Although cost effective workplace apps have been around for some time, there has been a recent surge in the growth of productivity and collaboration software used by businesses and employees.
In a survey carried out by Gartner, it was reported that just over half of workers were using these tools in 2019 and this increased to almost 80% in 2020.
However, a study of Irish businesses conducted by Auxilion found that companies, on average, were losing at least 21 minutes each day just looking for and sharing documents. This is the equivalent of a €3.3 billion annually (ThinkBusiness).
Reducing time wasted is important especially in today’s harsh economic climate. Businesses need affordable solutions that can improve efficiency, boost productivity levels and streamline workflows. This is where workplace apps can help.
In this edition we are putting the spotlight on Google Workspace. Here, we provide a comprehensive overview of the features and benefits it claims to offer your business environment.
When did Google first launch their online tools?
As far back as 2006, Google has become synonymous with building flexible solutions that add real value. It was at this time that they first introduced their version of online office tools.
In 2016, they went through a rebranding exercise to become G Suite. More recently this has experienced a further update and are now known as Google Workspace.
Within educational settings, students and teachers have benefitted from Classroom for example. An interactive tool that provides the means to disseminate and upload information.
For the business world, Google has developed and continues to create a range of applications under the umbrella of Workspace that:
seamlessly integrates everything you and your team need to get done, all-in-one place.(Google)
Originally this portfolio existed as part of G Suite. This was a series of tools designed specifically to help enterprises and businesses with messaging, voice, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as well as video call capabilities.
It also included Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Calendar, Google+, Sites, Keep as well as Hangouts.
As a point to note, business owners should be aware that it has recently been announced that Hangouts ‘a cross-platform, instant messaging service’ is going to be discontinued.
But what exactly is Hangouts and how will it impact business owners?
What was Hangouts used for?
First introduced May 15, 2013. Hangouts was devised as a communications service whereby users could send texts, voice and/or video chats.
For those who aren’t familiar with the classic hangouts version, it was originally one element of G Suite – a series of tools designed specifically to help enterprises and businesses with messaging, voice, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as well as video calls.
This could be carried out with clients, team members or with an external audience (techtarget.com)
The purpose of this particular platform was to make it easier to share information with colleagues and across projects. It was also possible to make free domestic calls from a computer.
Advantages of Hangouts
There have been plenty of reasons to use this in the past. These include:
- As a video conference tool.
- Application for both small and large teams.
- Better engagement so that teams work more productively and collaboratively.
- Creating free google webinars that can help to educate your customer and enhance their experience. For example, using it for product demonstrations where the audience can interact with products and brands.
- Cost effective facilitation of face-to-face client consultations.
Why is Hangouts Closing?
It does beg the question that if this app is so great, then why is it being shut down?
The decision seems to be primarily related to offering better security protection and compliance with regulations.
The new app ‘Chat’ uses real time data to better identify malicious links and therefore help to address the increasing incidence of phishing. It also appears to be a sensible allocation of resources meaning that the development team can concentrate on one rather than two apps.
With these precautionary measures in mind, Google has already started this transition in February of this year and will be finalised by 1st November 2022.
What are the benefits of Google Chat for my business?
In 2017, Chat was launched and is essentially a messaging tool for business users. But it also has new features such as group conversations, side by side editing in Docs, Slides and Sheets. There is extra functionality with communications within Spaces which assists with collaboration.
According to Google Support, Chat will provide the user with a much more enhanced experience with lots of different features such as:
More options to be expressive.
- By being able to respond to messages with emojis. These will include a variety of skin-tone selections.
- Respond with Smart Replies.
- Ability to format with rich-text editing.
- Capable of tagging individuals using @mentions.
- This also applies to other apps such as Sheets. You can type “@” in a cell to mention people. From here, you can easily book meetings, chat, email, and access detailed collaborator information.
- Search function to locate and share GIFs.
- Side by side editing can be used with Docs, Slides or Sheets thus making collaboration easier while also being able to continue a conversation.
- Spaces can be used to define places where specific topics are discussed. Again, the main focus would be to help with collaboration.
The primary differences between Google Hangouts and Google Chat are shown in the table below.
What Cost Effective Workplace Apps Can I Use in Google Workspace?
Google is still committed to providing a suite of tools that can be used by any range of team sizes with the intention of ‘connecting, creating and collaborating’.
These are summarised below:
|(custom business email)||(shared calendars)||(cloud storage)||(video and voice conferencing)||(word processing)||(spreadsheets)||(presentation builder)||(messaging for teams)|
Free Google Workspace Apps
In terms of access, most of these services are free of charge for businesses such as Gmail, Drive, Docs, Meet, Chat, Slides, Forms and Sheets. However, you do have to sign up for a gmail account in order to use them properly.
Premium Workspace Applications
In terms of premium features, you can choose the plan that you like and trial it for 14 days before you commit.
The difference between free access and paid membership is based on a number of factors. With the latter, you receive a custom email address. For example, rather than having firstname.lastname@example.org you have something that looks professional like email@example.com
As mentioned previously, there is enhanced security protection
“Blocking more than 99.9% of phishing and spam attacks”.Google
In addition, you can email at leisure without being interrupted by advertising.
The main distinction between the introductory and advanced packages is the number of participants that are allowed on to Meet video and video conferencing. This ranges from 100 to 500 individuals.
How popular is Workspace with business users?
In April 2020, there were around 6 million subscribers to Google’s paid business services as well as 120 million users within education. However, this figure appears to be based largely on existing Gmail users .
While uptake amongst new business is growing, it is at a fairly slow rate. Within the cloud productivity and collaboration software market, Google’s major competitor remains to be Microsoft Office and Office 365.
Research carried out by Gartner shows that:
“Google’s share increased to 10.3% in 2020…however, Microsoft leads with 89.2% of the market”Computerworld: As Google moves to reshape Workspace, barriers to business adoption remain.
Advantages of Workspace
There are many reasons to choose Google workspace as your preferred productivity software including:
- Gmail offers excellent security as well as an easy user interface. It synchronises so well with the calendar providing a seamless experience.
- Apps are always connected to the Cloud or Drive as it’s more familiarly known. This means that documents, files and folders are stored and shared with ease.
- By being Cloud based first and foremost means that users don’t have to worry about mistakenly deleting or losing data.
- Additional support provided by third party custom apps and integrations.
- Google sites is a free, built-in tool for creating a website.
- Seamless platform that is simple to navigate and understand.
- Tools and apps are all accessed in one place (Suite Briar).
Disadvantages of Workspace
The rebranding of workspace shows that Google is continually reviewing their tools and adapting them to reflect business needs. However, there are some areas that would benefit from improvement. For example:
- Meet is more suited to connecting contacts within the same organisation than externally.
- In order to be able to edit, comment and share files the recipient needs to have a Google account. This can be an issue if the individual is outside of your organisation.
- The disadvantage of having everything on the Cloud however is that you need to be online to access your information.
- Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint are considered by many to be slightly better than Google’s Docs, Sheets and Slides.
- Lack of workflow and integration capabilities compared with Microsoft and others.
In general, Google workspace is a cost-effective way to improve productivity within your business. There is well thought out functionality as well as a great choice of free tools. Although it is existing account holders that benefit most. These are intuitive and accessible which goes a long way towards promoting collaboration and nurturing better connections.
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