At times, we’re guilty of over-engineering project management. Whether it’s frameworks, artefacts or tools, when change initiatives get complicated, we throw in extra measures to feel under control.
Recently, I’ve read about teams using Google Workspace to run their projects in a simple, streamlined and low-cost way. In the process, these teams did away with their bloated project management tools, tired of the complexity, inefficiency and high monthly costs.
But can a suite of document, email and video tools, costing as little as £4.20 a month, actually help you deliver an entire project end-to-end? To find out, I looked at Google Workspace to see what’s on offer and give my view on whether it’s worth it.
What does Google Workspace offer?
Formerly called G Suite, Google Workspace is a cloud-based digital office suite offering features designed to enable productivity and deliver business workflows. The important thing to note is that Google Workplace is not marketed as a project management tool. Instead, it’s how teams use it to create project-friendly capabilities that have caught the eye of those in the profession.
So, how do they do it?
When you dig into Google Workspace, you quickly realise there’s much more functionality than initially meets the eye. By now, most people have heard of Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, etc, but what else is thrown in to help you deliver a project?
- Meet: Video conferencing to rival Teams, Zoom or Webex.
- Calendar: Schedule meetings with your project team and stakeholders.
- Chat: A great place to collaborate, set tasks and share files around your project.
- Jamboard: Your digital whiteboard for project workshops and problem-solving.
- Sheets: Google’s version of Excel – great for developing project plans and timelines.
- Slides: Google’s version of Powerpoint – ideal for building project presentations.
- Keep: Your digital project notebook for personal and/or team use.
- Sites: No-code landing page to help you share your project with the world.
- Forms: Easy-to-build forms and surveys, useful for project information gathering.
As you can see, there’s a lot here, with features across the board to help you run a project personally and as a wider team. Naturally, these different components all link together as part of the broader Google Workspace ecosystem, meaning information flows freely for everyone using the system.
How to use Google Workspace to run your projects
Now that we’ve seen the different components, it’s time to bring them to life. To show you how Google Workplace enables project teams to work effectively, here are some real-life examples at each phase of a linear project life cycle.
The concept phase
During project concept, you’re working towards creating and signing off a business case. To do this, you must engage stakeholders, elicit high-level requirements and create your initial project artefacts.
Google Workplace can tick all of these boxes. Mail, Meet and Chat help you bring the right stakeholders into the fold, with Drive and Sites forming the information backbone of your project.
A structured Forms survey is perfect for eliciting project requirements, with Sheets, Docs or Slides there to create your project artefacts.
The definition phase
Now you’re getting into the meat of your project, with the definition phase used to collaborate on a solution and create the artefacts that underpin your project management plan.
Here you’ll use many of the same features we saw in concept, with the increased use of Chat and Calendar to plan your team’s tasks. You’ll also use Jamboard to facilitate discovery conversations while taking notes as you go using Keep.
The deployment phase
As you move into deployment, you’ll be going overtime on Google Workspace’s collaboration tools, such as Chat and Meet, to keep the team moving forward smoothly.
Version control features in both Drive and Sites help you keep track of changes, with live updates ensuring your project team always work from the latest versions.
The transition phase
As you begin transitioning your project deliverables, you’ll focus heavily on communication and documentation, delivering training via Meet and bolstering your project’s Sites pages.
As the project closes down, you’ll move your training and knowledge Docs/Slides to new teams, use Forms to gather lessons learned and safely store all your essential testing and go-live documents in Drive.
As you can see, Google Workspace provides most of the capabilities teams need to deliver a project. As a bonus, given that Google Workspace is so universal, thousands of free, project management-specific templates are already online, allowing you to create project schedules, RAID logs and resource plans at the click of a button.
But James, where does Google Workspace fall short?
If you step back and take a bigger-picture view of your change portfolio, Google Workspace will leave you wanting more. Large organisations like using enterprise-grade project/portfolio management tools because of their ability to aggregate individual projects, identify trends and enable strategic decision-making.
Sure, you could create a range of portfolio-wide control documents (such as risk logs and resource plans) in Google Workspace, but collective intelligence and decision-making become a manual effort. And in a world where automation, machine learning and big data provide companies with a competitive edge, that loss in strategic productivity may be a game changer.
Google Workspace’s range of tools definitely doubles up as a very capable project management tool. Whether collaborating with the team, hosting knowledge or creating artefacts, there is something to tick every box.
If I were a project manager working in a startup or SME, I would 100% consider running my projects using Google Workspace. After all, whether it’s team efficiency, technical simplicity or cost, there are so many benefits to be had running your project through a single, joined-up ecosystem.
So, is Google Workspace worth your time as a project professional? You bet it is!
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