It’s an exciting time to be watching the productivity market.
So many vendors are now pushing the digital workplace standard forward rather than just supporting how users currently work.
A new vision of how workers can work is coalescing and it is enabling them to look past incremental feature improvements and think of new ways to address long-standing pain points. That applies to smaller point vendors as well as larger ones like Microsoft and, as proven this week, Google.
Google held its Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco this week and it is clear that Google has made a serious shift towards the enterprise with G Suite. There is a lot of passion among the G Suite folks around re-inventing how workers work.
They have a heavy focus on cloud (of course), simplicity, and AI, machine learning, and natural language.
It’s important not to forget there is also a lot of passion further up the Pacific coast. As Alex Vogenthaler, group product manager for G Suite, said “Your competitors are not standing by; they are changing”. He was talking about why you have to move to modern technology like Google Drive, but the same could be said to Google about Microsoft.
There were frequent references in sessions that painted Office 365 (though never by name) as having a circa-2000’s mindset. In reality the Office folks think much like Alex does – they aren’t standing by and have added cloud, analytics, team collaboration, and mobile too.
Acknowledging the similarities forms a stronger base from which to differentiate. I’d like to see more of how Google’s vision of new ways of work (NWOW) differs from Microsoft’s. Maybe it doesn’t, in which case a buyer or potential partners would want to know how the roadmap to getting there differs. Google points to differences in legacy and product DNA, which is fair, but vision of the road ahead is more powerful than looking backwards.
There are challenges to a strategy built around NWOW when so many organisations aren’t ready. G Suite’s growth is more closely tied to NWOW than Microsoft. With Microsoft, NWOW can sneak up on customers who only moved to Office 365 to get the latest versions of their old productivity favourites and then slowly discover Delve, Teams, mobile productivity, and co-authoring. With G Suite, it’s more of a bar of entry into the product.
I want to see organisations evolve to using new ways of work, as envisioned in the Digital Workplace. I’ve been an analyst in the productivity space for almost 20 years and have never seen such a desire and opportunity to make a quantum leap in how non-routine work gets done in organisations, from business users and from vendors.
Vendors are at the beginning of this journey, and are just at the point they are exploring different approaches for getting to the Digital Workplace (front door or sneak it in?), how long it should take, how to bridge from legacy tools (solid permanent bridge or a light transition-only bridge?), who to target, and what it should look like when the transition is complete.
Buyers and partners are considering all those aspects too, as well as who they trust to take them there. This first conference with G Suite was a good start, but the key lies in how quickly organisations are ready to absorb this change and how Google can differentiate its approach from Microsoft.
It’s going to be a fun 2017!
Article by Craig Roth, Gartner analyst