Learn from the LAPD and be glad that you aren't running a big company

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You may have heard that the Los Angeles Police Department made a $7 million deal with Google to move their email from a Novell system to Google Apps. Both sides of this deal have been heavily criticized by the media, and every article I read about it makes me appreciate how lucky I am to work at a small business.

So first, let's get into the details. Right now the LAPD uses an email system by Novell
(which is terrible). About 9 months ago they agreed to pay Google $7 million to move about 20,000 employees over to Google Apps. Google had 9 months to deliver, and now they've officially missed the deadline.

There are criticisms of both Google and the LAPD. I've read articles suggesting that the LA government had unrealistic expectations and demands. I've read articles suggesting that Google Apps aren't ready for enterprise. The media is analyzing this from every angle except for the one that I care about. The only things I notice when I read these articles are "$7 million" and "9 months". Holy crap!

Let's look at this from a different angle. Rather than trying to figure out what went wrong, let's consider what it would mean for things to go right. If everything had gone according to plan, the LAPD would have paid a ridiculous amount of money and spent almost a year moving their employees to an email system that many of us have been using for over six years. That's the best case scenario.

We've talked before about how small businesses actually have an advantage when it comes to buying and using software. This Google/LAPD situation just drives home this point. Imagine what would be involved if you wanted to move your company to Google Apps. It seriously only takes 10 minutes to set up a Google Apps account. If you need to migrate emails from your old system, you'll need to pay $50 per user and spend a couple of hours setting up the migration. What the LAPD thought would take millions of dollars and 9 months to accomplish, a small business can take care of with a few hundred dollars and an afternoon.

Sometimes I hear small business owners wonder out loud how they can possibly succeed against larger companies. Given how bogged down in procedure and bureaucracy big companies are, my question is how can we possibly fail?

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