Google UK CIO Summit

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Google Enterprise hosted a technology and innovation summit for senior IT decision makers…

Stand Out is talking to Rob Gray, regional marketing manager – UK, Ireland and Benelux – for Google Enterprise. For those of you unsure of Google Enterprise, it competes with Microsoft, approaching organisations to buy its software upon which they run their business. As a result, it utilises events to engage with chief information officers and chief executives.

Events feature heavily in Gray’s marketing strategy, hosting between 15 and 20 events per year including two high calibre summits – one in the UK and one in Europe. And Google Enterprise events commonly target large businesses with 5oo plus employees.

In June, Gray organised his first large summit of 2010, inviting 120 top level IT executives to enjoy comprehensive networking, IT demonstrations and panel discussions before settling to watch England’s World Cup win over Slovenia. The purpose of the summit was to build a relationship with IT decision makers and to share Google’s vision for business with enterprise.

Gray and his team of Google engineers, dressed in white lab coats, took over the top floor of Altitude 360, dividing the space into two halves – one half provided a breakout, refreshment and networking facility whilst the other was laid out theatre-style so that delegates could hear presentations from industry peers – Jeremy Vincent, chief information officer of Jaguar Landrover and Toby Wright, chief technology officer of Telegraph Media Group.

Gray explained: “Every year, Google Enterprise hosts a technology and innovation summit, which is our premier event for IT directors, CIOs and CEOs. It’s very important that we choose amazing and unique venues that contribute positively to the experience of our audience. I chose Altitude360 because of the location, amazing views, and the flexibility of the space provided.

“Google is very specific in the venues it chooses, especially when it relates to the experience we want our customer to have. Google either choose ultra modern venues with suitable facilities and equipment or something really old with history. We looked at One Mayfair, a converted church but we didn’t get the right feeling from it.

“Many delegates have seen a view of London but not the unique view from Altitude. The neutral nature of the space gave us many options and provided a blank canvas for Design Scene, our production company, to work with.”

Gray admits taking a risk by arranging on event on the same day as a major international sporting event, but the risk paid off and he believes the opportunity to watch the football match after the summit worked to his advantage. High level decision makers would not be seen to be leaving the office and the football gave delegates a further opportunity to network with peers – a factor aided purely by a structured agenda and meticulous time planning.

Engaging levels

Gray, who joined the company in September 2009, began planning the annual event in February. The summit began at 9am and finished at 3pm. Long breaks lasting up to 45 minutes and an hour lunch break meant that guests had optimum opportunities to network and trial the software being demonstrated by Google engineers and technical staff.

Google Enterprise was keen for guests to experience the software. Demonstration tables and stations were set up to encourage key decision makers to trial the solutions.

“Invitations were targeted,” continued Gray. “The majority of people we invite are not customers. Only up to a fifth are customers with the idea being that they sell Google Enterprise though word of mouth and networking. The summit allows us to cement a CIO’s decision and allows them to overcome hurdles and verify the finer points.

“The event also allows us to meet some businesses for the very first time and so we measure our return on investment by analysing the depth of relationship and level of engagement we have with that business. Google is a numbers organisation but much of the benefit will take six to eight months to achieve a decent ROI on the outlay we have made.”

Gray explains that Google Enterprise events, in comparison to those of their competitors, are low cost (£50,000) but results orientated that have a positive effective on the experience customers have.

He and his team are currently organising a Pan-European summit that will take place in September in a quiet countryside location just outside of Paris. This event operates on a similar concept yet the levels of speaker hit “rock star” status with “industry legends, prolific in the Internet space” giving keynote speeches. The multi-day event gives CEOs and CIOs the chance to reflect, network and gain insight, says Gray.