Smackdown: Office 365 vs. G Suite collaboration

Google’s G Suite has long mastered document collaboration. But now Microsoft Office has come on strong. Is it enough?

Smackdown: Office 365 vs. G Suite collaboration

Ever since I can remember, Silicon Valley has been enamored with the idea of group editing of documents. Very little good writing gets done that way, of course. It’s like the joke that a camel is a horse designed by committee. 

But collaboration around documents is immensely useful, so people can share ideas, suggest revisions, and provide other feedback to the document writer or editor to incorporate into the final result. Even simultaneous multiuser access has its place, such as for documents that track progress or schedules and documents that contain boilerplate information for group use.

Google made document collaboration a hallmark many years ago in its G Suite, then called Google Apps, letting people share documents via the web with other users for both collaborative editing and read-only distribution. That eliminated the problem inherent in both paper and email copies of each person needing to track which version is the most recent—and ensuring that they have it.

Microsoft has espoused online document collaboration for a long time, too, but its execution has been unsatisfying until recently. Tools like SharePoint were too complicated for most to set up, maintain, and use; SharePoint took the bureaucratic, overly rigid approaches of enterprise content management systems and inflicted them on everyday users. That’s why SharePoint in most organizations is as unused as the corporate intranet.

Companies, or at least their employees, have long faced a dilemma: Collaborate via G Suite and forgo rich productivity capabilities, or sacrifice easy collaboration for the productivity power of Microsoft Office. Many people ended up having it both ways: relying on Office to create documents and using G Suite informally to collaborate. However, this involved moving documents into private Google accounts and dealing with the headaches of document conversion—paying a high price in terms of both employee productivity and information security.

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