You are probably aware by now that Roche has made a deal to roll out Google Apps on a global basis. This was reported by many news organizations and bloggers. One that is quite interesting, however, is on ZDNet since it generated quite a bit of heated discussion.
The rationale for this important move has to do with interoperability issues, or lack thereof, between the two solutions used previously by Roche and Genentech. This is stated by Roche CIO, Alan Hippe, on Google's Official Enterprise blog.
Reactions to the announcement focused on three issues:
1. Data Security
2. Data Privacy
In particular, comments pointed out security flaws in Google Apps, the probability that Google would inappropriately mine the Roche data/documents for their own purposes, and that users would get a much weaker set of email and MS Office-like functions.
These concerns may be real but also show that the commentators do not know how Roche operates. First, nothing at Roche is done in haste or without due diligence. The type of questions raised by those reacting to a press release would have already been studied to death by Roche staff and made available to senior management including risk, QA, procurement and legal staff. The decision would not have been made without Google agreeing to a detailed set of system requirements and the contract no doubt contains an equally strong Service Level Agreement (SLA). There would also be strict controls on privacy and security including what Google could or could not do with the data. Indeed, it is likely that the only thing Google will be able to do with Roche data is to provide appropriate technical support. And yes, it is also likely that an agreement is in place to govern how data moves (or not) between borders.
Then there is the rollout. Although I have worked quite closely with Roche IT on application implementations in the past, I am not privy to the way Google Apps will be rolled out. What I can predict is that it won't be done on a one-shot basis. One probable scenario (given what Dr. Hippe has stated) is for the email and calendaring functions to be rolled out first and even that in a phased manner to the 140 countries where Roche operates. It will probably start with the USA and Switzerland, then the UK, followed by the rest of Europe. Other regions would follow with double-bite countries like Japan going last.
You can then expect word processing, presentation and spreadsheet functions to follow. However, I would be willing to bet that other collaboration features (e.g. blogging, social networking) may come out before or in parallel with the more traditional office functions.
Although Roche and Google maintained radio silence on the current systems, it does not take a genious to see that Microsoft is in jeopardy at Roche. Given that this industry tends to follow the leader, Microsoft may suffer the fate of Blackberry in the biopharma sector. You may be elated or deflated by the prospect.