Google Workspace Emphasizes How Work Gets Done, Not Where
Google Workspace had undergone a transformation since October 2020 when G Suite was rebranded to Google Workspace, and a series of skews were released to address the enterprise market. In February, Workspace was brought to the education market, and at Google I/O, the team launched Smart Canvas, a new experience that brings Docs, Sheets and Slides together in a more fluid workflow.
Workspace is also opening up over time to the three billion-plus Google account owners. There is no denying that work and personal are no longer as siloed as they used to be, especially when it comes to the tools we use daily. For most knowledge workers calendars and email bring their work and private life together. During the pandemic, video services were added to email and Calendar as they became the primary way we worked together and socialized with friends and family. Another trend that reflects Google’s move to support individuals with Workspace is the steady growth of solopreneurs registered over the past couple of years. In 2019, in the US alone, 42 million individuals identified themselves as consultants, freelancers, or solopreneurs contributing more than $1.3 billion annually to the economy.
Those individuals running their business on Gmail will get access to premium Workspace capabilities and features without having to give up their Gmail address and move to a custom domain. For many sole business owners, work and life are even more blended, and their relationships with their customers and partners are even more personal. Some argue that a custom domain email helps position a business as more professional, building trust with customers. This might be true if an email bears no link to the business or the personal identity, but the @gmail.com domain is so established by now that it is hardly unprofessional.
The new Workspace Individual will allow users to turn on Google Chat which will then grant them access to Rooms. Workspace Individual will be available soon in six markets, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan.
During the extended remote work period, we have had, we have seen collaboration spread across video, chat, messages and email with a different type of content shared across several people. This resulted, at times, in workflows that grew more complex than it was necessary. As many prepare to go back to the office and maintain collaboration equity, much of those digital workflows will remain in place. Google Workspace hopes the new Spaces will bring some welcomed rationalization of workflows around the task at hand. The way I think about it is that there is a move from Rooms in Chat being focused on people to Spaces being focused on the task. Spaces will use in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, and expressive reactions. It will integrate files and tasks seamlessly to organize and intelligently guide workflows.
Google continues to develop tools that build on its strengths to drive deeper engagement and add value to those tools that might be more under the threat of competing products. Companion Mode for Meet, coming in September, is an excellent example of that. Google Meet usage numbers have grown over the past six months, but it is fair to say that it is not the first service that comes to mind when users think of Workspace. When it comes to hybrid work and ensuring everybody both in the office and remote are sitting at the same table, most competitors have focused on the video portion of the experience addressing the video feed portion but not necessarily collaboration as a whole. With Companion Mode, Google takes a more holistic approach by providing every meeting participant, independently from where they are located, access to interactive features and controls like screen sharing, polls, in-meeting chat, hand raise, Q&A, and live captions. Colleagues who are in the same meeting room together will be able to leverage the audio and video hardware. At the same time, by enabling Companion Mode on their personal devices, they will have their own video tile in Meet and allowing them to have a personal connection with their remote colleagues.
Knowing from where people join the meeting will be extremely useful, especially when the offices first reopen. This is why Google added a feature in Calendar that will allow participants to accept a meeting request by adding their join location, indicating whether they’ll be joining in a meeting room or remotely.
Security was very much top of mind during the pandemic and will remain so as organizations embrace hybrid work, and business travel gets back on people’s calendars. This and the ever-growing data privacy requirements led Google Workspace to add Client-side encryption so that customers could adequately address data sovereignty and compliance requirements. Workspace will give customers direct control of encryption keys and the identity service they choose to access those keys. With Client-side encryption, customers can continue to use Workspace collaboration tools and access content on mobile while the data remains indecipherable to Google. Client-side encryption is particularly beneficial for organizations that store sensitive or regulated data, like intellectual property, healthcare records, or financial data.
With Spaces and Smart Canvas, Google Workspace is really delivering on a seamless collaboration experience that showcases the breadth of Google’s solution made smart by an intelligent cloud-first approach to collaboration. As I look forward to testing the different features, the big question is whether users, consumers included, will experiment with it or fall back on a usage pattern they know and are comfortable with. Discoverability will be critical, and so will create steppingstones that will drive users deeper into Workspace.