Google: May We Recommend This Cloud App?

Google Hosts Its Annual I/O Developers Conference
Urs Holzle, Senior Vice President for Technical Infrastructure at Google, speaks on the Google Cloud Platform during the Google I/O Developers Conference at Moscone Center on June 25, 2014 in San Francisco,
Photograph by Stephen Lam — Getty Images

There’s a pretty simple motivation behind Google’s recent decision to endorse certain business applications and it’s this: A growing number of small and mid-sized businesses apparently want to migrate their business operations over to the cloud.

That amount of work requires far more than email, cloud file storage, spreadsheets, and other applications can provide, said Rahul Sood, managing director of Google Apps for Work, a suite containing collaboration and productivity software applications.

“We are picking applications that people are looking for. We are picking categories that are adjacent, where integration with Google Apps is super important,” Sood told Fortune during an interview about the company’s new “Recommended for Google Apps” program revealed in early November. So far only eight out of more than 750 existing apps found on the company’s expansive software marketplace have been endorsed.

Google’s marketplace was created almost a decade ago to help market software developers build applications that complement Google cloud services—everything from Drive to Hangouts. Few companies have time to assess the ever-growing list of options thoroughly, so Google (GOOG) decided to pick up the slack, according to Sood.

The first eight apps to be blessed with a recommendation under Google’s new program include ProsperWorks, a simple customer relationship management system; SmartSheet, a project management service; RingCentral (RNG) and Switch, both cloud communications platforms; AOCDocs and Powertools, online resources for document management and workflow; and Ping Identity and Okta, which specialize in identity management technology.

All of the apps were evaluated by Google and a third-party “security auditor” for reliability and performance, according to a company blog post. “The main benefit for [the developers] is really easy access to the largest installed base and community of cloud-committed customers,” Sood said.

As of early November, Google counted more than 2 million “paying” customers for its Google Apps for Work. For perspective, it has more than 1 million active users alone on Google Drive, its cloud file-sharing and storage service. From a small software company’s point of view, the “Recommended” label offers the sort of sales and marketing visibility most startups can only dream of leveraging.

Although, Google’s rationale for selecting certain categories or certain vendors is still a mystery.

If you look at the sales and CRM category on the Google Apps marketplace, for example, there are literally dozens of applications available—many with far more users than the roughly 51,000 that run ProsperWorks. What prompts Google to recommend one app over another?

While Sood pretty much dodged answering that question, part of the equation involves how much a given application relies on a core Google Apps for Work service and how much attention the software’s creator pays to security. “We are using different criteria to build confidence, to showcase a great experience,” he said.

The AOCDocs software, for example, has already been adopted by hundreds of companies and used by more than 1.25 million users. One corporate account is Whirlpool (WHR) that currently uses the service to manage hundreds of sensitive business documents, which include human resource information. It pays for Google to talk up and promote that sort of adoption.

Google expects more application categories to be added over time. In addition, the Google Apps for Work technical team will reevaluate its list of recommended apps on an annual basis. It will be intriguing to see how the program evolves now that VMware co-founder Diane Greene has joined Google as its new cloud strategist.

Follow Heather Clancy on Twitter at @greentechlady or via her RSS feed. Please make sure to subscribe to Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the business of technology.

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