Alan Mariotti, Vice President of IT and Security at Chico’s FAS Inc

Editor's note: Today’s guest bloggers are Eric Singleton, Chief Information Officer and Alan Mariotti, Vice President of IT and Security at Chico’s FAS Inc, a retailer established in 1983 with a nationwide family of brands that include Chico's, White House | Black Market, Soma Intimates and Boston Proper. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Chico’s FAS first opened its doors in 1983 in a 800 square foot tobacco shop in Sanibel Island, Florida, where folk art, sweaters and accessories from Mexico filled the store’s shelves. The clothing took off, and within two years, a second store opened nearby. Now, 30 years after getting started, we employ 22,000 people, operate 1,470 stores and own four specialty retail brands: Chico’s, White House l Black Market, Soma Intimates and Boston Proper.

Our technology changed quite a bit over the years, and in early 2013, we realized we were limping along with a very outdated email system and escalating infrastructure and storage costs. We considered our options: we could keep the status quo and upgrade from Microsoft Exchange 2003 to the 2013 version—which would cost millions—or go with a lower-cost option that would both help our distributed workforce collaborate faster and eliminate our need for resource-intensive servers. We tested Google Apps with 100 employees in one of our business groups and it passed all of our testing and scalability metrics within a few short months. The enthusiasm and efficiency gains alone convinced us it was the obvious and most cost-effective solution.

Our decision to move to Google Apps is also part of a larger cultural shift we are driving at Chico’s, where we’re looking toward technology to enable swifter innovation and invention across the company. With traditional enterprise environments, information is siloed, existing in separate servers and applications, leaving a business to operate as the sum of many independent parts. We’re moving away from this toward a more progressive hybrid cloud model, with Google at the foundation. It’s this new environment, positive feedback loops accelerate, and we can bring together multiple solutions and data sources, all built in the cloud, and look at our business holistically. That’s our vision, and Google is a big part of it.

Even though we have completed our entire enterprise deployment, our journey with Google has just begun and we’re already seeing some great benefits. Our ability to collaborate and share sensitive information across our global team has significantly improved since moving to Google Apps — and we’re saving money at the same time. Our team in Hong Kong, for example, is responsible for visiting and monitoring our factories to ensure they’re compliant with numerous security and performance standards. Before “going Google,” we found ourselves physically travelling back and forth quite often to meet and review access to important documents in person. Now, the U.S. team jumps on a Google+ Hangout with its Hong Kong counterpart, pulls up the essential information from Drive, and has a productive meeting from halfway across the world, all while resting assured that the information is safe and secure in the cloud. Additionally, cost on travel in dollars and time away from campus is greatly reduced.

The benefits of moving to Google Apps continue to reveal themselves to the global team each day. That’s part of the reason we’re so excited about our new platform: not only do we know our information is secure or that our employees are collaborating in new ways over Hangouts and in Docs—we know this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re driving a new culture of innovation and invention, and Google is one of the cornerstones of that vision.