Just getting work done doesn’t cut it anymore. Your output needs to be measured, tracked, and analyzed, so as to ensure you're being as productive as possible.
Tech companies love to leverage the power of data for better predicting what might make you work more efficiently and how prod you into time-saving productivity.
This trend is only going to accelerate, with every company trying to pour as much smarts into its own cloud to earn your monthly subscription dollars. The latest comes from Google’s G Suite, which is the bulked up and ready-for-enterprise rebrand of Google Apps for Work.
The big reveal came from Google Cloud Search, the new and improved version of the product formerly known as Springboard. The premise is unified search across all of the apps that you use in the suite, so it’s rapid fast to find a doc, contact, or spreadsheet.
As you can imagine, Google is pretty good at search. If all of your work files are within the same system, Cloud Search is going to find them much compared to using the built-in search capabilities of Windows or MacOS. That’s not surprising. But how well can it bring about the more quantified experiences that we all crave? Will it give me insights about my work that will impress clients and help me work smarter?
What you need to know
The record here, at least initially, is a little mixed. The bright spot is that Google is bringing the predictive powers of the service formerly known as Google Now to try and suggest information that’s going to help you get through the day.
On the company’s Keyword blog, it’s described this way:
Assist cards are a new way to help you find the right information at the right time. Using Google’s machine intelligence technology, these cards can help you prepare for an upcoming meeting or even suggest files that need your attention. Assist cards are designed to be timely and relevant so that you can navigate your workday more efficiently. As we continue to learn how information is most useful to you, we’ll be adding more assist cards to Cloud Search over time.
A G Suite organization I’m a part gave me an opportunity to try this out, although with this particular organization’s G Suite the team’s work is rather now so there wasn’t a ton of data to go on. Initially, I’m pleased at the direction this is going. Cloud Search and the included predictive powers can help Drive and Gmail in particular start off your day without the long set of lists that can make you feel like you’re already behind.
A more intuitive dashboard that tells me what to work on is something that I’d love to have for all of my tasks.
Having a smarter starting point for your work is appealing, and teases the kind of productive world that we may soon have. Where this has the potential to be powerful is at what level the machine intelligence can better understand what I need to know. For example, by looking at the opening dashboard, I already have a basic starting point for what I need to get to work on.
More information, please
As with any early effort, you get the usual sense of “this is great, but I want more.” Most of the data tools found in G Suite are inside of the Sheets application or tied to existing services where Google already has considerable strength, like website analytics. You could spend a quality afternoon looking at demographic data from Google Analytics or gleaning insights about the various piles of data that live inside of your Sheets.
Contact search is one of the ways that Google’s power can really shine, but like any good product it makes you crave more.
Not surprisingly, Google is really good at building deeper search into its products. And what you have so far will certainly mean less time clicking through different file folders when you’re looking for that sales proposal, especially if it’s key to an upcoming meeting.
However, the new features in Cloud Search definitely feel like the company's re-thought how an enterprise productivity suite should perform, and that they have big plans for the future. There’s room for deeper insights about personal usage that just isn’t there yet. For example, administrators have access to a dashboard that details when emails were sent, from what platform, and other metrics. But what this could create on an individual level could truly be compelling.
For example, if I knew that most of my emails arrived during a certain three hour block, I’d know to wait until the end of that deluge each day before pushing through the pile. If I could get a readout on when the most of my words are written during the day or week, it might tell me a little more about my productivity patterns and how to squeeze more work out of the day.
While there’s a fairly healthy set of add-ons for G Suite, it’s still rather measured steps in the right direction. My hope is the type of deep learning that’s possible on the consumer side with the Google Assistant and other predictive capabilities finds a place in the G Suite. Then you’ll really have software that’s doing as much or more work for you than what you put in each day.