Looking back at the second week of the Google Next OnAir event. Only one main agenda item on Tuesday, October 6: the announcement of Google Workspace as the replacement for G Suite.
The fundamentals of Google Workspace
No. This doesn’t mean that the old environment will be thrown overboard. The well-known building blocks of the collaboration environment (such as Gmail and Drive) continue to form the basis of the new Workspace environment. But Google is taking more and more steps in cross-integrations between those different components. This became clear this summer when it became possible from your Gmail environment to start video conferences, open chat sessions/rooms and manage tasks in one go.
In fact, this is a logical next step in a process that was started years ago. Because what we called G Suite a week ago, a suite of nearly 20 different applications, was in part the result of a series of acquisitions and years of development. This was done by different teams who operated side by side for a long time with relatively great freedom. It is only with the arrival of Diane Greene and the formation of Google Cloud Platform as a separate operational organization within Google (in 2015) that more initiatives have emerged to really position the environment as a common story.
The ‘Material Design’ – Google’s design and layout standards – only dates back to 2014 and the migration process to align all applications has taken years. In 2016, however, the evolution was enough to rename Google for Work G Suite.
But even at that time, it remained predominantly stand-alone applications with a common look and feel. The first steps towards a more integrated approach came when the direct access to a series of applications came to the right column of Gmail and Calendar and later also in Drive and the various editors.
Now you can see your agenda for the day on the right and even manage your tasks there. Later that column was expanded to include accesses from third party systems. And to concrete actions in those specific environments of parties such as Salesforce and SAP. In themselves these seemed important steps towards better integration and collaboration, but unfortunately after a hopeful start, that effort stuck.
With the announcement of Workspace, we notice that the focus is shifting back to the internal story. The premise is that tomorrow – even if the Covid-19 pandemic remains only a bad memory – our work environment will have and continue to be fundamentally changed. We are moving into a world where working at home or in a neighbourhood office will continue to be a substantial part of the new normal. And that, of course, assumes that our working environment also adapts to that new situation. That we get mitigated for the loss of a number of strengths from the past (such as faster and better exchange of news, better space for consultation and innovation, loss of communication due to the loss of body language, …). But also that we allow the new working environment to gain in efficiency. Because the resources provided so far lack a number of crucial functionalities.
And that is the essence of Workspace’s announcement. It is the central working environment for the new normal. It should enable you to work efficiently and effectively, even when you are not at the central office.
All these adjustments take time and will therefore be rolled out over time. And certainly not everything that is coming is already known or published.
Google Meet: the channel for intensive consultation
The Hangout successor has undergone a gigantic evolution in the last six months. Sessions with up to 49 people in view, possibility to keep background blurry, filter out background noise, possibility to ask questions without disrupting the session, or to conduct a quick survey among the participants, integration in Gmail, it are just a few changes that have been made in that short period.
And since last week you can now create ‘breakout rooms’ which allows you to set up separate sessions during a meeting with a few people from that group. This feature is already available today in the education environment (at the end of the year this will be rolled out for everyone).
And there is still more in the pipeline. This way you will soon be able to perfectly share documents in a meeting and work on them together without losing visual contact by using the functionality ¨Picture in Picture¨. For Google, having and keeping visual contact is an essential precondition for having good meetings.
Workspace as one environment
Where the new concept will stand out most is the gradual blurring of the boundaries between the different applications.
You are working in a document and by entering “@user”, you can start actions directly from that document. Think of setting up a Chat or Meet session, sharing the document, assigning an action.
Or you are in a document in which a presentation is embedded? Soon you will be able to open, edit and close that presentation from this document without leaving your document. The same for the Chatroom environment where you can open documents and edit them jointly without having to leave the chat session.
You can see how all this will work here.
Workspace as a new brand
And, of course, that adjustment is also accompanied by new packaging. In this case new icons for a range of applications. In fact, Google continues this line from a number of adjustments made in recent months (see the new icons of Google Photo and Google Maps) All these visual adjustments will be made step by step over the next few weeks. Those who already want to get an idea of what it will look like can go here.