Google Product Chief: Its Okay to Fail Wisely

Google Enterprise's Matt Glotzbach encourages trial-and-error programming while dodging Microsoft Office bait.

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NEW YORK—Traditional methods of innovation are changing, forcing businesses to move away from wielding a sustainable competitive advantage to bursts of continuous innovation and especially collaboration. This collaborative innovation will spur new products and services.

That was one of the messages from Matt Glotzbach, product management director for Google Enterprise, who discussed the need for changes in the way companies facilitate innovation during his keynote at the Interop New York show on Oct. 24.

"What we need is a model of continuous innovation, where youre constantly coming up with new things and so you have a lot of little short bursts," said Glotzbach, who nodded to the iPod, Macintosh and other aspects of Apples history of innovation during his presentation.

To that end, Glotzbach said the notion of creating a product, subjecting it to all kinds of tests, and sitting on it for years before releasing it is antiquated.

Glotzbach, who helped drive Googles purchase and integration of Postini to bolster Googles Apps suite, spoke as an official from a company famous for rapidly issuing betas for users to test and rolling out finished products at its own pace.


Click here to read more about Googles Apps in a collaborative cloud.

Illustrating his point, Glotzbach announced that Google, of Mountain View, Calif., on Oct. 24 began rolling out free IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) for the companys Gmail Web mail application.

IMAP keeps the same information synched across mobile phones, PDAs or desktops so that whatever work users do in one place shows up wherever they might access their e-mail. Glotzbach showed a picture of how he used IMAP to synchronize his e-mail account with his iPhone.

Glotzbach added that businesses must steer clear of the old guard practice of hording information, and should instead share it with other work groups.

For example, many large businesses have silos of consumer or enterprise businesses, with clear lines of demarcation. In an interview with eWEEK after his keynote, Glotzbach said he and his enterprise team frequently meet with leaders in Googles consumer-oriented departments to determine how the two groups can help each other create new products.

In another example, Glotzbach told the audience Google encourages its employees to use 20 percent of their time, or one day a week, to work on projects outside of their normal everyday workflow. Gmail and Google News both came from this approach, he noted.

So, are employees putting themselves on a limb by slapping up tools in blog posts? To a degree, the answer is yes, because they still have to pass muster with Googles users. However, programmers who do this have Googles blessing.


Read more here about collaboration being a key to enterprise success.

"At Google, we really focus on failing wisely," Glotzbach said, noting that its common at Google for programmers to create a feature and get it out online for testing in a few weeks. "There is no penalty for failure. In fact we encourage it because if youre not failing it means youre probably not trying."

Glotzbach also said that while the high tech industry used to pride itself on innovation driven from the enterprise out to the consumers, it is the consumer that is now wagging the dog.

For example, Google Apps was conceived as a consumer-oriented product, but Glotzbachs group is managing to get 1,500 businesses a day to sign up to try it as a complement or even an alternative to Microsoft Office. The executive said users can expect Apps updates every other week.

During a brief Q&A, Glotzbach also said that while he doesnt view Google Apps as a replacement to Microsoft Office, "the game is changing," with businesses moving from siloed, personal productivity tools (such as Word or Excel) to more collaborative tools with everything existing online in the cloud.


Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.