For Google’s G Suite, getting down to business is paying off

Meanwhile, Google’s suite has racked up plenty of users, especially among consumers, students, and small businesses, without ever threatening Office’s hold on larger organizations. But Google hasn’t given up on the big-company market. Three years ago, it hired VMware cofounder Diane Greene to run its enterprise operation. Under the new name Google Cloud, her domain now includes an array of formerly disparate business-y efforts, including G Suite.

Google says that more than four million organizations are paying G Suite customers, up from two million a couple of years ago; some of the marquee names are Airbus, Carrefour, Colgate-Palmolive, Nielsen, Verizon, and Whirlpool. The Office hegemony is still largely in place–Google and Microsoft share different stats about their suite businesses with little overlap, which makes precise comparisons difficult–but G Suite is making progress on its own terms.

With the Google Cloud Next event currently going on in San Francisco, it’s the biggest week of the year for G Suite announcements. Last week, before the conference began, I spoke with two of the people responsible for G Suite–VP of apps Prabhakar Raghavan and VP of engineering Elissa Murphy–about some of that news and the state of G Suite in general.

The big picture

How has Google managed to double G Suite’s base of paying customers? Being part of Google Cloud, which is heavily invested in signing up business customers for web services of all sorts, has helped: “It’s very fair to say that the amount of cross-fertilization and cross-selling is dramatically higher than it was three years ago,” says Raghavan. So has the effort the company has put into simplifying mass migrations, he adds: “We’re doing lots of things to make it super easy for large accounts to move onto us and get their workforces running with G Suite.”

Prabhakar Raghavan [Photo: courtesy of Google]

Another factor: Gigantic corporations which spent years resisting the proposition of storing corporate data in some other company’s data centers rather than on their own premises have finally warmed up to the idea. (Office 365, though a subscription business, is still focused around Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other apps in their conventional desktop versions, which means that a company can embrace it without going all-in on the cloud.) G Suite’s earliest customers tended to be tech companies and startups, but “now we see visionary enterprises hop on board as well,” Murphy told me. “That really centers on being cloud-native.”

Lastly, Google’s productivity apps have been around long enough that a generation of young people entering the workforce grew up on them, not Office. One customer, Raghavan says, recently told him that “last year I hired 3,000 people and they all want G Suite.”