By Dan Schell, Editorial Director, Life Science Leader
I’m trying something new this month; I’m writing this column in Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word. In case you don’t know, Google Docs is essentially the search provider’s version of Microsoft Office. In other words, it includes online versions of a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation application.
What spurred me to try this experiment was an article in the April 12, 2010 issue of InformationWeek that not only detailed the recent upgrade of Google Docs, but featured a sidebar on Genentech’s use of these applications. According to the article, approximately 8,200 employees of the pharma giant are using Google Docs every week. However, like most companies that have tried this software alternative, Genentech still is also using Microsoft Office, and it doesn’t use Google Docs for any regulated documents.
My goal in discussing this application is not to endorse it in any way, but instead to note yet another way pharma and bio companies can possibly cut expenses. For example, according to Google’s online savings calculator, if your company has 10 employees and your IT manager’s time is worth about $69/hour, using Google Apps (the enterprise suite that includes Gmail for business, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Groups, Google Sites, and Google Video) instead of Microsoft Exchange 2007 will save you $30,801 in annual costs, and your annual cost per employee (over three years, excluding labor) will be $50 versus $670.
In addition, one of the biggest benefits I can see of using Google Docs in the life sciences industry has to be its collaborative nature. Multiple people can work in a single document at the same time with updates happening almost instantaneously (prior to the upgrade, these happened at about 15-second intervals). That can be really valuable, especially considering the multiple departments in various locations that usually have to collaborate on projects in the life sciences industry.
Of course, switching to something like Google Docs would be much easier if you were a start-up instead of an existing company facing abandoning a familiar legacy platform. But proven, inexpensive technology options are out there; just look at Skype.
Trimming expenses is always on the mind of pharma and bio executives these days. In this month’s issue we have articles that discuss the cost benefits of purchasing used equipment (page 26), the cost considerations of outsourcing vs. internal deployment (page 34), and the areas in which you can save by going green (page 40). But sometimes savings can be uncovered in the simplest of areas, such as with the everyday software applications your company uses.