Here's a sentence you might have read one or twice or 100 times this year: Google has added new features to its productivity and collaboration offerings.
Google has indeed been steadily beefing up the features in Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. So far in 2015, it has made more than 100 changes, including the upgrades it announced earlier this week.
In many ways the upgrades are part of Google never-ending campaign to attract more enterprise users to its cloud-based offerings. But this set of new features is surprisingly robust, infused with intelligence and some analytical capability. Another feature is making inroads into content creation's territory.
As Jude Flannery, Google's engineering director says in a blog post about the changes:
Now we’re taking the first steps to incorporate the power and intelligence of Google into Docs. We hope to make analyzing your data more intuitive, editing more accessible and document styling more dynamic — now your documents can be as beautiful as your ideas are bold.
Collaboration, Productivity Not Neglected
And of course Google's coin of the realm — productivity and collaboration — also gets a new shine in the latest update. As usual, the tools were also designed to speed along a workflow process. There is a new Research feature that cuts down to half the steps previously needed to pull quotes, facts and images from Google search into a document. Voice typing supports more than 40 different languages.
Now, here's where it gets interesting. An Explore feature in Google Sheets will visualize, summarize and interpret data data. As Flannery writes: "…no more stressing or wasting countless hours stewing over endless rows of data. Simply select some data, open the Explore panel (available on the web and Android) and you’ll instantly see a selection of charts and text-based insights that help bring meaning to your numbers."
And the content creation functionality? Forms has been refreshed "with new themes and the option to add your own photo or logo. You can choose from a wide selection of question types and even add images and gifs to your forms."
"It can sometimes be a little overwhelming trying to make your docs look great. You’ll now notice a new arsenal of templates in the Docs, Sheets and Slides home screens to make your work really stand out. Whether you’re creating a project plan for the team’s next big product launch or a simple budget spreadsheet to manage office finances for the next quarter, you’ll find a template for every scenario."
The Multitasking WorkerNot that these upgrades can compete with pure play content creation or data analysis apps. But the feature upgrades say something very important about Google's long range vision -- as well as user expectations, Laura DiDio, analyst with Strategy Analytics, told CMSWire.
"Google is saying 'we are in it for the long haul. We are not just going to compete on being free.'"
Not one to be blindsided to user trends, Google knows that if it wants to stay competitive it had to make these additions, she added. "Users expect a measure of analytics or intelligence functionality now in everything – even productivity and collaboration features, even if they are in something unrelated such as sales or office administration," DiDio said. "In general we are all combining tasks, making decisions on the fly, looking for evidence that a certain trend is being interpreted correctly."
Well, we have been doing this for a while. Now it's seeped into the collaboration process, she said.
It's no longer good enough to offer collaboration and productivity tools, in other words.
"People expect to be able to analyze data at the same time -- even if it is just for an internal document."