Editor's note: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Carol Dewitt, CIO of BI-LO. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

BI-LO is coming up on its 50th anniversary. We are a grocery retail chain with over 200 stores in the Southeast and have more than 4,500 teammates who utilize e-mail in our corporate offices, retail locations, and on the road. We had been using our previous email system for about ten years, but when it came time to upgrade we evaluated our evolving needs and what we would need to grow our business in the future. While cost was an initial priority, we quickly realized that collaboration was even more more critical to our success.

With our previous solution, we struggled to enable communication with our retail stores, with teammates who frequently travel, and even between teams in the corporate office. We also have a lot of manual and time consuming processes and knew that in order to push our business forward, we needed a better solution. So though cost is what initially led BI-LO to Google Apps, a growing focus on enabling collaboration and empowering our teammates is what convinced us that Apps was the best product with the best features for our growing needs.

Prior to deploying Apps, we structured our IT department so that one group supported intranet applications and a separate group was responsible for email. Since we really wanted to improve collaboration and support our users, working from any location, we decided to form a collaboration team. Since moving to Google Apps this fall, this team is focused less on fixing email issues and managing infrastructure and more on improving our business processes and helping people be more productive.

With the creation of this new team and the help of Cloud Sherpas, a Google Apps reseller, moving to Google Apps has been relatively painless. We migrated data and went live with all 1,500 corporate teammates in less than 90 days (our Executive Leadership migrated successfully in the first 30 days). We were worried that the transition would be difficult for end-users, but we’ve found most of the issues to be minor and that teammates are adopting new products like Docs and Sites before we’ve even announced them.

Teammates who are always on the road love having web-based access to email and documents that are easily shared across teams. We’ve started to replace manual, paper-based processes and expensive applications with Google Docs and Sites. Teammates in our corporate offices used to spend hours calling or emailing stores to ask them about on-going promotions, inventory and recall issues; as they are adopting the forms feature in Google Docs, we’re seeing those processes improve dramatically. We have also replaced several of our old email-based applications, like ethics disclosure, with Google Docs and forms.

Making sure our teams had access to the information they needed was also a big challenge before Google Apps. Now, with Google Sites, it’s easy. We moved our entire corporate intranet to Google Sites, and this has allowed us to give our teammates on the road easy and secure access to company information via the web. We’ve set up the intranet so that our users log in to their Google Apps accounts from the home page of the intranet. This ensures that they always see the most up to date company news and events every day. We posted our most recent commercial on the intranet and our CEO is planning to use Google Video to post announcements. Much of this information sharing had previously been done over email or costly meetings, but this way, we’re sure that everyone has seen important updates and news.

Google Apps has enabled our company to be more collaborative and more productive. Workflows previously handled by IT, like creating content for the intranet, can now be done organically by teammates. Work that used to be done repetitively and manually is now done automatically and instantly using Google forms and shared spreadsheets. Best of all, our teammates are enjoying the ease of access to all their communication and collaboration tools provided by Google Apps. The CEO and the CFO have both stated, “please don’t make us go back.” We don’t plan to. We’ve seen so many improvements since moving to Apps, and we’re just getting started.