Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
Read Full Bio >>

Dave Michels | October 06, 2014 |


Collaborating with Google - Part One

Collaborating with Google - Part One I regularly use productivity applications from both Google and Microsoft. Which is better?

I regularly use productivity applications from both Google and Microsoft. Which is better?

The question is impossible to answer, really. For one thing, it's a matter of personal preference, and to a large extent, familiarity breeds comfort – it depends what you're used to. This is especially true of productivity applications. By definition, these tools are supposed to help us be productive, and unfamiliar tools can be a hindrance, which is a deterrent to sampling new tools.

However, I do find a fair amount of ignorance about Google Apps within the enterprise. When I call upon various Google tools in attempts to collaborate, my colleagues' reactions often follow a pattern of initial resistance, then surprise of how differently Google approaches collaboration than Microsoft.

Today's post presents an overview of Google Apps vs. Microsoft, with particular focus on comparing the two suites from a collaboration point of view. In my next post, I'll take a closer look at both companies' real-time communications offerings.

Differences and similarities
First, let's look at the similarities between the two vendors:

• Both Google and Microsoft offer alternatives for productivity applications, email, contact management, calendaring, IM/p, and video.
• Both sets of solutions leverage their elements across their suites.
• Both vendors integrate with UC solutions from other vendors and providers, but – via Lync – Microsoft offers an enterprise UC solution directly.
• Both vendors target consumers and enterprises. Microsoft is well established and dominates market share in enterprise segments. Microsoft also is expanding into consumer segments via Skype and Office 365 Home edition, Xbox, etc.; Google is very well established in consumer segments based on search, Android, and Chrome and is expanding into commercial accounts – particularly in SMB, education, and government.
• Both vendors support a native mobile experience on Android and iOS.
• Both vendors continue to innovate and improve, and recent improvements from both vendors are narrowing the gap between the solutions.

Specifically, both vendors offer comparable suites of applications. The amount of head-to-head competitive solutions between these firms is larger than many realize and continues to grow:


Using Google vs. Microsoft in practice
My desktop typically runs Outlook/Exchange, Office, Lync, and Skype. (In the past, I've combined Lync and Skype, but now I've reverted to using them separately.) For online tasks, I have both Google Apps and Office 365. I use both services regularly every day, including IM and video calls in both Lync and Hangouts.

The overlap in applications is very broad, and they each have their strengths. Microsoft's core strength comes from its rich clients. Google's core strength comes from cloud savviness. For writing destined to be posted online, I prefer Google Docs – it's simpler and easier to cut/paste into other systems. For PDF or printed reports with additional formatting, I favor Microsoft Word. I use both daily. The two vendors, however, are moving closer together. Microsoft has enhanced its online offerings with Office 365 and OneDrive, and Google recently improved its offline capabilities.

My work entails juggling many windows and tabs, which can make it a bit tricky to find specific content. For this, I find Google a bit more organized – my email, for example, is in one "pinned" tab. Outlook opens messages in separate windows and scatters these windows on different monitors. Perhaps there's a setting to prevent this, but presently, I often close Outlook just to get rid of all the windows. If for some reason I want multiple windows in Google, of course I can open as many tabs and browsers as I like.

The applications and documents in Office are tied to specific versions. Compatibility warnings pop up frequently (or don't pop up, but just cause problems), and documents have different extensions and formats. Google Apps probably has more versions than Office, yet they are invisible, and there are no Compatibility Packs. I am unaware of which version of Google Apps I am using or when Google upgrades it. I don't recall when, for example, Google Docs added support for footnotes, but I recall Office upgrades in painful detail.

However, it doesn't take long to hit a ceiling in Google Apps – long documents, graphics, and all sorts of advanced features are missing or poorly supported in Google Apps. I tried the new upgrades in Google to edit Word docs and hit a ceiling right away (could not insert a row in a table).

What about collaboration?
Both word processors have strong collaborative features. Google Apps is best for multi-user, real-time or simultaneous collaboration. This is probably the most significant feature of Google Apps. Collaboration should be more than just, "Look at my screen." Everyone should be able to contribute freely without content being locked or users' needing to pass control. Because of this strength, I sometimes reformat Office documents to Google formats for the collaborative phase and convert them back to Word or Excel for finalization (when necessary).

Office is very good for asynchronous collaboration, particularly with regard to Word's "Track Changes" feature. Google has made some recent improvements, but this is Microsoft's strong card. Likewise, Microsoft narrowed the gap on multi-user collaboration with Office 365 (Office Online), but hasn't caught up to Google. I do not recommend Office 365 for concurrent editing.

When collaborating with Office/O365 documents, I avoid file corruption by sharing read-only links and soliciting feedback through revision marks. This process takes the solution a step in the right direction, but the result is still multiple files to merge manually. For some people, this process has intrinsic value, as it preserves a document's evolution. Google does offer "revision history," but it's a very different approach that can be hard to control. Also, Word Online is not a replacement for the Word Client. For example, Word Online doesn't support revision marks.

Google Docs as a word processor can be frustrating because of its limitations, and thus it is best for simple, short content. Google Docs has a very weak spell-checker, which is odd given I regularly use Google Search as a spell-checker. I've been known to cut/paste complete Google Apps documents into Word, just to spell check them.

Google Sheets also supports great multi-user collaboration features, but it takes even less time to hit the ceiling as the application has very limited functionality. It does have two great features though –GoogleLookup allows cells to show queried figures such as stock prices and exchange rates. Google Sheets also has a built-in webform for surveys. It can send a link to collect responses in spreadsheet format very quickly and easily. This more robust version of Outlook Polling works across domains and organizations and can be used for complex surveys.

If I need to create more-than-simple tables, columns, long documents, or other formatting, I use Office. Office's very strength – its sophistication – does have a drawback, though. With power comes greater complexity, and less intuitiveness. There is a tremendous amount of menus and options and not all in logical places. Why are page numbers under Insert instead of Page Layout? Why is changing the view to see mark-up under Review, not View? I find modifying (or fixing) templates and highly awkward.

Other applications
Office and Google Apps have similar core applications, and both offer a bit more in the extended family. Microsoft Office has numerous document templates stored in the cloud. Google has a nice collection of apps and plugins in the Apps and Chrome stores. Both Microsoft and Google offer an alternative to Evernote, but I haven't moved over, although OneNote with the Surface offers a primitive form of near real-time collaboration similar to a SMART Board. Neither ecosystem offers mind mapping, a separate collaborative application I use regularly. I do use my Google credentials to log in to multiple third-party applications.

Next time: Email, mobile, and Hangouts vs. Skype.

Follow Dave Michels on Twitter and Google+!
Dave Michels on Google+


July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.