Taking a cloud-based leap: How Oscar W. Larson Co. transformed its business with Google Apps

Editor's note: Today’s guest author is Pete Wayne, chief information officer at Oscar W. Larson Co., a leader in full-service petroleum and fluid handling equipment contracting. Founded in 1946, the company now has more than 300 employees, counts Fortune 100 companies, including GM, Ford, BP and ExxonMobil, as customers, and recently expanded into the automotive, service and airline industries.

While sticking with an old solution might seem safe, it doesn't always guarantee success. This is particularly true in our hometown in the Detroit area, where many of our neighbors worried about losing their jobs after the 2008 recession. We’ve grown our business through tough times by shaking up the status quo. For instance, when we doubled our employee count and ran out of server storage space two years ago, we decided to switch IT solutions — even though many of our employees had used Microsoft for decades and had no experience working in the cloud. After months of research, we opted to migrate to Google Apps for Work, with the expert support of Cloud Sherpas. Here’s what we’ve learned since transitioning from our old way of working to something entirely new:

Google Apps saves us money and time

When we hired 150 new employees in 2013, just getting them company email accounts would’ve required a $26,000 Microsoft system upgrade and a $27,000 storage upgrade. By switching to Google Apps, we saved $65,000 on licensing, storage and server costs. We save time as well by avoiding patch updates and server maintenance.

Google Apps also helps us onboard new employees faster. Because we only have to set up one account for each employee, we don’t need to provision each tablet, phone and computer. We hired 50 people in the last six months, and got each one up and running within minutes.

Google Docs and Drive help us improve efficiency and manage compliance

Technicians need to access manuals and material safety data sheets whenever they’re on the job. We work with Fortune 100 companies that prioritize safety, so compliance is critical. Now, we use Google Drive to ensure our employees have updated information at all times.

Our field technicians used to print their manuals, lug around binders to job sites and flip through hundreds of pages to find the right information. With Drive, we can upload product manuals and safety documents to a shared folder, and technicians can search for the content they need on their phone or laptop.

Google Hangouts let field technicians problem-solve on the spot

We used to send two technicians to every field inspection, so we’d have at least one veteran on site to troubleshoot complicated scenarios. Now that we communicate with Google Apps and can rely on Google Hangouts for instant face-to-face time with veteran technicians who aren’t on site, we only need to send one technician to a job. If our technician needs to call in an expert, he or she can use the Hangouts mobile app. The specialist can see the situation in detail, down to the blown fuse or misplaced wire, and help the technician fix the problem right away. Because we can send just one technician to a job, we have more folks in the field to respond to customer requests.

Google Apps gives us a competitive advantage

We can now communicate more efficiently and access information on demand, which allows us to focus on the service we provide. In addition to consulting with their colleagues via Hangouts to make more informed decisions when proceeding with repairs, our technicians can also provide customers with photos and quotes directly from job sites. With better service, more immediate troubleshooting and instant quotes and photos, we’ve strengthened customer experience.

Sometimes the biggest risk for a business is not taking one at all. Companies need to be smart to survive, and that can mean changing the way they do things. We placed our bet on Google Apps, and it paid off. Google Apps has helped us save time and money and has also helped us build a more efficient, connected and customer-focused business, the business model we needed to stay competitive today and tomorrow.