I’ve always suggested that the business collaboration space is a very saturated one. There’s perhaps the most popular one – Yammer, and then there are solutions such as SalesForce Chatter, MangoSpring, Cisco Quad, Confluence, and even build-your-own solutions such as Status.net. Even Microsoft and Sharepoint are beginning to enter this space. Those are just the most popular – there are many, many more solutions available. The fact is, there’s just a lot of competition in this space and they all offer similar features to one another. However, a new competitor has just entered this space that I think has the potential to shake up this saturated market, and it’s a big name, with big pockets and a whole lot of existing enterprise clients. That company is Google, and believe it or not, their latest announcement of integration of Google+ with Google Apps puts them right, square in the middle of this competition for business collaboration, and it’s a powerful one!
The Power of Circles
Google+ for Google Apps all starts with Google Circles. When you sign up for Google+ through your Google Apps account, you are given the opportunity to target updates to a circle just for your organization. This means you can use regular Google+, just as you do with your normal Google+ account, but you can make posts that only other members of your organization will see. Sound familiar? It should if you’re a user of Yammer or SalesForce Chatter or any of the other popular business collaboration suites.
Now, on top of your other Circles you can go back and click on just your company’s circle and view just the updates from other employees in your organization. Or, view your main stream and you’ll see updates from just your company, mixed in with the updates from your other friends on Google+.
Internal AND External Communication
The one thing I keep asking my reps at Yammer and SalesForce is that I need the ability to make some posts sent to my internal network public. Yammer sort of allows this by allowing posts you push to Twitter to also appear on your internal network (you do this by appending the hashtag, #yam, to your Tweet and it gest read by Yammer). None of the networks allow you to publish posts on their own network to make them also appear on external networks.
On Google+ this is built in. You post an update, target it to your company circle, but you can also target updates to external circles that you’ve created on Google+. This provides a powerful tool that can enable both people inside, and outside the company to participate in the conversations you start. It can also be a great way to get external feedback from a select group of people outside your organization – perhaps you could involve a focus group in the release of a new product before you launch it to the public. Circles make the perfect tool for this.
I haven’t seen how thorough this works on Google+ for apps, but the potential is there. Right now on Google+ I can mouse over any of my circles and opt to notify everyone in the circle. They don’t even have to be following me for me to get their attention. For a company this can be very useful. Now you’ll have the ability to get the attention of a group of people in your company and start conversations around topics you need their participation in.
This is a really cool feature. Already, corporations across all of the world use various video collaboration and chat software. Most pay a lot of money for this. Google+ Hangouts is free, and can allow even more people to participate than many video collaboration tools on the market. Not only that, but you have the potential to also allow video broadcasts to your company, and perhaps even allow people outside the company to participate and see your broadcasts. I hear Google uses Vdyo software to power Hangouts, and many companies are already using this, and paying big money for it. With Google+ for Apps and Hangouts, the service is free!
Microsoft Exchange Competition
The great thing about Google Apps is it gives an alternative to Microsoft’s email, documentation, calendaring, and contact management software, Exchange. Now businesses have an even greater reason to switch from Exchange, to, in my own opinion a more superior, cloud-based email software tool (Gmail/Google Mail). With Google Apps, businesses no longer have a need to host their own email or calendaring services. Google takes care of it for them. And on top of it you get Google+ for business collaboration which will integrate more and more with these other tools Google provides. Google+ just gives more reason to switch to Google Apps over Microsoft Exchange.
Google Apps is cheap compared to Exchange and other alternatives, especially when you consider all the things you get with it, now including Google+. To me it’s beginning to become a no-brainer for businesses to start considering Google Apps as an organization. The cool thing is that non-profits and single individuals can get Google Apps for free – that’s the power of a major enterprise software product, for no cost at all! It’s a no-brainer.
If you haven’t been considering Google Apps up until now, Google+ for Google Apps ought to start making you think. Google has built a pretty compelling product, and the thing I’m not seeing many people talk about right now is that Google+ now puts Google in a serious position to start entering the Enterprise space. I’m very excited for this move by Google and can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Disclosure: I am author of the just-released book, Google+ For Dummies, Portable Edition – that said, I am also author of 3 other Facebook books. My excitement is solely because I think this is a cool, and powerful feature of the Google Apps suite!