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Cloud Collaboration via Google+

The real strength of Google+

Who doesn’t want to work in a place like this?

First encounter
It was some time ago,  when browsing my Facebook contacts, that I came along a post of a  friend of mine. He mentioned that he had some invites for Google+. Being  a bit of a Google fan (It’s on top of my list of companies I want to work for), I quickly sent him a note to ask for an invite.

For quite a while, I was a bit disappointed. Sure it offered some nice  features like the circles and hangouts, but after creating 4 circles to  categorize my contacts, the need for further categorizations  dissapeared. I even never tried the hangouts either. All in all, I found  that it was just no match for Facebook.

Some time later, I read an article on Think With Google that shed a different light on G+. Well of course, on one hand there’s  the finer granularity Google can now offer for people targeted ads, but  the statement that rang my bell was: “Google+ is not a social platform,  it’s a collaboration tool”. As such, we’re not supposed to compare it  with Facebook. We should be comparing it to Sharepoint/Office 365, Sap  Streamwork, Sourceforge,…

The statement continued to linger somewhere in my head, but as I had no  need for online collaboration, I didn’t really do anything with it.

Sudden stroke of genious
Recently however, I got involved in a study about the usage of cloud  solutions in the enterprise world. That was my cue to start looking at  online collaboration, document storage, PaaS, SaaS and al those other  nifty buzzwords. I always approached this from a technical point of  view. Infrastructure changes, security policies, service enablement,  development and so on… For once, I got to go on a roll from a business  perspective (It’s nice to be on the other side for once). What struck  me was that the most important functionality was not the complex SAP  backend, but simple and dumb office authoring tools, documents and  collaboration options.
That’s when I finally started seeing the potential of Google.

  • You have your circles (Project teams)
  • You can store/share documents online (Google Docs)
  • It’s possible to work on these docs via Google Apps
  • You can create a team calendar (Google Agenda)
  • Communicate 1 on 1 via Gmail
  • Start hangouts for virtual meetings, chat sessions
  • publish results via status updates
  • market result via blogger
  • And it’s all available on desktop/laptop/tablet and mobile

Now I said we should be comparing this to solutions like Office 365, Sap  Streamwork and Sourceforge (to name some). So to be a bit complete,  let’s put in a quick overview of those solutions as well.

Microsoft is actually offering quite a comparable solution/set of  tools. With office 365, you have your document editing completely in  the cloud. Your documents can be stored on a free SkyDrive or in a  cloudy sharepoint collab space. In the sharepoint, you have many  collaboration options like discussions, workflows, tasklists and so on.
Via  the windows live ID’s you can also leverage their “social platform” to  increase collaboration. But let’s be honest, the added value there is  nimble.
None the less, they have quite a nice package there, and it is nicely  integrated into their desktop/tablet and mobile platforms. So definitely  a good offering there. But it comes at a price whereas Google is for a  very large part free of charge.

SAP Streamwork sounds very specific to SAP projects, but in fact,  it isn’t. it’s just SAP version of a collab tool, but open to all  possible targets. It also offers very nice options to start project  teams, add members, share documents and start discussions. However, it  lacks the authoring tools, so still depends on other providers for the  authoring. It does offer a very nice API in REST/OData so mobile  versions and offline versions are quickly emerging.
But it does have a more professional ring to it than Google+

Sourceforge has basic options for discussion boards, sharing source code and documents, but let’s face it: “it’s from the stone age”.

So there you have it. Before claiming that Google+ isn’t ready to  compete with Facebook, consider that it might just be the next  innovative step to moving collaboration to the cloud.

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  • Tom, I was just mumbling about the possible usage of the social interaction paradigms in professional teams. One of my points of analysis is understanding how multiple teams - in the same organization, or in a collaboration (customer/partner) agreement - can share knowledge, goal adjustments, project advancement, using a social-like collaboration platform (or G+ itself ;-).
    At the present time, I have just started writing some notes, but in Italian, available through my G+ profile). I am planning to blog them in English on SDN asap.
  • Excellent insight.  I had not seen Google+ as a rounding out of a cloud based collaboration platform before reading your article.

    Its funny that you mention it does not neccessary scream "business tool", but I guess the point of the circles is that you can have many personas (work and personal). It will be interesting to see if Google makes greater effort to articulate the use for business.

    • Apparently, Google is thinking in the same direction. With the launch of the google pages and the integration with G.apps, it looks like they are trying to seduce enterprises.

      The new look of many google services also looks more professional.

  • I found a few problems while trying to use Google+ for professional purposes:

    - Google+ is blocked in several sites;
    - Team members who use Google+ for personal life don't want to use it for work;
    - I can post to one of my circles, but the receiver may not have the same circle agregation.
    - If he has me on both professional and personal circles, the professional posts appear in the personal ones;
    - Confidentiality. My company doesn't want to trust its information to a social network.

    Just my thoughts after trying to use it as a work tool.

    • let me refer you to following article:

      the main idea behind is: without openness and trust in the company, there is no room for innovation. trusting data to a social platform should not be a problem if the employees only share it between eachother ( circles )

      google+ blocked? again a problem of openness.

      the circle problem is only a matter of user awareness.

      we can't keep holding hands on every small issue. instead, a company must create awareness, provide tools, train and then trust its employees to have innovation.

      so yes, g+ is not perfect. it's barely out of beta. but don't shove it aside because of enterprise culture issues 🙂

      • It's not so simple 🙂

        - Google is blocked: I'm a consultant and I work mainly in customer site, so it's not really my choice. If the customer blocks Facebook why should Google+ be safe?
        - Trust: I work for Deloitte which is also a major auditing firm. Even though I work for consulting service line, we have very strict confidentiality standard beucase of this.

        To a degree you are right, but it's not always simple to work around these problems.

      • I appreciated a lot the article, thanks for the link. Maybe there are some dark areas in big G, but I think that it would be a place where you can learn a lot in a wonderful environment.