Before I came to Onix, I had used Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) for my freelance work. I thought I really understood it. But as it turns out, I had some real misconceptions - one of which was that it was a solution meant for small businesses and solopreneurs.
Not only was I completely underutilizing the platform, I was dead wrong about its ability to change the way organizations operate.
The following is my journey to understanding what workplace collaboration really means.
“I didn’t understand that it was a suite.”
Because I was a small business, I didn’t exactly have a bunch of budget dollars to throw around. I knew that Google offered programs like Docs and Sheets -- and that they provided an alternative to using (and paying a large fee for) Microsoft Office.
I didn’t really understand that there was a complete suite of products that were meant to work together until I set up my website. During this process, I discovered Google Workspace as a solution for creating an email address that contained the domain name that I had purchased.
But I still didn’t get it.
“I thought it was just a replacement for Microsoft Office.”
In using the various programs in Google Workspace, I was pleasantly surprised that I could easily perform the same functions I had in Office, nearly always accessing them the same way. If I right-clicked in Office to access a feature, I right-clicked in the Google Workspace program.
Having worked with Office for many years, I was used to each program operating in a silo. Even though I could embed an Excel file in a Word doc (badly, mind you), the programs largely were completely separate. You could always tell different Microsoft teams worked on different products. Seemingly similar features were accessed in completely different places in each program. Nothing was consistent.
I was used to the universal issue of sending around a document, making a copy of it called “Final” after people made changes to it and then creating another copy called “Final Final.”
As a marketer, I would make a template document that others would save and clone when needed. I felt the pain of getting them all to use the new version of the template because there were 800 versions of it floating around the organization.
I also was used to the Exchange Server crashing and not being able to work for several hours -- and fiddling around for 10 minutes at the start of every Skype call in which people weren’t able to connect or had the wrong number.
And don’t even get me started on Teams.
I thought Google Workspace would have those same deficiencies.
I still didn’t get it. Here's what I got wrong about Google Workspace...
“It’s really a culture-changer.”
Fast forward to starting with Onix, who operates on Google Workspace. The first couple of weeks on the job, I found myself complaining a few times. After all, when you work with something for 20 years, it’s a hard habit to break.
But then something changed in me. I started to get it.
My first “ah-ha” moment occurred in a meeting. Because over half our team is remote, we typically have the on-site employees join the call from one room and the remote employees dial in. In my past life, a good 10 minutes of time would be wasted getting everyone into the room and onto the call. But that’s not what happened. There was no code to dial. No number to have changed at the last moment with everyone trying to get the new number to the team. It was just a single click and it worked the first time.
That wasn’t the only thing about that meeting that made me start to get it.
Everyone has their own superpower. Mine is the ability to run a meeting and take great notes at the same time. It’s a gift I could live without. This always made me the designated note-taker in every meeting.
But that’s not how the world works in Google Workspace.
Not only is a single person no longer dreading being the note-taker, but the team isn’t getting a single person’s view of the meeting. We all miss things. We all have our point of reference. These things bias meeting notes.
In Google Workspace, a Doc is simply opened for the meeting and shared with the attendees. In real time, everyone takes notes in the document. Not only that, but they can comment on other people’s notes and even assign action items. All in real time.
In sharp contrast to the stuffy “no one is to have laptops in meetings” culture I’d experienced elsewhere, we were taking actions on these notes during the meeting. Instead of noting “Kathie to email Joe about the case study,” I was actually emailing Joe about the case study right then and there. Things were actually getting done in real time.
The words “workplace collaboration” finally started to mean something to me. It was like learning your car can double as a boat. I had always viewed office suites as a means to an end. I had never thought about how a collaborative culture could be sparked by choosing a better option for your suite of tools.
For years as a remote employee, I always felt out of the loop. But here at Onix, that doesn’t happen - and I feel this is absolutely key - because we are all using the same tools in the same way - whether we are remote or based at HQ.
We recently had a large number of employees attend the Google Next conference (humble brag - where we won Partner of the Year for the 9th time - this time being North American Reseller of the Year). It’s a lot to coordinate. Who is working the booth and when. Someone has a technical question they can’t answer on their own. A customer stops by the booth and wants to see their rep. This would normally be handled by trying to text each other and likely fail.
Instead, we had a Chat Group open for the conference that we all kept tabs on. We discussed everything from the items I mentioned above to the best places to eat lunch. Again, a large group of people collaborating seamlessly. Life in Google Workspace has turned out to be pretty good, to say the least.
I haven’t even touched on the security and ease Drive brings to the table. Now I can easily share a link with a vendor and have it expire in 24 hours. No more gaping security holes because you shared something with a third party and spent years worrying that they still had access.
I got a lot wrong about Google Workspace.
Google Workspace isn’t a replacement for Microsoft Office.
It’s so much more than that. It’s a game-changing collaboration tool that drives workplace transformation that can have a positive impact on a company’s culture when they deploy it.