Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moving from Outlook to Gmail

Without a doubt the biggest hurdle for businesses to overcome when they 'Go Google' is the transition from a desktop based email client like MS Outlook to Gmail. Here's some tips for helping users make the adjustment.

1. Explain as clearly as possible why the change is happening.

It's not enough to say 'Gmail is better' because that will always be a matter of judgement and individual preference. Be more specific and explain that Gmail will be implemented to help manage desktop and server costs, improve up-time, provide more storage and allow better support for mobile workers. By understanding these points and the bigger picture (ideally communicated from the 'business' not just the IT department) users will be much more tolerant of the impact on them personally.

For users who want to continue with Outlook it's also important to explain the risks and costs associated with the desktop approach. This isn't about choosing an email client to suit individual preference, it's about choosing an email system that works for the entire organization.

2. Hammer the point home. Searching IS more efficient than sorting.

It's not efficient to find emails by sorting, but because users have been doing this for the past 15 years on Outlook it's likely to be second nature and therefore efficient to them. This needs to be challenged. Separating emails into folders takes up time that can be easily avoided using search methods. Demonstrate the use of advanced search (drop down options), labels and conversation view to help users fine tune their search results and quickly identify the email they are looking for.

3. Encourage users to keep the conversation view switched on.

Conversation view provides better search results, keeps inbox clutter down and saves switching between inbox and sent-items when reviewing emails, but one of the first mistakes many Outlook users make is to switch conversation view off because they aren't used to it. That's not a good way to benefit from the transition to the new system or to save time.

4. Understand the value of labels. 

Searching is easier with colour coded labels and labels help provide a sense of order, but there's no reason why this has to be done manually. Much better to use automatic filters and avoid the effort of categorizing emails altogether.

5. Show users where the 'All mail' folder is. 

This re-emphasizes the fact that Gmail is a search based system. All emails are in one place for searching. The labels are not 'folders' designed to separate emails for sorting. They are labels / tags designed only to help with search. This distinction cannot be overstated. Once understood the transition to Gmail is much easier.

6. Migrate existing messages to the All Mail folder

Whilst it's possible to migrate Exchange email folders to Gmail labels, I'd suggest putting them into 'All Mail' archive instead. This will emphasize the 'search' over 'sort' approach, encourage the user to build up their own filters / labels thereby avoiding confusion with the Outlook model.

7. Circulate the 'Life after Outlook' PDF provided by Google. 

This is the single best document for helping users make the transition and benefit from the power of Gmail.