Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Riccardo Zanni, Chief Technology Officer of Bricocenter, a chain of 77 home improvement stores in Italy with headquarters in Milan. Bricocenter uses Google Apps for Work to help employees share useful information with colleagues and stay in touch with customers in the store and on the road. 

Think about those flashes of inspiration you have when you’re in the middle of a DIY project — like finding the perfect bathroom sink, or a lounge chair for the terrace. We want Bricocenter to be the first place people think of to make that inspiration a reality. Our sales teams work hard to connect to people in their communities and help with their DIY projects, and we’re building and strengthening these customer relationships even more with Google Apps for Work.

Before we started using Google Apps, our 1,400 employees were largely disconnected from customers and from each other. We previously used Microsoft Office 365, but the aging PCs in our stores ran the applications very slowly – and in some cases, didn’t allow employees to use email at all. Each store has as many as 10 people sharing three PCs. Slow software forced sales people to take more time to read and answer email, which meant less time spent on the sales floor helping customers. Also, we were limited in how many software licenses we purchased due to their high cost, so not every employee had an email address through our email service provider or access to productivity apps.

Because our previous solution couldn't be easily used on a web-based browser, we were told that the only solution was to upgrade or replace all of our store PCs in order for the software to work the way we needed. Even worse, we’d suffer several days of email downtime during the changeover. Needless to say, this plan didn’t make sense for our budget or work environment.

We think technology should follow the way we work – not vice versa. That’s why we chose Google Apps for Work, and partnered with Google Apps Reseller, Revevol, to help us through a seamless migration process to ensure our teams could work the way they wanted.

Google Apps for Work didn’t require hardware upgrades and it functioned well with our existing PCs because it can be accessed from any modern browser. Every employee received a Gmail address without the need to purchase extra licenses or create time-consuming group profiles, as we had to do with our former solution.

Our choice of Google Apps dovetailed perfectly with our pilot plan to outfit 500 sales people with smartphones, so they could stay connected to colleagues and customers outside of the stores. Now they can access email and company documents on their phones, and stay in touch with store managers, colleagues and customers.

Faster, wider access to email is only part of our Google Apps story. People are using Google Drive to store documents and presentations that would have been impossible to collaboratively create and share with our previous provider. Now that all employees have Gmail addresses, everyone can use Google Apps to create presentations and share them with all of their coworkers.

Anyone at Bricocenter, even people who don't know any HTML code, can spin up a site in just a few clicks with Google Sites. For example, our finance department created their own internal site to share helpful content – embedded easily in the site from Google Slides – about best practices for accounting.

Google Apps helps us to get more work done faster. I recently needed to ask store managers about the performance of the GSM mobile networks in their stores. Instead of waiting several days for email responses, I used Google Forms to create a survey for store managers, and sent them the survey links using Google Forms. I collected all the feedback I needed in just one day.

We often talk about the importance of getting closer to our customers as a core company value. Google Apps shrinks the distance between store employees and customers, between employees and managers, and between work and home life so more dream DIY projects can become a reality.


Editor's note: We're going across the U.S. to shine light on the great things schools are doing with technology at the statewide level. Texas is up next. There we asked educators and administrators to reflect on how technology has changed what it means to teach and learn. From group projects to collaborative lesson plans, technology has improved the teaching and learning experience across the state. And we’re happy to announce that 100% of Texas’ online standardized tests can be administered on Chromebooks, giving educators an easy, secure way to manage the testing process. To learn more about Google solutions for Education, watch this recent webinar with Arlington Independent School District.

When students want to learn and collaborate with classmates, they no longer have to travel to the library after school or schedule time to work at another student’s house. With teachers and administrators in Texas integrating technology – including Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks – into their curricula, students can learn and work on assignments when they’re not in the classroom. Teachers are preparing students for college and future careers while staying under budget and saving time managing thousands of devices. Inspired by how schools are innovating with technology across the region, we’re highlighting a few of the successes we’ve heard about directly from Texas schools:

Leveling the playing field 

Google Apps for Education isn’t just a way to share information – it’s the learning hub at Arlington Independent School District (case study) in North Texas. Students and teachers at Arlington ISD create more than 50,000 documents in Google Docs during any given week, and students can access this bounty of information when they aren’t in the classroom. For example, physical education students used heart monitors to measure their heart rates during different activities. As a homework assignment, they analyzed the data in Google Sheets and shared their findings with their peers.

With the affordability of Chromebooks, more students have access to devices. When students leave the classroom, they can sign onto Chromebooks on loan through the 1:1 program and access Google Apps for Education to continue learning, regardless of their technology options at home.

Collaborating beyond the classroom walls 

North East Independent School District uses technology to create a collaborative approach across schools, so students on its 70 campuses can share their work with peers and teachers. They’re creating a global learning environment by sharing assignments in Google Docs with students at international schools and with subject matter experts to get real-world feedback. For example, a sophomore history class shared its Middle Ages project with students in Denmark. “These devices have captured student’s excitement to learn, collaborate and think creatively,” says Tom Johnson, senior director of technology at North East ISD.

Introducing affordable devices for 21st century learning 

McAllen Independent School District is introducing 12,500 Chromebooks this winter to give students 24/7 access to technology as part of its new initiative: Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community. Students, teachers and parents provided their input on the devices they wanted, and the technology team evaluated the costs. “As we move toward a 1:1 model, we had to consider the cost of providing devices for students, the ability to manage 12,500 devices and the cost of fixing and replacing devices,” says Ann Vega, director of instructional technology at McAllen ISD. After the rollout, more students will have access to tools that will equip them with 21st century skills.

Schools continue to expand what it means to go to school by incorporating digital learning into their curricula. Technology inspires students to think beyond their lesson plans, whether they’re in study hall, waiting for soccer practice or on a family vacation. Check out the schools’ stories and watch Arlington's webinar to learn more.

We’ve heard great stories from many of you about how you’re using technology to do amazing things in your schools, so we're going across the U.S. to see for ourselves! Check out the map below to see where we’ll head next. We’d love to hear what’s happening in your state, so please share your story on Twitter or Google+ and tag us (@GoogleEdu) or include the #GoogleEdu hashtag.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Dan Hubert, CEO and co-founder of AppyParking. Read how AppyParking is using Google Maps APIs to help more than 100,000 drivers find real-time available parking spots in congested London areas and show general parking information across 10 nationwide cities.

Parking in London is notoriously challenging. I’ve had to circle the block dozens of times before finding a spot. One night before a show at the Royal Albert Hall is particularly memorable – there was a yellow line on the curb that spanned hundreds of yards in front of the venue, but it wasn’t clear if I could park there. After parking, I found a sign two streets down, saying parking was permitted, but only during the specific window I was there.

This was one of many experiences that inspired me to create AppyParking, a mobile app that uses Google Maps APIs to help drivers across the United Kingdom understand parking regulations and find open spaces. AppyParking serves as a comprehensive database for parking information, detailing what colored curbs mean and the specific rules depending on the time of day. The app color codes parking spots to show drivers where there’s free parking, where restrictions apply and where special types of spaces – such as electric-car charging and motorbike spots – are located. For example, red means restricted, and green means free.

My co-founder, Enric Requena, and I chose Google Maps APIs for the mapping solution to provide rich, reliable data that’s accessible via a user-friendly interface. The app pulls data in varying formats from many sources, so Enric and I developed the Parking Platform, which converts different formats into a usable API. That data is integrated and layered on top of Google Maps using Google Places Autocomplete API for Android, iOS and the web.
With other location-specific developer tools from Google, we’re able to provide our users with a more meaningful and contextual experience. Google Street View shows users where free parking spots are from a 360-degree view and street view. The Directions API is particularly useful in providing driving directions to open parking spots.

We’re also helping commercial fleets find parking information, reduce time spent looking for spots and improve fleet productivity. Fleets pay more than four million pounds per year in parking fines, so knowing where parking is available is extremely valuable for their bottom line.

AppyParking has helped more than 100,000 users find parking spaces faster and with less stress. We’ll continue to expand our app to provide more actionable information for drivers and have added confidence knowing that we can rely on Google Maps tools.


Editor's note: Today’s post comes from Ian Cook, head of IT at charity: water, a non-profit organization that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Learn about how the organization is using Chromebox for meetings to keep the team connected, from its New York City HQ to onsite in Cambodia. 

At charity: water, our mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person on the planet. We have a “100 percent model,” which means every dollar donated goes directly to the field to fund clean water projects. This is made possible by a small group of passionate and dedicated supporters who cover all of our operating costs: everything from staff salaries, to flights to the field, to the ink in our printer.

At charity: water transparency is one of our core values, and with the help of Google we maintain transparency in two major ways. We use the Google Maps APIs to show every supporter exactly what we've done with their donation by giving them the GPS coordinates, photos and community information of the exact projects they made possible. We also rely heavily on tools like Chromebox for Meetings to communicate with our global team; our headquarters is in New York, but we have staff that work remotely in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

We switched to Chromebox for Meetings after testing different products, and gathering feedback from our employees. They found Chromebox for Meetings to be the best solution: powerful, easy to use and seamlessly integrated with Google Apps. When we moved into a new, custom office space, we opted to include screens connected to Chromebox for Meetings in all nine of our conference rooms.

We like when technology enables, rather than interrupts, our natural flow of working. At any time, more than half our conference rooms are booked for virtual meetings, allowing us to connect instantly with colleagues around the world. We even have a 48-inch TV mounted at standing height on a media cart, which we move into the common area for company wide meetings. Remote employees can join via Hangouts and participate as if they were standing beside their colleagues. In fact, our first UK-based employee is connected with our New York City headquarters on Google Hangouts almost every day.

With simpler video conferencing, we’ve improved work-life balance by giving everyone, from interns to executive staff, more flexibility to work from anywhere at any time. Chromebox for Meetings is easy to scale and mobile-friendly, which is important since travel is core to what we do. Using Hangouts in conjunction with Chrome device management also allows us to help out employees with IT issues in real time, which is essential for a global team that often works remotely. I can share screens and fix problems whether at the office, at home or on the road.

Our team’s made up of excited, passionate people, running a non-profit much like a fast-paced technology startup. We need tools that help us work more collaboratively, even when a number of our team members are dispersed across the globe. We’ve even started an initiative to hire the best talent for the job, regardless of physical location. We wouldn’t be able to do this without powerful video conferencing technology and work tools that enable mobility. With Chromebox for Meetings and Google Apps, we can work better at achieving our mission while maintaining the transparency that’s at the core of our values.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Flint Waters, CIO of the State of Wyoming. Since outfitting its conference rooms with Chromebox for meetings, the state spends far less on video conferencing and has transformed how teams communicate and connect with each other and the citizens they serve. See how Wyoming and many other institutions and organizations are using Chromebox for meetings to create a culture of collaboration that translates to greater productivity and better service. 

When I came to work for the State of Wyoming four years ago, five people reported to a contract CIO and operations happened at government speed. The department drew in 300 people from other agencies, and IT teams were assigned to different opportunities. I wanted consolidated IT rather than siloed and needed a culture of urgency and innovation for the state, so we began looking at tools to help us do that. Building on the efforts of the previous administration, the Governor moved all state employees to Google Apps for Work. Today, Chromebox for meetings improves transparency and brings public servants, citizens and elected officials closer together.

Before moving to Chromebox for meetings, we spent $1.5 million a year on a legacy video conferencing system. I felt we weren’t getting enough capability with the technology for the amount of money we were spending. So we phased out all the Tandberg systems and got 178 Chromebox for meetings licenses using a small fraction of our budget.

The cost savings is tremendous, but we’re even more thrilled with the way Chromebox for meetings transforms how we do our jobs and think about public service. Specifically, this technology cuts down on bureaucratic processes and hierarchical protocol. Everyone from the Governor and executives to agency directors use Chromebox for team, cabinet-level and all-hands meetings. Participants can comment and ask questions regardless of their location. We’re also introducing Chromebox for meetings throughout the school system to improve communication between teachers, administrators and students.

With Chromebox for meetings, we’re opening up meetings and making them less formal. We have Chromeboxes in our halls, allowing people to gather around and have impromptu meetings that anybody can join — the closest thing to a watercooler conversation you can get over the Internet. It’s also easier to work together on documents that are viewable on monitors at the stations, making meetings even more interactive and productive.

This technology has also reduced people’s travel time and increased productivity. Wyoming is a large state with a small population and a lot of open road between cities — you can drive for miles on the highway without seeing another car. Chromebox for meetings shortens the distance between offices by allowing people to have a face-to-face interaction without getting in their cars.

I get most excited about the fact that we can be collaborative with Chromebox for meetings. In the future, I’d like to set up an online help desk via live Hangout that’s accessible through the state’s website, so that when web visitors need help, we’d be there to help them right away. We’re connecting people at all levels of government to each other and to the public. With Google tools we can move as fast as our ideas can take us, which is just what we need to bring startup innovation and agility into the halls of government.


(Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Blog.)

Since the launch of our first product for businesses, the Google Search Appliance, in 2002, we’ve been building more and more products that help make businesses more productive. From Gmail to Docs to Chromebooks and Google Cloud Platform, we are now helping millions of businesses transform and support their businesses with our Cloud products. In fact, more than 60% of the Fortune 500 are actively using a paid Google for Work product. And all of Google’s own businesses run on our cloud infrastructure. Including our own services, Google has significantly larger data center capacity than any other public cloud provider  part of what makes it possible for customers to receive the best price and performance for compute and storage services.

All of this demonstrates great momentum, but it’s really just the beginning. In fact, only a tiny fraction of the world’s data is currently in the cloud  most businesses and applications aren’t cloud-based yet. This is an important and fast-growing area for Google and we’re investing for the future.

That’s why we’re so excited that Diane Greene will lead a new team combining all our cloud businesses, including Google for Work, Cloud Platform, and Google Apps. This new business will bring together product, engineering, marketing and sales and allow us to operate in a much more integrated, coordinated fashion.

As a long-time industry veteran and co-founder and CEO of VMWare, Diane needs no introduction. Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way people live and work, and there is no better person to lead this important area. We’re also lucky that Diane has agreed to remain on Google’s Board of Directors (she has already served three years here)  as she has a huge amount of operational experience that will continue to help the company.

I’m equally excited that Google has entered into an agreement to acquire a company founded by Diane: bebop is a new development platform that makes it easy to build and maintain enterprise applications. We think this will help many more businesses find great applications, and reap the benefits of cloud computing. bebop and its stellar team will help us provide integrated cloud products at every level: end-user platforms like Android and Chromebooks, infrastructure and services in Google Cloud Platform, developer frameworks for mobile and enterprise users, and end-user applications like Gmail and Docs. Both Diane and the bebop team will join Google upon close of the acquisition.

With these announcements, we’re excited to take the next step in helping businesses take advantage of the cloud to work better, operate more securely, run more efficiently and grow faster.


Joining a meeting should be as easy as walking into a room. That should be the case whether you’re meeting in person, or face-to-face over video. This week we’re rolling out an update to Google Hangouts that makes joining a video call as simple as clicking a link in an invitation. No filling in forms, no need for a Google account, just simple, easy access to meetings. Connect with teammates and get things done, while maintaining the control and security you need in a work environment.
Say you’re a business about to talk through new product plans with your supplier, and you decide it’d be great to also get the thoughts of a key customer. No problem.

  1. Invite your external guests with Google Calendar
  2. They click a link in the event description and fill in their name
  3. In order to help give you control and security over your meetings, you’ll get a prompt to accept / deny their entry whether you’re using web, mobile or Chromebox for meetings.

With Hangouts security features like locking video meetings to only people within an organization and muting and ejecting participants, there’s always the right level of security to match your organization’s needs.

Learn more about Hangouts today.