Editor's note: Today our guest blogger is Gregory Urban from the State of Maryland. Greg is the Deputy CIO and CTO of the State of Maryland. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

According to the State New Economy Index, the State of Maryland ranks third out of the top five states that are at the forefront of the nation's movement toward a global, innovation-based new economy. So it’s no surprise Maryland is a leader in adopting innovative technologies to improve citizen services. But with 54,000 state employees scattered across 60 independent agencies, most with their own IT department, the Maryland state government faces challenges in creating a unified technology infrastructure.

To streamline IT infrastructure and improve collaboration between agencies, the Department of Information Technology is rolling out Google Apps for Government for all 54,000 employees. Previously, each agency ran its own email servers — from Microsoft Exchange and Novell, to in-house platforms. We knew to move these disparate email systems into the cloud would decrease complexity and improve intra-agency collaboration, but any cloud-based solution we selected had to meet high security standards.

With Google Apps for Government, all state government data and emails remain in a secure cloud that is compliant with FISMA standards. With over 50 different CIOs working in different agencies, Google Apps allows Maryland to manage security from one central point. Instead of each agency buying and running its own security systems, now Google lets us secure data on a global, enterprise-wide scale. From a central IT point of view, Google Apps lets us execute mobile device management and data leak prevention across all agencies, as well as track every email and document. Previously, each individual IT department had to install appliances to manage these issues on their own.

On a practical level, Google Apps has helped agencies improve productivity and collaboration. The State Police quickly adopted Gmail for all 2,000 employees, 1,400 of which are sworn officers. They have also been a frontrunner in using Drive to streamline daily workflow, across laptops, tablets and mobile devices. They use Docs, Forms and Spreadsheets to regularly report incidents, arrests and investigations. A sergeant's weekly reporting job that used to take 6-7 hours now takes less than an hour, freeing up officers to focus on more mission critical tasks.

What’s more, much of the innovation has come from the ground-up. Because Google Apps provides rich functionalities and is easy-to-use, troopers without any IT background have been able to create internal apps to make their jobs easier. One employee built a system in Spreadsheets to manage the schedule of the troopers across all shifts 24x7x365, making it easy to track hours worked, leave hours, and that schedules adhere to agency policy. Previously, this was done using printouts and pencils, creating lots of complications across 1,400 troopers in 22 barracks throughout the state.

Google Apps has also created a new sense of cohesiveness among the entire workforce. Employees used to have email addresses unique to their agencies, creating an identity that emphasizes their agency relationship. But with Gmail, we provide every employee with a maryland.gov email. State employees now have a stronger sense they are a part of One Maryland, a team representing the state government serving Maryland’s 5.9 million residents. We’re impressed at how effectively Google Apps has brought disparate agencies closer together, making us into a stronger team.