How I use Google Docs & Spreadsheets
It struck me today that I'm a frequent user of Google Docs & Spreadsheets and I've encountered enough skepticism about the products that I thought I'd post on how this product has impacted my work and personal life.
If you're like me, you often find yourself emailing around Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. Yes, we have Sharepoint in the office which is supposed to keep us from doing this, but what about those circumstances when you have to share documents outside of the organization? So here are a few examples of how I've used Google Docs & Spreadsheets (note that for privacy and confidentiality reason, I'm not at liberty to share most of them):
- Summer camp planning. As any parent of school-aged kids can attest, coordinating summer camps with the parents of all of my kids' friends drives me into the ground every spring. I've always kept a spreadsheet to track all of the options, links, registrations, etc., but this year I went even more geek -- I published it on Google spreadsheets and sent the link around to all of the parents. While no other parents have done the same yet, several have accessed my sheet and asked about past camp experiences, and coordinated specific weeks of camp. It's definitely reduced the number of emails I have had to send around.
- Tracking spreadsheets for my manager. I'm frequently asked by my manager to provide an update on how much client work I've done each quarter. I used to keep this on a spreadsheet on my hard drive and then email her a copy whenever she needed it. No more -- I now update it online and she can access it whenever she needs to. The key advantage to me: I don't have to be logged into the corporate network to access the file, something that's a huge convenience to me when I'm on the road or working from home.
- Jam playlist. Forrester recently had an all-company offsite and one of the highlights is an after-hours music jam lead by one of our analysts, Merv Adrian (I play keyboards and miscellaneous percussion instruments). This year we decided to be more organized and create a playlist so that fellow musicians could suggest songs, learn lyrics, and practice beforehand. What started out as a flurry of emails with song suggestions dwindled to reminders to add suggestions/vote for song online.
- Prop list. My daughter participates in children's theater and I act as the prop mistress for the shows. I have to coordinate with a co-prop mistress, director, assistant director, set designer, costume designer, and producer. The worst is figuring out if anyone's found that pitchford for Scene 1. To keep track of what props are needed and who's gotten what, I've posted the prop list online. (So if anyone has an old lute that they can lend, let me know!)
- Bank of Mom. My husband and I encourage our kids to save by giving them a 10% interest rate -- monthly. Believe me, it's a huge incentive! I kept track of their savings in a spreadsheet, but was always getting asked how much money they had in their accounts at the most inconvenient times -- like at the store. Since it's a pretty straight forward spreadsheet, I can easily access it on my Blackberry.
These are just a few of the ways I've used Google Docs & Spreadsheets. And this is where the real opportunity is -- I created these originally online with the intention of sharing or accessing them online from the start.
So the big question is, how much of a threat is this to Microsoft and the new Office 2007 franchise? There are sharing features built into Office 2007, but they are still very much enterprise focused. And Google's products lack power -- I hate making tables in Google Docs and sorting in Google spreadsheets is poor. And don't even attempt to try making pivot tables! So Docs & Spreadsheets today is aimed at the consumer market with very basic document and spreadsheet needs.
But what about the long term? Google has historically made its mark by entering at the low end of the market and moving up -- and this will be no different. Enterprises won't throw out Office anytime soon, nor can I ever imagine giving up my Office tools either. But as I use Google Docs & Spreadsheets for more and more of my daily computing needs, I see it stealing away computing share from Microsoft.
And therein lies Google's strategy -- they don't want to replace Office today, they just want to be an alternative. And once they establish a beachhead, it will be a matter of time -- granted, years -- before they will have a product that can truly hold a candle to Office 2007. But that time will come and Microsoft had better get it's cross-collaborative game for Office in gear.