place a litigation / legal hold an entire Google Apps Vault user account to preserve all that user’s messages. Over the next few days Google will release a new feature that will enable Vault admins to place a legal hold on specific messages, too.

Google Apps Vault, which is sold as an add-on for Google Apps, allows companies to retain, archive, search, and export email for compliance and electronic discovery (eDiscovery). Today, administrators are already able to search their domain’s email data based on specific criteria like sent dates, terms (words) or users. As mentioned, they can place specific user accounts on litigation hold to preserve a specific user’s email data. They can also manage related searches and their litigation holds within a single “container,” called a “matter,” so that matters can be shared with and among authorized users. Search results can be exported in standard file formats, and search queries can be saved. Admins can also set email retention policies for their domain.

With this news, starting within the next few days, admins will get to place legal holds on specific messages, either by date or by filtering certain terms (words), for indefinite preservation in Vault. Editions included are Google Apps for Business, Education and Government.

Interested in learning more? Contact Agosto to better understand how Google Apps and Google Apps Vault can help your organization. Also visit Google’s support site for more.

New Google Apps Sign In Page Roll Out Begins Today

There’s a new Google Apps sign in page for customers using Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government. Google announced the change in November, and Agosto has been sending notices to our Google Apps clients.

Google is rolling out changes over the next four weeks, starting today. Changes include that the sign-in page for Google Apps has been updated for consistency across all Google Apps services. Essentially, the sign-in page for Gmail is going to be the same as the sign-in page for Google Drive, Google Calendar, and all Google Apps services. This will make it easier for users to switch between accounts and improve security.

It also means, unfortunately, that it is no longer possible to personalize the Google Apps sign-in page with custom logos and colors. We understand that this is going to be painful to a few of our client teams, and we are here to support you through the transition. End users will also now need to log in with full email addresses, like bob@domain.com, which is also going to be a change for some teams.

For our clients with SSO domains with a network mask, your users will be presented with the new Google sign-in page when they log in from outside the SSO network mask. This change does not affect SSO domains without a network mask.

Agosto clients are invited to contact us for assistance. For more information, please visit Google’s support page for the official notice.

Google Tools for the Transportation Industry – A Webinar

In a few days, Agosto will co-host with Google an intimate conversation with the leadership team from Arrow Transportation Systems Inc., a 96-year old trucking and transportation company.

This will not be your run-of-the-mill webinar. Instead, Arrow’s COO, CIO and Manager Development and Enterprise Architect will come together to share each of their unique perspectives on discovering Google Apps and how they and the entire company are working better today using Google tools.

Arrow has been an Agosto client for over a year now, and we’re honored to welcome them to this unique, online event. The 30-minute conversation will be geared toward the transportation industry, but we guarantee it will be interesting enough for any business leader considering the future of technology in their enterprise. We hope you’ll register today to join us for this special conversation.

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