Before collaborative document editing existed
Even before the early days of 2020, when the world was being forced to move to a remote workforce due to the global pandemic, the ball was already in motion for cloud-based, collaborative teamwork. Several platforms began to offer a collaborative document workflow due to a combination of simultaneous events. These events included increased broadband access and an expanding base of high-tech “knowledge workers,” several platforms offered a collaborative document workflow.
Google Workspace (formerly Google Apps or G Suite), Zoho, Rackspace are just a few names among many online collaborative platforms. Even the traditional desktop application powerhouse Office by Microsoft transformed its suite of tools, offering either a full or partial cloud experience with Microsoft 365. As they say, “the writing was on the wall”, and the writing indicated it needed to be real-time, cloud-based, and a complete suite of collaborative team tools.
The dawn of Google tools for collaboration
Google is considered, and rightly so, one of the pioneers in this realm. Launched in 2006, Google moved beyond the basics of browser-based email and calendar offerings, to document creation (Docs) and storage (Drive), online meetings (Meet and Chat), and even telephony with Voice. In education and the workplace, Google’s platform quickly became the standard in a world moving from the in-person, onsite study, and work, to one that permitted and even encouraged telecommuting, “any time anywhere” workflows. In the past year, under the threat of the global COVID pandemic, this transition has accelerated at a blinding speed.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) weighed in on this transformation with its recently published “COVID-19 and E-Commerce: A Global Review”;
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformations. Digital solutions are increasingly needed to continue some of the economic and social activities remotely. They have been critical for telemedicine, telework and online education, not least to keep alive our social ties in times of physical distancing.”
The folks in the know in tax and financial advisory services, BDO, have been keenly aware of this rapid development of remote work and a digital economy;
“This digital mandate isn’t new; it’s simply been brought into sharp focus. Before the pandemic, a paradigm shift towards digitization and servitization of the economy was already underway. Current events have accelerated the paradigm, as evidenced by the marked shift in spending towards digital businesses.”
Circling back specifically to Google’s role in this new world as we all slowly try to emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to realize it will not be a “back to normal” scenario as far as the workforce goes. As broad as it is deep, Google Workspace and platforms like it will now be the standard. And not only does this encompass when and where we work, but also the physical devices we work on. As we’ve seen, it’s not just the traditional desktop or even the laptop that alone comprises a digital worker’s toolkit, and it’s their handheld devices being used to get the job done as well. Many devices, being used by many different individuals as part of a team in many time zones across the world, have become the standard, requiring real-time collaborative tools.
Collaborative document editing to bridge team gaps
A prime example of this scenario is the article you are reading now. Composed via Google Docs, while being written, it was shared with the author’s collaborators based in Germany while I am based on the Eastern coast of the US. Revisions could be made and conveyed in real-time or at a time convenient for one or the other. There were no documents sent back and forth via email, no “versions,” just one living document crafted by many hands throughout several days until it was agreed upon and complete.
As stated previously, Docs is just one application among a full suite of collaborative tools available within Google Workspace. Spreadsheets (Sheets), presentations (Slides), data entry and survey tools (Forms), even complete websites (Sites) can be developed collaboratively on devices ranging from your desktop in the morning from the home office to your laptop in the afternoon on the back deck, to your mobile phone as your getting ready for bed. And during those moments in between, your team members, clients, or students are also chiming in and adding to the mix in their own ways, on their own time via their preferred tools.
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