Google is one of the great corporate success stories. It has redefined markets and destroyed incumbent providers in both the online and offline world. Just ask the yellow paper weight company, Yellow Pages what it can do.
It has invented a wide range of products and services. It is at the top of the tree for disruption. It has disappointed at the enterprise level. When compared with the other market leaders for innovation in the enterprise. Microsoft, Apple, Salesforce and AWS it has failed to come close to applying the dominance in our personal lives to that in our business life. This delay has had widespread implications of missed opportunities. It has helped create AWS, led to a partially revitalized Microsoft and has kept the door open for Facebook to become an enterprise provider of great potential (albeit, potential is the key word).
There are many reasons for this, from being a laggard to markets, failure to define the Chinese opportunity (it is not alone here), allowing a too rapid migration back to Microsoft for productivity suites, and others.
Another perspective is important when considering why Google has lagged. That is the focus on invention not innovation. CEO’s hate folly, they hate wasted investments. They love innovation and improving the bottom line with predictability and stability.
Microsoft, Salesforce and others are innovators in the enterprise space. They borrow, enhance and optimize technology, usually at an accelerated rate, to drive new customer offerings. They do not tend to chase folly. (This point could be argued for Microsoft to be fair, just consider Skype and LinkedIn).
Google on the other hand is an inventor. It is outstanding at this. It invents for Google and assumes that society will follow. Consumers do, enterprises less so.
It has a unique lab and R&D model that drives invention as the focus. The downside of this is that this comes with a fail fast approach. Fail fast is a great approach for lab-based products and for services that fail to win. It does not work for enterprises that have long investment windows and requirements for economic models that enable incremental improvement, not loss of investment.
A classic example of Google inventing for itself was the selection of Taiwan as a data centre location in 2014 for the needs of Asian enterprises. The data centre was brilliant, the POE was exceptional and it was a environmentally efficient as possible. So all the boxes ticked for Google. The only problem was it could not be in a worse location in Asia. No-one outside of Taiwan wants a data centre in Taiwan. The folly of the location undermined the potential brilliance of the location. Now Google is still playing data centre catch up in Asia.
It is possible that the new Google structure with Alphabet will overcome some of these issues and allow for longer term investments in enterprise outcomes to be leveraged. For the sake of the broader IT community and innovation in business outcomes, lets hope it can achieve this focus.
Quite simply, Google needs to drive an enterprise model that focuses on innovation rather than invention and fail fast. It needs to ensure that its innovations allow for long term investment by enterprises and to give the stability for both the client and partner community that is an outcome of the long term approach.