How to streamline collaboration with these G Suite apps

If your organization has G Suite, but most people use Gmail and Calendar, here are additional ways you and your team can improve collaboration and conversation with other G Suite applications.

  Hand-drawn logos (from left to right): Gmail and Google Calendar, separator point, Google Drive, separator point, Hangouts Meet, separator point, word

Illustration: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

I work with some small and medium-sized organizations that use an on-site server, Microsoft Office desktop applications (on desktop or portable systems) and G Suite. I noticed that people often use Gmail for email and Google Calendar to program, but they use installed versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to work with files stored on a server; Users are not always sure how to move from this type of configuration to a more collaborative set of tools.

SEE: Google Cloud Platform: an internal guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In many situations, this move could happen technically quickly: move files to Google Drive, delete Office applications, Disconnect the server, tell people to use documents, spreadsheets and slides, and then complete the project.

I prefer a process of technological transition that gives people time to learn and adapt. I have found that the sequence of steps below works well for organizations that want to move from a server-centric configuration to a collaborative cloud-centric environment.

1. How to get more out of Gmail and Google Calendar

Don't overlook some of the most useful and new features of Gmail and Google Calendar, such as scheduled email delivery, linked meeting documents and side panel access to the applications .

Scheduled shipping allows you to choose a future date and time to send your email; This is a great way to make sure you keep track of the communication, as well as reduce or stop sending emails outside normal business hours. To access, (Figure A) select the drop-down arrow next to Send in Gmail on a computer.

Figure A

  Screenshot of

In Gmail, use Schedule Send to avoid sending emails to people outside of standard business hours.

You can also include links to relevant documents in Google Calendar invitations; This reduces the need for people to search for files. For example, for a project planning meeting, you can link to a Google document that includes details and a Google sheet that includes a budget. When creating a new Calendar event (Figure B) select Add Attachment, then choose items from Google Drive or upload files from your system.

Figure B

  Screenshot of Google Calendar (in Chrome on the desktop / laptop) details of the event, with the cursor over

In Google Calendar, add attachments to an event so that people can access relevant information meeting files quickly.

Explore the options available in the side panel, which is available in both Gmail and Google Calendar from a web browser on desktop / laptop systems. In Gmail, the side panel can display information from Google Calendar, Google Keep or Google Tasks. Access to the side panel application (Figure C) can minimize the need to switch to a different browser tab.

Figure C

  Screenshot of the right side of the Gmail screen, with the Google Calendar side panel calendar for Wednesday, September 4

The side panel in many G Suite applications on the desktop can help you minimize the need to switch to another browser tab. In this example, the Gmail side panel is open for Google Calendar, with additional icons for accessing Google Keep and Google Tasks.

2. How to move files to Google Drive

Next, move the server files to Google Drive; I often suggest that people do this project by project or team by team. This is a good opportunity to delete duplicate files or folders. G Suite offers at least four tools to facilitate the transition.

Shared drives, formerly called computer drives, allow people using G Suite to create folders where the items are "owned" by the shared drive, not by a particular person. As the set of people with access to a shared drive changes over time, all the files and folders in the shared drive remain.

Google Drive File Stream allows people to install desktop / laptop software that provides a familiar way to access files in Google Drive from desktop systems. Drive File Stream works on macOS and Windows systems, including Windows Server 2012 and later versions. An administrator can install Drive File Stream on a server, for example, and then work with team members to move files and folders.

If most people still plan to use Office applications, Google's real-time presence in Microsoft Office informs users that another person is editing a file. This works when people open an Office file from Drive in Word, Excel or PowerPoint in Windows or macOS.

As people become familiar with G Suite, they may prefer to open and edit Office files in Word, Excel and PowerPoint format with G Suite applications. For example, a person could open a PowerPoint file with Google Presentations, make changes and then close the file. The file remains in the native .ppt (or .pptx) format.

3. How to use Hangouts Meet for conversations

After moving to Google Drive, I suggest that teams use Hangouts Meet, which offers video conferencing and screen sharing, to collaborate.

One way to encourage the use of Hangouts Meet is for a G Suite administrator to adjust Google Calendar settings to automatically add a Hangouts Meet session to each scheduled event; Now, when someone in the organization creates an invitation to a Calendar event, a Hangouts Meet link is shared with the guests. I also suggest that people add a bookmark (for example, in a desktop / laptop browser to https://meet.google.com) and install Hangouts Meet mobile applications.

4. Explore additional G Suite applications

In my experience, the G Suite applications that people adopt after Gmail, Calendar, Drive and Meet vary significantly by person and organization. Often, people use Google Forms to collect information, Tasks or Google Keep to track task lists and notes, or Google Sites to publish pages. Some organizations adopt Hangouts Chat with persistent "chat rooms" for conversations or Cloud Search to find information quickly. Others extend G Suite by adding Jamboard (a collaborative whiteboard) or Voice to handle telephone needs. Different needs and preferences result in significantly different adoption sequences.

Your experience?

Has your organization recently expanded the use of the many G Suite applications? What G Suite apps do people notice first? What G Suite applications do users adopt after Gmail and Google Calendar? Tell me about your experience with the adoption sequence of the G Suite application in the comments below or on Twitter ( @awolber ).

See also

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