Guide to Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and recommended intranets
Your grandma’s intranet won’t cut it anymore; Google marketplace and Google Workspace has revolutionized the world of intranets from physical servers to offering cloud intranet as the future of employee collaboration.
How can Employees collaborate and stay informed with Google Workspace?
33 min read
The humble intranet has evolved since the days when a static news update told you how Gerald did in the local 5k race. The technology revolution has hit the modern workplace in a big way, transforming how employees talk to each other, work with each other, get their jobs done.
The rise of the Google Workspace (G Suite) environment, first through Google apps for work and now Google collaboration tools and intranets, is transforming how companies work, communicate, and collaborate. It’s having a huge impact on employee productivity and efficiency while catering to the preferences of an increasingly Millennial and Gen Z workforce.
So what is Google Workspace and its recommended intranets? And why do you need an intranet anyway?
What is cloud computing?
Remember the old server rooms? Those hidden doors, usually in the basement or some dark corner of the office, from which weird flashing lights and whirring noises emanated. It used to be that a workplace’s digital storage and intranet were housed on-site, in those server rooms. The stacks of drives powered the entire office’s systems, letting you get online to access shared folders and get the company news from a clunky old intranet.
- The 1990s intranet was a central corporate portal for accessing practical tools.
- The 2000s intranet was the all-encompassing beast of news, process, forms, policy, and procedure.
- The 2010s intranet is the socially-enabled digital workplace.
Many traditional Heads of IT still like these on-premises rooms filled with computer equipment because they think they are more secure, less prone to attack, than their counterparts outside the door (or in the cloud). And when it comes to your intranet, the tools you deploy for your employees to collaborate and stay informed, security is important. That system houses:
- your confidential information,
- employee data,
- intellectual property,
- financial details, and
- business strategy
Securing an on-premises intranet is something IT bods feel comfortable with. They know how to invest in firewalls, anti-virus, privacy controls. They know how to spot hacking attempts and fraud actors. They know the on-premises system lets them oversee testing and rollout of upgrades. They know they are in control of how it all goes down.
Cloud vs Server
But on-premises intranets are expensive – and the cost is mainly up-front. Even if you get the budget to invest in, say, the most recent Microsoft Office suite including SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, you’ll likely be relying on that same technology for the next decade; there are no automatic updates.
It also takes a long time to roll-out a new on-premises custom intranet, and you’ll need someone to own it and build out your intranet site, staying on hand for additions, new pages, and improvements. That bumps up the cost significantly – both in terms of technical and human resources – which is why many businesses today are moving to cloud storage, collaboration and communication tools.
According to studies conducted this year, 93 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy; 87 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Reliability and cost-effectiveness are seeing businesses migrate their applications and data to cloud-based intranet at an increasing rate. The cloud’s potential to improve productivity is clear, especially with services like Google Apps for Work, the G Suite for business, and other SaaS business tools designed specifically with easier collaboration and communication in mind. And unlike their on-premises counterparts, cloud-based tools have lower set-up costs with quicker deployment.
Working with cloud-based intranet or using the G Suite for business for things like document sharing, communication and collaboration enables remote working and improves connectivity – anyone can access what they need to do their work, wherever they happen to be in the world, which means no more frantic emails or calls back to HQ asking if someone could just email you over the following documents from the shared drive because you forgot to download them before you left the office…
Office 365 vs G Suite
- More than 200,000 organizations use Microsoft Teams in 181 markets across the world.
- Microsoft has more than 135 million monthly paid commercial users of Office 365
- Internal Communicators object against the “Office 365 effect” - the process of the suite cloud taking over businesses
- In 2018 there was a correlation between the usage of Office 365 and other digital practices, with 56% of the users planning on improving digital channels
- Access to files and collaboration can’t happen without Internet access
Google Workspace (G Suite)
- Younger users find the Google interface more intuitive and easier to use than the Microsoft system.
- Many students are familiar with Google’s education suite, making it that much easier to integrate a workforce using G Suite.
- The number of organizations paying for G Suite for business had doubled to more than 4 million, most of which are small and medium-sized companies, according to Alphabet’s 2018 earnings announcement.
- Examples for G Suite users are Verizon, Nielsen, Airbus, Carrefour, Whirlpool, and Colgate-Palmolive.
- According to Reuters, users like the low prices and collaborative features such as the ability for multiple users to edit a single document simultaneously.
- G Suite functions offline - the changes made offline sync when there is an Internet connection
Advantages of cloud computing
One of the real benefits to businesses using the cloud, though, and tools like a G Suite intranet, comes from the ability to integrate. Those old on-premises systems were the very definition of “silo”; to get systems to talk to each other often involved a developer scratching their head and writing reams of code just so you could move between tools. Cloud integration revolutionized the way businesses can get multiple systems to talk to each other. By implementing Cloud integration you are able to:
- Have the benefit of a solution that is always-on,
- Reduce your operational issues,
- Spend less up-front capital
- Encourage and increase collaboration between employees because it was made for collaboration and file-sharing, and
- Have your team be anywhere in the world and still work together
In short, cloud integration joins the dots and breaks down the silo walls. It became crucial to optimising business processes with the growth of SaaS solutions; by integrating systems, you improve connectivity and visibility. Importantly, though, integrating systems and processes in the cloud leads to better internal communication and collaboration.
- You can integrate your accounting
- Your workflow productivity tracker,
- Your conferencing and webinar systems,
- Your marketing email tool,
- Your social intranet or digital workspace
If you have a business need, there’s likely some integration you can use in the G Suite marketplace.
Recommended methods for communicating across generations
In this day and age, the vast majority of the workforce is able to use technology, if not comfortable with it, so is all of this talk about generational preferences actually a red herring? Internal Communications guru Helen Deverell, of Helen Deverell Communications, has a thing or two to say on the topic.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about Millennials and Gen Z and the impact they will have on the workplace, particularly in relation to digital. Yes, they have grown up as digital natives, but technology has disrupted the world we live in, and most people, whichever demographic they’re in, interact with technology every day,” Deverell says.
“I frequently conduct internal communication audits and the reasons people don’t use social collaboration tools or digital workspaces at work is often because they don’t have time, the content isn’t relevant, or no one has explained the purpose of the tool. Very rarely is it because they’re uncomfortable using technology.”
Deverell suggests segmenting your internal audiences by generation is “too simplistic” – that communications decisions are more likely influenced by factors such as job role, department, whether employees are desk-based or remote, the information they’ll need to perform their work, and so on.
“Studies have shown that Millennials are an extremely hard-working generation and expect certain things from the workplace such as purpose, quick career progression, and flexibility. However, these are all undoubtedly things that many employees of all ages would like to see in their organizations,” she says.
“I think there are other ways we can segment our audiences that will be far more impactful. However, if you are introducing digital communication tools, I would always advise that you provide training, appoint champions who are enthusiastic about technology (and that doesn’t necessarily mean just Millennials and Gen Z) and provide ongoing support.”
“If implemented in the right way, social collaboration tools can be a great addition to the internal communication channel suite. But the challenge many internal comms teams face is keeping employees interested after the initial launch.”
“And, of course, there are some organizations where digital isn’t the right way to go, whether because there’s an older workforce or the ways of working and culture don’t warrant it. Never assume that because the world is going digital that your organization must introduce more digital communication channels. Do your research to understand your organization and how your employees prefer to receive communication before investing in a tool that might not be suitable.”
What is G Suite and what is Google Workspace?
Google is not a conventional company. Since 1998 it has grown from a simple search engine to one of the most popular tech companies in the world, which is loved by organizations and people alike. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It is their mission that drives them to continuously improve, starting from the range of products to the evolution of their look and feel. Google Workspace, one of Google’s most popular products, has already gone through several changes since its introduction. Google Workspace was first known as Google Apps before it was rebranded in 2016 to G Suite. In October 2020 Google started another new chapter – they announced that G Suite rebranded into Google Workspace.
Inspired by the dynamic working conditions and the emerging need for work-life balance that both their customers and users face every day, Google transformed their Google Workspace package into a better version that would make collaboration more seamless and efficient.
Google Workspace is the new digital alternative to your office. It’s an improved, better organized, and seamless version of Google Workspace that you know and love. Want to know more about how Google Workspace works? Read our Google Workspace tips and FAQs.
Learn about Google Apps
Google Workspace is where you’ll meet the ubiquitous Gmail, but there are also other tools to help improve your productivity such as:
- Google Hangouts - a video conferencing app
- Google Chat - a communication and messaging tool that allows direct messages and group chat rooms
- Google Calendar - an online calendar for creation of public calendars, coordination of schedules with coworkers, and accessing room/other shared resource availability Google
- Drive - a file storage and synchronization hub and storage space.
- Google Docs - a word processor and collaborative tool where changes are saved automatically and saved in your Google Drive
- Google Sheet - a spreadsheet program that is also collaborative and saved automatically in your Drive
- Google Slides - a presentation program with the same collaborative and storing benefits as Docs and Sheets
- Google Forms - a survey application with collaborative and sharing features as well as Google Sites - a creation tool where anyone on your team can create and edit websites without IT or coding skills
- Google Keep - a note-taking service with tools for text, lists, voice, and images
Consumers can get access to these for free, but the lure for businesses is the ability to get a custom domain and additional administrative tools and advanced settings through the Admin panel and Vault, plus the digital interactive whiteboard Jamboard and the app development App Maker available on some plans.
G Suite for small businesses
“Google’s ecosystem of apps and collaboration tools was a big deciding factor for us when choosing how to work,” says Lee Dobson Head of Strategy at Bulldog Digital Media. “Google Workspace was a no brainer for us as a business, especially as we were growing so fast we needed a system that scales as quickly as we are. The G Suite for business does that, and then some!”
With team members spread across three cities, collaboration was a key for Bulldog's operational decisions: “As an agency, we tend to do a lot of collaborative work and are usually sharing documents around departments, so being able to work together on documents, even if we aren’t in the same office, means we can work effectively and efficiently.”
Bulldog’s various teams use different tools in the Google Workspace, but the main common ones are Google Drive, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Calendar.
“The collaboration and email tools make day-to-day tasks easier,” Dobson says. “G Suite for business also hooks into some of our other tools, such as Hubspot, which speeds up tasks even more.”
G Suite for startups
It was a similar case for Rock Salt Consulting, a London-based startup helping other startups to grow. “We started off with Microsoft Office,” says Director Jessica Williams-Chadwick, “but the freelance community I am part of uses Google Workspace, and I was impressed by its flexibility, smart working and ease of use.
“It was easy to switch over. We could get personalized email addresses that looks more professional, and I prefer the 'feel' of the G Suite. However, I am from a startup background and not a corporate one, so I didn't have to get used to a different system as I was already using several Google applications in my personal life.”
For Rock Salt Consulting, it had to be a cloud-based intranet and collaboration, so Google collaboration tools were the obvious choice.
“A cloud-based intranet was extremely important for us as our whole business is mobile and flexible. This means we work from different places, home, cafes, a co-working space, and share computers often, sometimes switching mid-session, so everything is stored online, accessible and shareable is key to the success of our business. We use Google Docs all the time for collaboration, both internal and external, as it's much clearer than an email trail, and the calendar integration is useful too.
“As with many things and different operating systems, the functionality has become more or less a level playing field, and it has become more about the overall UX or even what people are comfortable with. As a startup, we found Google Workspace for business-suited us perfectly: the way we work and collaborate with clients fits with the tool, and the flexibility of the Google apps for work mean that as working parents we can maintain a good work-life balance across different applications.”
But it’s not just startups and agencies; UK supermarket chain Morrisons, fashion brand GANT, the Canada Games Council, FMCG brand Colgate-Palmolive, and insurance company Generali Hungary show the depth and breadth of companies making the most of the productivity and collaboration offered by the G Suite for business.
The advantages of G Suite
There are many advantages for using Google Workspace as a business and many tips how to use it to improve productivity. One of the big advantages of the G Suite for business is you can use your Google login across all tools and apps. This alone saves time and increases productivity as it eliminates the need to log in to multiple systems – and come to mention it, it increases security as there’s no spreadsheet or post-it note full of login details hanging around.
Plus it’s super easy to switch between your Gmail accounts, whether you’re on a desktop or a mobile – just tap on your icon and choose the account you want to be viewing. It’s UX like this that has younger users flocking to Google collaboration tools.
Single sign-on and Google logins are second nature to Millennials and Generation Z. They’ve grown up in and become used to a world that doesn’t work in silos, where they can switch between websites quickly without needing to login each time, and any company that tries to force them down that silo route is a company that takes its future into its own hands.
What impact has G Suite had on business?
Google commissioned Forester Consulting to conduct a Total Economic Impact (TEI) study examining the value that Google’s customers achieve by implementing the G Suite. Forrester measured the total economic impact over three years as organizations moved from legacy on-premise infrastructure to the web-based technology by interviewing six Google Workspace customers. They then created a composite company – a global B2B multinational services company with 10,000 employees using Google Workspace and $4 billion in annual revenue – by aggregating the data.
The composite organization achieved some pretty big benefits:
- 304% return on investment (ROI) over three years, risk-adjusted.
- US$8 million in collaboration efficiencies by working together in real-time, saving employees up to two hours per week.
- US$5 million in mobility benefits through the ability to work anywhere and join meetings remotely.
- US$4 million in legacy IT cost savings from decommissioning legacy servers, technology, and phone systems.
There are three different plans available for Google Workspace for business, with cost depending on how many users you have and what you need access to – for example, the business and enterprise plans will give you access to a low-code app development environment and unlimited cloud storage with Google Drive, but that could be going overboard for a small business or startup.
What is an intranet?
We’ve talked a lot about intranets, but you may be wondering what we mean; after all, the humble intranet has had so many lives in the last 30 years that everyone has a different understanding.
An intranet is a private portal, where employees can collaborate, communicate, get information, and empower the employee community. Intranets increase employee experience, productivity and employee engagement, which makes them an integral part of any company’s digital transformation journey.
Happeo’s own intranet comparison guide distills this to four factors: collaboration, communication, community, and information:
- Collaboration - enabling your teams to work better together. Common features for this include the ability to edit documents, discuss and brainstorm, as well as the option to take this on the move with mobile support.
- Communication - the essence of a good Internal Communications team is getting the right information to the right people at the right time. The aim here is to make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the business objectives and to create a two-way communication flow.
- Community is key. The most effective teams are the ones that feel part of something big and feel supported. Creating a community feels within the employee base and enhancing team work is important and can be greatly improved with the use of a digital workplace tool.
- Information - the part where people can access the information they need to do their jobs in a good way – including through training, wikis, process outlines, etc. Having the information tailored to each individual means every login is relevant to each user.
Advantages of an intranet
There are countless advantages to adopting cloud-based or in particular a Google Workspace intranet into your workplace, but the main three are that it:
- Improves communication and engagement
- Increases productivity by 44%, and collaboration, and
- Maintains a level of mobility for your workforce
Improving employee communication and engagement
Just 15% of global employees report feeling actively engaged at work. So how does an intranet improve employee engagement? Better communication is the first and obvious factor. An intranet – whether it’s one for Google or Office 365 or a myriad other one – and associated integrations connect employees, no matter where they are. News functionalities and publishing ability help inform staff of developments, responsibilities, and general goings-on. In general, it can help employees to have a sense of purpose and pride in their employer.
Increase employee productivity
Productivity doesn’t just mean getting more done – it also means the way in which tasks are completed. Any company can demand more of its workers, but unless it improves operational efficiency, that “more” is likely to come from long hours and increasingly tired workers.
A well-connected and well-planned intranet can help connect workers to the right colleague to solve a problem, the right document for that particular job, the right training module to upskill. Search functionality and a cohesive content management strategy are key here, as is ensuring all documentation and articles have strong metadata to feed that search.
Intranets also act as a portal to the applications workers need to perform their roles. An intranet home page should signpost them to their document creation tools, their time trackers, their people directory, their chat systems. All of this saves time hunting down the right tool or the right person to get the job done, giving employees more time to focus on productivity through Google apps for work or their app of choice.
For remote workers
The cloud-based intranet has taken on new meaning in the age of the digital workplace. Previously, it was incredibly difficult to communicate with workforces that were truly mobile – as in workers who are out on the road all day, or work in “office-less” cultures – or where they were not desk-bound (such as factory workers). The digital workplace and remote work software has built that bridge, allowing remote employees to access company information and work together without being on company property.
IWG studied more than 18,000 business people across 96 companies and found that 70% of employees work at least one day away from the office every week, with 11% working outside the main office location five times a week. The study also found that businesses recognized offering flexible working strategies provided them with benefits, including increased productivity (82%) and competitiveness (87%).
Recommendations in intranet planning
Fenoughty, though, prefers to think of the intranet as an informative corporate publishing tool that forms the central part of a digital workplace. It’s a centrally-managed location for the official corporate truth, ways of working, and information “that I need to do my job” – something to get people working well and consistently from day one.
He believes even the smallest businesses need an intranet as these portals are a vital part of working; official documentation, policy process, and procedure must be held somewhere central and easily accessible, after all.
Where the intranet got waylaid was the attempt to be all things to all people. In fact, research undertaken by Sequel Group on behalf of a client showed more than 80% of people at that company wanted an intranet that enabled their jobs first and foremost; after that came the fluffier stuff like news and information.
“Every worker has three needs to get their job done: information, communication, and collaboration,” says Fenoughty. “All of these need to be met by something, whether that’s an ‘intranet’ or the digital workplace is down to people’s interpretation. That’s why I say the “corporate publishing intranet” is the centrally-managed, highly-governed official source of practical truth. If it’s formal, central, and governed, it is trusted and therefore vital and needed.”
Good intranet practice has a hierarchy of messaging; where the “horrid megalithic beast intranets of the late 2000s and early 2010s” failed was trying to be all things to all people. That just resulted in a complex world of confusion and poor search. Sequel Group’s ethos on this is to embrace a suite (G Suite vs Office 365 aside) for the digital workplace that includes:
- A pared-back corporate intranet for trusted information and announcements of official news.
- A more engaging area for deeper, longer format reads, getting to know the business leaders, direction, and strategy.
- A nicer place to get people caring.
They call it the “hands, head and heart” strategy, where “hands” is practical information to get you working, “head” helps you understand business direction, and “heart” makes you become a true employee advocate for the company. Different tools in a digital suite suit different messages, but Fenoughty’s parting wisdom is to think of your challenge in this order: define your need, work on your content, and think about technology last.
“We recommend to not switch anything on until you’ve defined the right way for it to work for you. As long as you embrace the principles of clear channel definition, understanding what to put where and for which audience, and then you produce great quality content, then the technology you do this on matters the least. I love it when organizations think about their people and needs before choosing some new technology.
“Proper planning and execution of a clear organizational purpose far exceed the choice of tool in importance.”
What to pay attention to when searching for an intranet for G Suite?
Given all the collaboration and communication tools that come as standard with the G Suite for business, you’re likely wondering if you really need an “intranet”. And it’s true, all your collaboration, storage, and communication needs are handled through the various apps and tools available here.
The whole ethos of the Google Workspace is that you get everything you need in one package – everything you need to do your work, from wherever you are in the world, using whatever device makes sense for you.
Google apps for work were built around the four areas that the ever-suffering IT department and communications team want for a business. In Google’s own words, those are the ability to:
- Connect – to reach your colleagues wherever they are.
- Create – to bring projects to life.
- Access – to store files and find what you need, instantly.
- Control – to manage users, devices, and data securely and easily.
Let’s go through those four aspects in turn and analyze how the Google Workspace handles them.
Connect your workforce
We’ll tackle this first because your business can’t run without connection. Perhaps Google’s most used and most famous tool beyond the search engine is Gmail, and in the Google Workspace you get a secure, private, and ad-free email system for the whole company.
IT admins can centrally manage accounts across both organizations and devices, while data is stored safely in the Google web environment. Migration tools are available to import legacy environments, including from those old corporate chestnuts Lotus Notes and Microsoft, making the G Suite vs Office 365 question more about usability than “we’ve always done it this way”. Interesting also a study from Principled Technologies, which found that there are clear cut advantages in choosing Google G Suite over Office 365:
- With Gmail you send and receive email attachments up to 42% faster
- With Gmail you save email attachments to the cloud up to 85% faster
And unlike with the personal Gmail offering, the G Suite one gives you a custom email @yourcompany, as well as the ability to create group mailing lists.
Outside of email – and a fairly straightforward calendar app that does what you’d expect, including checking colleagues’ availability and setting up shared calendars – the Google Workspace connects colleagues through the Hangouts feature.
Hangouts Chat, they proclaim, is a messaging technology “built for teams” to enable easy and efficient collaboration, from direct messages to group conversations and threaded conversations. There are also dedicated virtual rooms to house projects, each of which can support up to 8,000 members, helping you to track progress and follow up tasks.
Meet by Google Hangouts, is the Google apps for work video conferencing app, and the suite’s deep integration makes this so much easier than setting up rooms on external operating systems and checking if people have the right link (because that usually delays a meeting’s start by at least 10 minutes, right?). The study from Principled Technologies shows another advantage for G Suite over Office 365:
Invite people directly from the video call itself, or join directly from a Calendar event or email invite whatever device you’re using. There are even specific Hangouts Meet hardware for your conference room to make it even more seamless.
And all of this works together in a deeply integrated way. For example, you can collaborate in Google Docs from your Hangout Chat, and the Meet bot integrates directly with your Calendar to schedule meetings for you. Setting up a meeting in Calendar automatically adds a Hangout, or you can initiate a Hangout in chat or video form, right from your Gmail inbox, for those times when it’s easier to just talk, or when the email trail is getting ridiculous and you just want an answer.
Create and run projects transparently
Once you can communicate, you’ll need the ability to create documents. The G Suite for business has what you’d expect, but it adds a Google twist for productivity:
- Google Docs, its pimped-up version of Microsoft Word, is an online creation tool allowing real-time collaboration on documents and easy sharing, even if someone isn’t in your domain.
- Google Sheets is a cloud-based collaborative, smart, and secure spreadsheet app that empowers you to get insights fast, powered by Google AI, and with the ability to pull in data from multiple sources, including BigQuery.
- Google Slides is the presentation app, allowing you to create and edit polished presentations right in your browser; it follows the real-time collaboration theme of other G Suite apps and ensures everyone is on the same version.
The study of Principled Technologies found that the advantages of using G Suite over Office 365 for creating and sharing documents are:
- Using Google Docs to share a document via email is up to 56% faster
- Collaborate with Google Docs is up to 55% faster
Google Workspace also has multiple options not necessarily available as default with other productivity and collaboration systems:
- Google Forms lets you create surveys and forms easily – the internal communicator’s best friend!
- Keep is the online to-do list that allows collaboration with teammates and reminders to stay on track, syncing across devices.
- Google Sites is Google’s website-maker for dummies, enabling anyone to create a website with no programming or design skills necessary – there’s even an intranet template available.
- Jamboard is – yes, we’re serious – a cloud-based whiteboard; while you do get free access to it through the G Suite for business, writing by the mouse can be a bit tricky, so unless you have access to a stylus and touchscreen (tablet, maybe?), you might need to buy a special Jamboard for your workplace.
- And taking it to the limit, the Google Workspace also gives you App Maker, based on a drag-and-drop UI design; you will need dev skills for this one, but it’s a low-code development environment and included with the Business and Enterprise editions of the G Suite.
What does all of this mean for your business? Well, imagine an Internal Communications team empowered to create an intranet, run surveys, develop competitions, create training, inform colleagues of developments, brainstorm across offices, create a strategy together and then present it to the top team via video call, all without needing to remember a million logins or crash the network mid-call.
Access anything from anywhere
Storing important files on your local desktop and emailing multiple versions is not a productive nor efficient way to operate – but that’s generally accepted wisdom in this day and age. Cloud computing means we don’t have to operate like that anymore, and the G Suite’s Google Drive app provides the perfect alternative. Also here Principled Technologies has interesting findings about the advantages of using Google Workspace over Microsoft 365:
- With Google Drive you upload and download files in up to 96% less time
- With Google Drive you open a document on smartphone in up to 52% less time
Companies can store, access, and share files in one secure place with Drive, and those files can be accessed from anywhere on any device. Streaming directly from the cloud also saves on the need for disk or server space, saving IT infrastructure costs, too.
Google’s search algorithms – including predictive search – make it easy to find anything you need quickly and simply, right across the G Suite’s apps, including Gmail, Google Docs, and more. That means no more scrolling endlessly through bad search results just to find the sickness policy or that strategy document you were working on last week.
Control access and users securely
All of this sounds great, but you’re sitting there wondering what the CTO will say when you present a plan for cloud operations and Google collaboration tools, right? Try to appease them with this: the Admin panel provides centralized administration using integrated Cloud Identity features to manage users and set up security options like 2-step verification and security keys.
And as it’s Google Workspace it’s all manageable from any device, anywhere. Got a midnight alert about a phishing attempt? Handle it quickly from bed instead of dragging yourself to that musty server room in the office.
What about legacy data, though? You don’t want everything to be stored forever. The Vault lets you archive corporate data from Google Workspace products including Gmail, Google Drive, Teams Drive, Google Groups, and Google Hangouts. Set retention policies either on supported content or for specific units, and track and keep logged data for legal audits
This isn’t some cowboy system; the G Suite for business is a fully-fledged, corporate-ready, safe and secure system with all the control even the fussiest CTO would demand.
What is Google Sites
You’ll have noticed we’ve mentioned “Sites” a few times now – and let’s face it, you’re reading this article because you’re looking for an intranet that you can add to your Google Workspace account, so that must sound like your prayers are answered. As an cloud-based intranet, Google Sites touts itself as a way to “effortlessly create impactful team sites” that “look great on all screens”, “all without learning design or programming”. With a sales pitch like that, it’s no wonder users flock to it as their intranet.
Advantages of Google sites
- Easy to display your team’s work and share news and information
- Making Google Workspace – from Google Docs to Google Drive to Calendar and beyond – readily and easily available to users
- Straightforward collaboration and communication with drag and drop editing
Disadvantages of Google sites
- Not automatically restricted to your employees – when you publish the site, you’ll need to choose who can see it, from anyone on the web to anyone in your domain (i.e. your company network) to targeted specific people.
Other intranets: G Suite marketplace apps
Knowing Google Sites was just good enough, tech companies started to develop their own intranet sites for Google Workspace. These integrate seamlessly with the G Suite while providing much more power and collaboration to companies. A quick (Google) search asking what’s the best intranet will bring up a ream of possibilities, all sounding just as good as each other.
Here are the leading cloud-based intranets and frontrunners in the industry that can make Google suite sites work for business needs.
Named a leader by the G2 Crowd, Jostle calls itself a “People Engagement platform”, or a “complete, intuitive intranet” – the “go-to place for everyone and everything in your organization”. It’s used by the likes of hotel chain Yotel, services company Sodexo, and Warner Music Group.
- It requires no customization and is pretty much out of the box – they claim you can be up and running within one week with the turnkey product.
- Users rate its ability to keep disparate workforces engaged, communicating, and working together highlighting the discussion rooms as good for projects.
- It’s intuitive and easy to keep up to date.
- The analytics could be more robust, and other integrations would be useful. One reviewer noted the responsibility is placed on the user to retrieve information, rather than being proactively notified.
- Others have said that the admin section can be confusing, and the library difficult to navigate.
- The inability to link more than one Google email domain also proved challenging for some users with multiple divisions or entities, leading them to search for Jostle competitors.
As a Jostle alternative and the cloud-based intranet recommended by Google, LumApps is a secure intranet built on the Google Cloud, and its roadmap aligns with Google to always benefit from the latest innovations as an early adopter. It’s used by the likes of Veolia, ETAM, Air Liquide, and TIBC.
- Users can access all of the G Suite’s apps in one click from a single portal for enhanced productivity,
- Its global search looks not just across the cloud intranet, but throughout your Google Workspace using Google Cloud Search.
- Reviewers on the G2 Crowd note that anything created by Google is of course clean and exciting to use, but LumApps is accused of trying to be too many things to too many people buy some.
Happeo: your intranet of choice
Just for you, we’ll put our impartial hats on for this bit.
As a LumApps alternative and Jostle competitor, Happeo, formerly known as Universe, is also a unified digital workplace that empowers internal communicators to connect with employees in entirely new ways, according to G2 Crowd. It’s a digitale workplace designed for Google Workspace for increased employee efficiency and engagement. It’s used by the likes of Randstad Sourceright, South China Morning Post, and Trimble.
- Its digital workplace combines static intranet content with dynamic collaboration and social features that empower more productivity with a modern and familiar user experience.
- Happeo targets its Google Workspace intranet not just at Internal Communications, but also at IT teams to get more value from existing productivity tools and put the intranet in the hands of everyone, and at managers to share ideas and bring departments together to collaborate and share knowledge.
- It’s all about the workplace productivity shift, according to the Happeo team. The company has experienced a 280% growth and claims more than 200,000 users with a 92% adoption rate.
- The average weekly-use rate for an intranet is 31%. For Happeo it's 78%. The average time to deploy an intranet is 3 months, with a 3-month increase per extra 50.000 employees (because of content + migration) The Happeo average is 6-8 weeks.
- Reviewers note it’s easy to use and simplifies teamwork, collaboration, and productivity. The “Channels” tool proves particularly popular as a way to have threaded conversations and collaborate on documents in a dedicated project space.
- Happeo’s customers have a 76% monthly active usage rate.
- Reviewers do note there’s room for improvement and ask for tools like design and page layouts included as templates to make building easier.
Business cases - What’s possible with the G Suite and a dedicated intranets
ZPG transformed company communications
Natalie Allen, Head of Employee Engagement at ZPG, had tried lots of tools in the past but found everything was one-way, and employees couldn’t interact or engage with news. By rolling out a dedicated intranet, Allen says they have transformed communications – it’s more about interaction and conversation, and employees can share their own views and information, too.
Changing to a cloud-based intranet that we can connect with our G Suite apps was also about consolidation for ZPG. They had multiple tools in use, from Trello and Slack for collaboration through to endless places to store information. It made productivity and efficiency difficult.
Allen names the new starters process as a great example; instead of having to deal with each new starter individually, ZPG’s team has populated an entire Google group page with new starter information that’s automatically pushed when needed and always available. It makes the whole thing much more scalable, she says.
Randstad Sourceright brought 17 countries onto a single tool
“It was really hard prior to launch our system to know how anyone in the business was interacting with each other,” says Anna Tolley, Global Internal Communications Manager at Randstad Sourceright, a global talent and acquisition management provider that spans 17 countries around the world.
All communication for the company was either email-based when globally-relevant, or extremely localized; Tolley’s team had no idea what was working or who was listening. Rolling out a Google Workspace intranet has “given us an opportunity to really understand how engaged our people really are with our communications and allowed them to interact with each other,” she says.
Trimble made collaboration more mobile
Taina Saarikoski is responsible for Internal Communications at Trimble, was trying to wrangle outdated information and technology before moving the company to the G Suite and a recommended Google Workspace intranet. She finds the new intranet is both easy to learn and to use, which has made her work “a lot easier and a lot faster.” The Google Workspace intranet has also enabled interaction across the business, resulting in a diminishing amount of email traffic.
An intranet that can be connected with G Suite enables employees to collaborate and stay informed
Today's workforce is diverse, dispersed, and determined. A large percentage of it is digitally-native, and your grandma’s intranet will no longer cut it when it comes to collaboration and engagement.
The technological revolution has brought us more online apps and tools than we’ll ever need, and your workforce has no doubt explored them all at some point. That’s because the modern workforce is facing more distractions than ever before and they need a way to stay focused on the task at hand. On the other hand, they’re less about downing tools at 5 pm and are more willing than ever to work out of hours – if you give them the tools to do so.
The G Suite for business, and the accompanying technologies and Google collaboration tools, provide the cloud-based intranet to companies wanting to get these far-flung workers on the same page, working together for the greater good. A cloud-based intranet with deep integration with Google Apps for Work – such as Google Docs, Gmail, and Hangouts – can transform the way you work, bringing productivity and cost efficiencies to bear.
As more and more businesses shift from on-premise infrastructure to cloud-based technology, the G Suite vs Office 365 debate will become deafening. Choose the tool that works well for your business, but don’t forget the workers’ preferences – they’ll be the ones using it daily, after all. Make sure you consider aspects such as:
- The user interface and ease of navigating.
- The users’ familiarity with how things work – is it intuitive or will it require a lot of training?
- The ease of signing on and switching between tools.
- How robust the search tool is.
- The integration with the collaboration tools you’re already using – or your business needs for collaboration if you don’t have any yet.
- How you want to communicate with your user base, but also how they want to receive news and information.
- But most importantly, will it make working easier, more productive – and more fun.
And if you need some help in determining what’s right for your needs, our intranet comparison guide is a good place to start. Happy collaborating!