Google has developed a new feature for its G Suite of enterprise software that will enable managers to track whether and how employees are using various G Suite apps such as Gmail and Google Docs, the tech giant revealed this week. The tool, called “Work Insights,” is now in beta after being previewed with a small set of business customers, and will allow administrators to “gain visibility into which teams are working together and how they’re collaborating” and “review trends around file-sharing, document co-editing, and meetings to help foster connections, strengthen collaboration and reduce silos.”
To protect employee privacy, Google added, Work Insights only produces aggregated data analytics for teams of ten people or more, so admins will not be able to monitor individual employees’ use of G Suite apps, but will be able to see, for example, how many employees in a given business unit are using Google Hangouts.
The move looks like part of Google’s efforts to make G Suite more competitive against Microsoft’s enterprise technology collection, Office 365, CNBC’s Jillian D’Onfro noted in reporting the news. G Suite had 4 million paying customers as of this past February, whereas Microsoft counts 135 million active monthly commercial users of Office 365, which made its own Workplace Analytics feature generally available in 2017. Workplace Analytics also only uses aggregated and de-identified data to provide insights on a team, not individual, level.
Google Hangouts Chat (Google)
The battle for dominance of the workplace communications technology market is shaping up to be a key trend in the tech space this year: We saw the launch of Slack’s Enterprise Grid version of its signature work-chat product for large organizations this January, the emergence of Microsoft Teams and Facebook Workplace as major competitors to Slack in late 2016, and now, Recode’s Tess Townsend notes, Google is getting in the game as well with a set of new workplace tools in its G Suite enterprise offering, dividing the existing Hangouts app into Hangouts Meet, a video chat program, and Hangouts Chat—which Townsend notes “looks a lot like Slack”:
Hangouts Chat is part of Google’s newest push to sell its office tools to big businesses as part of its bigger aim to take on Microsoft Office. Verizon recently switched from Office to G Suite. And the update to Hangouts Chat appears to be designed to compete with Slack. The feature will be available to G Suite customers who apply for access. The new app allows users to create virtual rooms (much like on Slack) where they can hold group conversations, and to break conversations off into threads.
Chat also includes a new bot for automatically scheduling meetings: When called up, @meet will compare Google Calendar schedules of chat participants to automatically pick an open time.
A Google executive tells Townsend that these new tools are not envisioned as a challenge to Slack, which itself already integrates with Google Drive. Nonetheless, Google has already been focusing its energies on developing chatbots and other tools powered by artificial intelligence, which also happens to be the focus of Slack’s long-term growth strategy. Indeed, the ability to integrate bots is a central feature of Google’s new product, Ken Yeung of VentureBeat observes: