Collaborative Features in Google Drive

In 1996 Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both students at Stanford University, began collaborating on a search engine called BackRub.  More than a year later in Septeber 1997, Google.com is registered as a domain name. The name “Google” is a play on words and for the founders represents their mission to organize what would seem to be an ever growing, or infinite, amount of information. August 1998, Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun co-founder, stakes the company with $100,000.00. The following month Google Inc. files for incorporation.  That same month,  Google sets up in a garage and hires their first employee. December 1999, PC Magazine ranks Google search engine as number one among the Top 100 Web sites for 1998. The following year, Google raises US $25 million in investments and the founders reluctantly hire a Chief Executive Officer. Over the next six years, Google grows quickly with an ever expanding list of acquisitions. Many of these acquisitions themselves grow into noteworthy applications such as Google Earth and Google Maps. In 2004, this growth lead to an initial public stock offering. The sale raised US $1.67 billion and gave Google a market capitalization of US $23 billion  (Google.com, 2016).

In 2015 Google became part of “Alphabet” a new holding company that was created to acknowledge Google’s diversified investment portfolio that ranged from self driving cars to home automation systems. According to its founders, “the decision to slim down Google and make it a subsidiary of the newly created Alphabet… is intended to allow each company to focus on what it does best” (Newcomb, 2015).

Google wisely places its success on the people that they have working for them. Their company overview boldly states that they “hire people that are smart and determined and we favor ability over experience.”  In order to keep the kind of energy and creativity needed, Google seeks to maintain “the open culture often associated with start ups”. To that end, Google encourages and promotes transparency. This is part of the creative process and is needed to foster creativity. Known as the Googleplex, their administrative headquarters are located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View CA. Even the offices and on site cafes are designed to promote collaboration. The goal is to encourage interaction among staff “within and across teams” (Google.com, 2016).

When examining how Google relates strategically to their IT functions. You can see some real trends.   They are clearly focused on collaboration. They are pushing Cloud computing and they have a strategy that’s based on mobile enterprise development. Within the first few years of their existence, Google drafted a list of “Ten things we know to be true.” Among that list is number five which states that “you don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.” This statement speaks to the ever increasing mobility that people now expect with their technology. Smartphones are mobile phones with advanced computing capabilities. Statista.com  predicts that with more than 1.4 billion smartphones sold annually, by 2017 a third of the worlds population will own a smartphone (Statista.com, 2016).

According to Google, the world is increasingly mobile and people want access to information wherever they are and whenever they need it. Google has benefited from this consumer demand for mobile experiences by partnering with phone manufactures such as Samsung (Google, 2016). Samsung devices operate on the Android operating system (OS), which is an open source mobile software platform, developed and owned by Google. Google’s Android OS is used in several mobile devices, but Samsung’s products have the largest market share. According to the International Data Corporation In the first quarter of 2015, Android devices held a 78% share of the smartphone market and Samsung had the largest share of any smartphone manufacturer with 24.6%.  Today the Samsung company is known for its mobile devices and currently produces two of the more popular models (e.g., Galaxy S and Galaxy Note).  But the Google – Samsung relationship is not as simple as Samsung using Google’s software. Several other agreements and ventures have come out of this partnership (Zucchi, 2016). “In order for an organization to grow as it conducts business in eCommerce, it must explore new business ventures. With information technology, this means new collaboration, skills, and roles, bringing this aspect of the organization to play a crucial role in its success” (McKeen and Smith, 2012).

Google Apps for Work

According to McKeen and Smith (2012) “for top line growth to occur, customer value, new product development, and product and service innovation capabilities need to be realized.” In general when people think about office work they think about Microsoft Office. What debuted as an add-on for Windows 2.0 has become a major force in business. The modern administrative office is dominated by computers running Word, Excel, and Powerpoint (TheWindowsClub, 2016).

According to Mark Kaelin (2015), Microsoft Office 365 controls more than 25% of the enterprise market, which is triple the enterprise market share the company held the year prior. In response to Microsoft’s increase in market share, Rich Rao, Head of global sales, Google Apps for Work, announced Google’s response.  “We’re so confident that Docs has all the features you need, without the ones you don’t… we’ll cover the fees of Google Apps until your contract runs out. We’ll even chip in on some of the deployment costs and set you up for success with one of our Google for Work Partners” (Rao, 2015).

The basic enterprise version of Google Apps carries a subscription price of $5 per user. The basic enterprise version of Office 365 carries a subscription price of $8 per user. That $3 difference can really add up for a large organizations (Kaelin, 2015). For Not-for-Profits, Google has an unbeatable pricing strategy…it’s Free. Under its charitable givings programs Google provides free access to “premium Google products. Through this process, Google eliminates or reduces IT costs.  In order to participate nonprofits must be members. Qualifying agencies receive the following benefits at no cost.

  • Create unlimited email accounts for your staff on your own branded domain through Gmail
  • Store files in the cloud: 30GB of storage space per account across Gmail and Google Drive
  • Collaborate in real time with colleagues on grant proposals, meeting agendas, and more through Google Docs
  • Conduct surveys, training assessments and event sign ups through Google Forms
  • Manage appointments and schedules in Google Calendar
  • Monitor group discussions and distribution lists through Google Groups
  • Hold video conference calls for up to 15 participants at a time on your desktop or mobile device; audio and screen sharing tools included
  • Free 24/7 support by phone, chat and email
  • Work online through any modern browser; no hardware, no updates
  • Securely access your data from mobile devices

(Google for Not for Profits, 2016)

Collaboration Focused

According to McKeen and Smith (2012), “there are many different ways that people within an organization can communicate: email, instant messaging, texting, telephone calls, or talking directly to another person.” However some challenges in communication are also the byproduct of new technology and with more people working outside the office, collaboration can feel more difficult. Some of those challenges are perceptional. Some individuals report that electronic communications are impersonal and lacking the human element. Other challenges are created because of increased security concerns. “The content of electronic communications can present security issues, ethical concerns, and dilemmas in moral conduct.” Internal controls imposed on employees can be viewed negatively but  remain necessary to safeguard information. Other issues are related to cost and training.

Google’s Collaboration Platform allows the end user to be, mobile centric, project driven and collaborative focused. Mobile-centric allows the end user to access their work from any computer, smartphone, or tablet. From field operations to telecommuting, mobility allows the employees to make better use of their time. Because time is money, project-driven initiatives help get the job done faster, cheaper, and with better quality by taking advantage of Google’s tools.

The basic enterprise version of Google Apps provides; Gmail, Docs, Calendar, and Cloud Storage. More than 2 million firms and 25 million individuals utilize the Google “web based professional office suite (Blum, 2010).  These tools utilize Google’s ultimate strength… search capability. Because everything is stored in the cloud, virtually any device that can access the internet can be used to interface with your documentation. But good internet access is a requirement. If you don’t have reliable internet access, you’re better off with the traditional applications like microsoft word.

Google Drive makes it easy to quickly give colleagues and clients access to view, download, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. No email attachment required (cloudbakers, 2016). Google drive appears to have the most potential for collaboration. Anyone working on word documents has had the pleasure of receiving the “final, final, final version” of a paper and the following reconciliation needed before submitting. While word has an option for “tracking changes”, Google drive lets multiple individuals interact in real time on the same document. There is no final, final, final version. There is only one version.

Google calendar is a little different than the traditional Outlook calendar.  It is basically a “Master Calendar with a bunch of little calendars all in one place. You can set up separate calendars for personal, work, pleasure, or any other reason you can think of. The search capability allows for quickly finding and referencing information. The collaborative features include the ability to share your calendar with others. This feature allows the owner to set permission levels to control the amount of power others have to make changes. Its also integrated with Gmail. Google scans your e-mail and automatically creates events. In example a hotel reservation confirmation e-mail would automatically create an event on the calendar. And like all of the Google apps, it is available anywhere there is internet access  (cloudbakers, 2016).

HIPAA

One significant drawback to Google Apps is that not all of the Google apps are available for healthcare providers.  The federal register 42 CFR part 2 addresses the healthcare confidentiality rights of patients in the United States. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has strict penalties for health care agencies that violate their confidentiality rules. Because of this oversight, health care agencies are  looking for “HIPAA” compliant systems. While Google does allow HIPAA functionality, it requires end users who are including Personal Health Information (PHI) in the Google Core Services to sign a Business Associate Agreement(BAA). Additionally, Google does not allow PHI in some of its Non-Core services. Per the user agreement those Apps must be disabled.   Those would include, YouTube, Google+, Blogger, and Picasa web Albums. To manage end user access, administrators can create different organizational units (Google Apps for Work HIPAA implementation guide, 2015).

Summary

Google Apps is a powerful tool that utilizes cloud based storage and Google search as a foundation for its alternative to Microsoft 360. Acknowledging that Microsoft is the current market leader in this area, Google has targeted the professional office market and is making headway. With more than 2 million firms and 25 million individuals using the Google “web based professional office suite they have a firm foundation to build on. The healthcare industry  is primed for adoption of the Google enterprise application but HIPAA issues remain a barrier.

About the Author

Jerry Landers is the Executive Director for Aspire Indian Health and Vice President of Business Development for Aspire Indiana. You can learn more about the mission of Aspire at http://www.AspireIndiana.org or by following me on Twitter @JerryELanders

I blog and tweet about health care, business and social media.

References

Blum, J (2010). Google Apps for Your Business:The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207688

Cloudbakers (2016) Google Drive for Work. Retrived from http://www.cloudbakers.com/google-drive-for-work

Google.com (2016) About Google.  Retrieved from https://www.google.com/about/company/history/

Google.com (2016) Our Culture.  Retrieved from https://www.google.com/about/company/facts/culture/

Google.com (2016) Ten things we know to be true.  Retrieved from https://www.google.com/about/company/philosophy/

Kaelin, M (2015). Google may be declaring war against Microsoft and Office 365. Retrieved from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/google-is-declaring-war-against-microsoft-and-office-365/

McKeen, J. D., & Smith, H. (2012). IT strategy: Issues and practices (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Newcomb, A (2015). Google Becomes Part of Alphabet:What You Need to Know . Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/alphabet-shakeup-spells-change-google/story?id=34206273

Rao, R. (2015). Going Google Just Got Easier.  Retrieved from http://googleforwork.blogspot.com/2015/10/going-Google-just-got-easier.html

Statista.com (2016). Statistics and facts about Smartphones.  Retrieved from http://www.statista.com/topics/840/smartphones/

WindowsClub.com (2016). The History & Evolution of Microsoft Office Software. Retrieved from  http://www.thewindowsclub.com/history-evolution-microsoft-office-software

Zucchi, K (2016) Samsung and Google: A Beautiful Friendship? Retrieved from http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/062515/samsung-and-google-beautiful-friendship.asp

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About jerrylanders

Executive Director for Aspire Indiana Health and Vice President for Aspire Indiana. Doctorial Student at Columbia Southern University studying business. Married and father of three children. I blog about mental health, business, social media and how all three intersect.
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