Although Google has spent the past year trying to woo enterprises to its G Suite productivity apps, it’s still the underdog compared to Microsoft Office, at least among large businesses. So what’s keeping it from broader appeal?

One of the biggest hurdles for Google achieving broader enterprise adoption is just the fact that the company’s products aren’t identical to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and other Microsoft Office apps, said Gartner Senior Research Analyst Joe Mariano.

“Enterprises have been ingrained in the Microsoft stack for essentially the beginning of time, it feels like,” Mariano said. “[Enterprises] have problems shifting away from that, because they have a lot of investments, either in customizations or how they’re using the tools.”

Office has been the dominant productivity suite in the enterprise for decades, with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook making up key parts of businesses’ everyday workflows. Google has a tough road ahead of it supplanting those applications.

that has been built to compete more closely with Microsoft’s SharePoint document management and storage system, and the Springboard service that’s supposed to help employees more easily find files they need. Last year, Greene revealed that the company created a consulting group to help understand the needs of enterprises using its products.

The company recently announced that 3 million organizations are paying for G Suite, up from 2 million at the end of 2015. It’s solid progress for Google, but much of that expansion has come from small and medium-size businesses, not massive customers.

Peter Yared, the CTO of Sapho, said that G Suite adoption has been largely nonexistent among the companies that his company serves. “Look, we never run into G Suite,” he said. “[It is] for the small part of the [small and medium business] segment.”

 and has been using its e-learning courses to help people get acquainted with Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Furthermore, the company will send its product managers and engineers to help with deployments of G Suite at large customers. Raghavan said a team will arrive at a customer’s work site on the first day of a major deployment and just walk around to help answer questions.

“These are rank-and-file engineers who usually write code,” Raghavan said. “And it’s great both ways because the customer feels well taken care of, through the transition. And for an engineer or a product manager, it’s a great learning [opportunity], because you’re like ‘Oh my God, I never realized that pixel there was confusing.’”

But while Google is continuing to gain traction, Microsoft remains the dominant player in the productivity app market. The Redmond-based titan reported last month it has 85 million monthly active commercial users of Office 365. At least in the near term, G Suite and Office 365 are fighting largely for the chance to pick up customers who are migrating off on-premises versions of Office. Gartner’s Mariano pointed out that some enterprises are actually running in hybrid environments where some people are using G Suite and others are using Office.

“It’s getting to the point now where enterprises are almost letting them duke it out in real time in the real world,” Mariano said. “Which is an interesting thing. We see that a lot in higher education, where the administrative side might be using Office 365, and the student body might be using G Suite.”

Although it still faces challenges, Google has improved its enterprise compatibility, through its continued enhancements for security and compliance capabilities, as well as deploying features in ways that don’t disrupt existing workflows, Moorhead said. “Every year, they’re getting more friendly to the enterprise with their products,” he said.

Ringman said Google still has work to do in order to make it possible for Telus International to run its whole business on G Suite. In particular, he called out data sovereignty as a key issue for moving some remaining information into the cloud. Regulations require some Canadian data be stored in-country, and G Suite doesn’t yet allow users to store data there. 

Google isn’t slowing down its introduction of enterprise features. The company kicked 2017 off with an announcement of a set of aimed squarely at solving enterprise security concerns. Google expanded its data-loss prevention features to Drive, added S/MIME to Gmail, and allowed administrators to restrict logins to only people with hardware security keys.

Google is planning additional enterprise-focused features for G Suite and the other services covered under its Cloud division. The team is hosting a three-day conference in March, which is expected to feature a suite of announcements aimed at driving its enterprise business forward.