Jason’s Deli Sets the Table for Growth with Google Apps

Jason’s Deli is a family-owned chain of fast-casual restaurants that focuses on serving healthy and delicious deli favorites quickly. Founded in 1976, Jason’s employs more than 10,000 people in 228 retail locations and 7 corporate offices across 29 states in the U.S.
For messaging, Jason’s had been using an open-source Cyrus IMAP system in conjunction with various POP3 clients like Outlook and Thunderbird. In addition, the company was using an open source portal as the intranet and central hub for the entire company. Both of these systems were beginning to impair productivity at all levels as they encountered frequent problems and were difficult to maintain. Jason’s began seeking out a better solution for its increasingly distributed and often traveling work force. With over more than 200 retail locations, people are going to be traveling a lot, especially at the corporate level. With better tools for its people, Jason’s can focus on providing excellent experiences for its guests.
Jason’s began to realize that they needed a messaging and collaboration solution that would reduce their IT maintenance costs, provide a more reliable and flexible alternative to the current solution, and offer a better mobile experience for all of the company’s employees. The prospective platform’s ability to grow with the company was also a deciding factor. Jason’s envisioned the new intranet as being a communication portal across all levels of the company.
Jason’s began investigating a number of options, including both on-premise and hosted Exchange and SharePoint, upgrading the current platform, and Google Apps. The decision team generated a list of 34 business and functional requirements for the new platform, and ran each platform option through a Total Cost of Ownership assessment. Google Apps was the clear choice for due to its TCO, expandability through the Apps Marketplace, effortless upgrades, and proven and verified security and reliability. The team particularly felt that Google Apps’ mobile integration, directory integration, basic workflow utilities such as forms, and the responsive and easy to use interface were all huge advantages over the alternative solutions.
Jason’s then had to decide how to implement Google Apps for its business. The team selected Cloud Sherpas to work on the deployment and migration approach. Jason’s chose Cloud Sherpas for their experience and successful track record after a recommendation from Google. Cloud Sherpas recommended selecting a group of users to pilot Google Apps during the proof of concept phase. During this period, Cloud Sherpas helped Jason’s IT team to migrate 14,000 documents, set up dual-delivery for the pilot group, and test mass e-mail and document migration. Once Jason’s committed to the full migration, the company began to develop training and change management initiatives with Cloud Sherpas.
With expert guidance from Cloud Sherpas, Jason’s team began creating a series of pre-deployment videos, how-to documents, and other change management assets that would help employees effectively transition to the Google Apps platform. Full employee buy-in would be crucial since Jason’s was moving its entire messaging and collaboration system to Google Apps. Change management and training preparation, both highly recommended by Cloud Sherpas, were key factors here.
Jason’s completed a successful migration of 1,700 users to Google Apps, as well as a successful re-creation and improvement of its intranet on Google Sites. The extensive training and change management initiatives were extremely effective as Jason’s employees have been very happy with the Google Apps platform. In a post-deployment company survey, 91% said that they “consider Google Apps an improvement over the previous solution,” and 77% consider it “easy or very easy to use.”
Employees love the new intranet, as evidenced by their frequent and well above average use of Google Sites. The following chart shows the percentage of our users that access each particular Google Apps feature over a 7 day average compared to all Premier Edition users. It’s great to know that Jason’s is getting so much out of the Google Apps platform.

Google Apps also helped reduce administrative burdens on Jason’s IT department. October 2010 help desk tickets were less than half of last year’s, when the aging open-source portal was in use. By using Google Analytics to track employees’ use of the new intranet, Jason’s IT team has been able to identify high-traffic areas and make more strategic and anticipatory IT decisions, rather than waiting for problems to come through the help desk.
Jason’s is also looking forward to using more of the Google Apps platform as they learn how it can best serve their business. At this point Jason’s is definitely interested in using App Scripts for simple workflow-type apps, expanding functionality through the Google Apps Marketplace, and further integrating with more Google services.
Lessons learned
Jason’s came away from the migration experience with a few key points of advice for other companies looking to move to Google Apps:
  • Training is key; attempt to over support and over train
  • Docs usage will happen organically, even if you do not plan on it - be prepared
  • Prepare change processes in advance, including communication to your users
  • Even the most diehard Outlook users can love searching and not sorting
  • An integration partner is helpful, especially if they provide additional management tools
Knowing that the Google Apps platform will continue to evolve at a rapid pace is very exciting from an IT perspective. Jason’s is looking forward to finding new uses of the Google platform within the company. Google Apps is truly a solution that will grow with Jason’s Deli over time, and the company believes it will continue to exceed its needs and expectations--so that Jason’s can continue to exceed the needs and expectations of its customers.
Kevin Verde is CIO for Jason’s Deli, a privately owned company started by a Beaumont, Texas, family in 1976. It is currently number one in sales among fast casual restaurant chains with less than 300 locations.
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