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A real, non admin, user perspective...

October 02, 2015 By Tom Holmes - Cloud Solution
I know what you're thinking - another bloody review of Google for Work and Microsoft Office 365!  You're right, it is, but with a slight twist.  I've had the experience of using both, in a sales role, and using them on different devices from different places.   It wasn't an assignment review and I certainly wasn't asked for any feedback on the systems.   I suppose that's the beauty of blogging - I can give an opinionated comparison from the user standpoint - and not a particularly technical user at that.

Scene setting:  I use Gmail and consume Google products like no other.  I love them. My phone is Android, I'm typing this on a Chromebook and the Photo app is brilliant.  My wife is an iPhone user and I feel terrible for her.

I use Microsoft at work - Office, SharePoint, Lync - everything.  I think this would look an awful lot like most working folks who communicate in any way.

Email/Calendar:  If you compare OWA to Gmail the user experience has some similarities - Outlook is obviously different.  When I first started using Google Apps I decided to download Office for Mac- that was a mistake and huge waste of money.  Webmail is webmail although O365 has made enormous improvements recently to their o365 OWA experience where it feels a lot more familiar.    The biggie for me is email and calendar synergy.  Outlook offers you the capability to send a meeting request directly from email and email directly from calendar.  I couldn't find an easy way for Gmail to do that.   I had problems with shared calendars, meeting invites, keeping track of attendees was complicated and creating new calendar entries I found fairly un-user friendly.   

Google's strength is in it's search - surprise!  It's fast and slick.  For folks who use folders, Google ain't for you - they have it, but it's no good and they rely heavily on search to pull historic documents. 

IM:  Google Chat is pretty good.  Skype for Business is ok as an instant messenger.  I think the value of SfB is the tight integration with screen sharing, voice calls, availability and automatically syncing with calendar events. 

Office (Docs):  Google Sheets, Docs and whatever other product they have is remedial.  Granted, I'm biased because I was groomed on Office since the day I started using a computer.    Tracking changes and editing SOW's or any other sales collateral is difficult for Docs.  Sheets vs Excel - I probably don't need to compare these - Sheets support for pivot tables is limited, plugins to 3rd party tools is weak and charting is poor.   Some sales people might want to send out a mail merge, and doing this through Gmail and Sheets requires some serious research and will power.   Presentations again are far easier to work with in PowerPoint than Slides - from transitions to inserted video or photo content, from drop shadows to adjusting the color. 

Having said all of this - it seems most organization might use Gmail for email and calendaring only - they still use Office for their productivity suite.  An slightly odd way to do things but Office is familiar, easy-to-use and the industry standard.

Other apps:  OneDrive and Google Drive - both pretty good - but I appreciate the DropBox integration with O365 is a little more seamless. 

The biggie for me is SharePoint online:  This is hands down, the most useful application.  If used correctly, it improves almost any process within the business.  It makes sharing and working with colleagues easy, it allows you to manage projects, accumulate documentation, check out and edit documents, track back on version history - all via a simple to use and completely customizable UI.

If you have a small business, chances are you would look to Google first, believing that Microsoft products are tools for large businesses only and out of your price range.   But the need for Office is still there and you will probably end up with multiple versions of stand alone Office on various computers around your organization.    This is a clear misconception.  Fact is - both products are terrific for small businesses, Google Apps 'will do' for medium businesses and only Office 365 is good for large businesses.   

For now - Google is my personal tool of choice, Office 365 is my professional. 

Last thought: If businesses are using Office for productivity tools and Google for collaboration tools, surely work efficiency is compromised?

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