As office workers continue to be confronted with a proliferation of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, IT managers are wary of becoming locked into a single app or closed environment.
Tackling the issue head-on, Google is on a path to further close the gap between employees and their favourite work tools through the expansion of third-party integrations across its Workplace platform.
Ensuring that applications from various vendors work well together is essential to helping teams and organisations maximise hybrid work, and new additions to the Workplace platform recently announced by Google have been designed with that goal in mind.
The new additions include the launch of third-party smart chips in Docs and new integrations and enhanced API capabilities for Meet, Chat and Spaces — all of which are meant to deliver new ways to use third-party applications within or alongside Google Workspace.
At its Next conference last week, Google said Meet has added almost a dozen new capabilities in order to facilitate what Google is calling “immersive connections,” while new security updates see some Enterprise Plus and Education customers receive client-side encryption (CSE) in Gmail and Google Docs.
Discussing the announcements in the wake of the conference, Yulie Kwon Kim, a VP of product management at Google Workspace, said Google was committed to giving customers customisability in how they work with our tools.
“The openness of our platform brings work together in one place, allowing the people closest to it to really tailor it to how they see fit, and workflows really transcend products," Kim said. "So, one simple workflow to get your tasks done may span not just multiple workspace apps, but tools from other vendors as well as internal tools.”
Smart chips enhance app integration
One of the key new additions to the Workspace platform is the expansion of what Google is calling smart chips — embedded links that users can add into Google Docs by typing the @ symbol, a part of the smart canvas concept launched last year.
Smart Canvas was designed to streamline how Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides work together. It gave Workspace users the ability to bring the people and information they needed into Docs through simple @-mentions, creating interactive mentions of people, files, meetings, and templates.
Google has now expanded its smart chips capabilities to its ecosystem partners, allowing users to add even more rich data, more context, and critical information right into the flow of their work.
With these new third-party smart chips, customers will be able to tag and see important information from partner applications using @-mentions, and insert interactive information and previews from third-party apps directly into a Google Doc.
Kim said that by opening up smart canvas to third-party applications and announcing new APIs, it be easier for developers to build directly into Meet, Chat and Spaces.
“Already we're seeing a lot of momentum around how people are customising their tools within Workspace. Today, there are over 5,200 public apps in our marketplace, and more than 5 billion apps installed across Google Workspace,” she said.
A number of organisations have already confirmed they are developing third-party smart chip integrations, including AO Docs, Atlassian, Asana, Figma, Miro, Tableau, and ZenDesk. These smart chips for third-party integrations will be available to customers in 2023.
Open ecosystem approach helps tackle SaaS sprawl
Atlassian is one of the organisations creating smart chips for both its Jira and Confluence apps, enabling users to visualise key project plan details directly in a Doc.
Erika Trautman, head of product for work management at Atlassian, said that Atlassian is investing in integrating Confluence and JIRA so that users can access Atlassian products directly inside Google’s products. These integrations will begin with facilitating access to JIRA statuses and Confluence pages within Google Docs, and are expected to be live early next year.
“We see users applying Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and smart links into Trello at a very high scale so this kind of cross product integration makes a lot of sense for us,” Trautman said. Trello, a subsidiary of Atlassian, makes a collaborative work management app of the same name.
Trautman added that due to the proliferation of software tools that now exist within most organisations, it is the role of technology companies to help their customer minimise the disruption that emerges from the constant need to context-switch, and make it easy for end users to access the tools they need while working.
“We need to meet people with the functionalities that they want, where they are and not insist that they go to different destinations,” Trautman said.
“Find them where they are and provide the tools and the integrations while helping the administrators at these big companies deal with the complexity of the multitude of apps that their employees need, by simplifying administration and ensuring that everything is secure.”
Kim said that by opening up Google’s innovations to third-party partners, Google Workspace becomes a “connective tissue for all the best tools.”
Delivering over 300 new features
Kim said that in order to keep up with the pace of change and meet the shifting needs of its customers, Google has delivered 300 new collaboration-focused updates to customers this year alone. Other updates announced by Google last week indicates that there are no plans to slow that down.
Google Meet has undergone what the company is describing as a re-imagining, expanding the third-party capabilities that users are able access directly inside Meet, alongside Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
Google has also announced two new tools for developers — the Google Meet API and Google Meet add-on SDK — both of which will enable users to bring third-party apps together with Google Meet.
Otherwise, Google has added a speaker spotlight in Slides; adaptive framing with AI-powered cameras from Huddly and Logitech; meeting room check-in; companion mode mobile in Meet; the ability to assign conference rooms to breakout rooms in Meet; automatic video framing; automatic meeting transcriptions; and the ability to control slides directly within Meet. Some of these additions are available in the coming month, while the majority will be available to customers from 2023.
Users will also have access to working location reminders in Google Calendar and custom emojis and inline threaded conversations in Google Chat from this month, and access to broadcast-only spaces in Google Chat from early 2023.
With regards to updated security measures, in addition to CSE, new data loss prevention (DLP) capabilities for Chat enables admins to create custom policies to help prevent sensitive information leaks, while trust rules in Drive will allow for more granular control of internal and external sharing. These capabilities will all be available by the end of the year.