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Google Announces Major G-Suite Updates

Google has announced several updates to its G-Suite offering, which aims to heavily integrate and better secure its teamwork applications. The move represents a clear attempt by Google to directly compete with Microsoft’s office productivity suite, with several of the G-Suite updates mirroring the logical architecture of Office 365.

The G-Suite applications being updated include Gmail (custom business email), Chat (messaging for teams), and Meet (video and voice conferencing). The intent is to bring together the capabilities of video, chat, email, file sharing, and task management within one interface, without the need to switch between applications.

Gmail updates:

  • By far the biggest update is with Gmail, which Google intends to become an integrated workspace.
  • Gmail will now integrate with Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Tasks. In essence, Gmail will be the one-stop shop for all of your communication and collaboration needs.
  • Within the Gmail web app, a user will be able to group edit documents in real-time while also having simultaneous access to video/voice conferencing, IM, and task management.
  • Gmail thus becomes the front-end to many of G-Suite’s productivity applications, similar to how Microsoft Teams functions within Office 365. (Of course, one cannot access Outlook in Microsoft Teams for email, whereas email is still the primary function of Gmail.)

Chat updates:

  • In Chat, users can share files and tasks, alongside the ability to “pin” tools and messages. Users can also create tasks in Chat.
  • Status and availability settings are now featured.
  • Chat also now integrates with Salesforce, DocuSign, and Trello.
  • Phishing links are flagged in real-time.
  • Video calls can be joined from Chat, rather than having to switch applications to Meet.
  • Chat messages can be forwarded to your Gmail inbox.
  • Chat is also added to the Gmail search engine.

Chat (rooms) updates:

  • Creating a “room” is an important function within Chat. Rooms work in a similar fashion to teams and channels within Microsoft Teams.
  • In rooms, users now have side-by-side access to shared chat, Drive files, and tasks.

Meet updates

  • Meet now integrates with Google productivity applications like Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Drive, and Tasks.
  • There are also new security features, which are being initially rolled out for G-Suite for Education.
  • These security features include being able to prevent ejected users from rejoining a meeting and hosts now having the power to choose which attendees can chat or present in the meeting.

Source: SoftwareReviews Google Hangouts Meet Scorecard. Accessed July 21, 2020.

The new design of G-Suite applications is currently only available for G-Suite customers. However, administrators can sign up for an early adopter program. The full rollout is expected by the end of 2020.

Our Take

Google’s updates are a radical redesign of how the applications within G-Suite interact with each other. In fact, for those who are used to how Office 365 applications integrate, it is almost a bit shocking that G-Suite’s tools have only just begun integrating to a similar capacity. Either way, the move will bolster end-user satisfaction and is certainly indicative of the trend that organizations want as unified a platform as possible for their communication and collaboration needs.

Rationalizing and integrating one’s collaboration toolset into a single, streamlined platform is the driving force behind Info-Tech’s Rationalize Your Collaboration Tools blueprint. G-Suite’s redesign follows this logic: users will now rarely have to leave the Gmail web application to access and perform their everyday workflows.

Of course, for organizations that find themselves tied between G-Suite and Office 365, which is preferable? A defining separation used to be that Office 365’s teamwork apps (Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive) offer a one-stop shop for storage, intranet, file share, video/audio, IM, and so on. With Gmail’s new updates, Google has better positioned itself as a direct competitor to Microsoft in this space.

G-Suite is great for basic online, simultaneous collaboration where the bells and whistles are not required. Moreover, if Gmail is already embedded in company culture, it will be difficult to shift to Outlook, which has a more complex interface. Indeed, given these recent changes to Gmail, which enable users to mostly live out their workflows in this one-stop-shop application, switching away from Gmail will be more difficult.

However, Office 365 has robust, sophisticated applications that offer advanced processing features (useful if you will be using Excel for complex data interpretation or need access to a variety of templates). Moreover, G-Suite does not have a comparable application to the variety of capabilities that SharePoint Online has. With SharePoint Online, you can set up an organizational intranet or a secure content management system, create lists and workflows, track project tasks, supply data to BI dashboards, and more. The closest Google gets to this capacity is with Drive – but Drive falls well short of SharePoint’s functionality.

To help parse out these capabilities and see which suite is right for you, use the aforementioned Rationalize Your Collaboration Tools blueprint. Phase 1 provides a method to help demarcate what key capabilities your organization needs for its communication and collaboration requirements. You will then be able to map these capabilities against either G-Suite or Office 365 to determine which suite best meets your key requirements.

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