Google Workspace vs Microsoft 365.

I find it quite interesting to see the difference between organizations using Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to use both systems a lot, because for Mäd and Blue, my two companies, I use Google Workspace, and for my work at the UNDP it is all Microsoft 365.

I have also had numerous large corporate clients at Mäd that almost always use Microsoft products, and I think this is for two reasons.

Firstly, the Microsoft suite of office products is significantly older than the Google offerings. Many large companies have been around for decades, and so, of course, they started out using Microsoft products, and then with the significant migration to the cloud in the last five years, they went with the 365 suite.

Secondly, Microsoft has a large salesforce dedicated to pushing their varied product lines into enterprises, and they are very good at cross-selling. One could argue that Microsoft is a marketing company vs. a software company, as they spend more budget on sales and marketing than on developing and improving their product lines.

Google, on the other hand, is the opposite. They spend way more money on research and development than they do on marketing. And their products show it. The Google suite of Workspace products is light years ahead of Microsoft regarding features and usability.

But, for better or for worse, Google doesn’t have the same kind of enterprise salesforce, so they haven’t been able to push their products as aggressively into the corporate world.

Having said that, I think the tide is turning, and we are seeing more companies moving to Google Workspace. The reason is simple – it just works better. The collaboration features are better, the email is better, the search is better, and the overall experience is more pleasant.

Most startups and technology companies that I know tend to use the Google Workspace products, and this is because the tools that they offer are objectively better — the only real key missing piece is a chat platform from Google (they have had many during the last few years). And so, many companies tend to use Google Workplace and then Slack for their real-time communications.

The issue I have with the Microsoft 365 suite is that the user experience is rather clunky. This might not appear to be a big deal, but when you think that these tools are some of the ones that knowledge workers will spend most of their day on, even minor annoyances can start to become big issues. The smoothness of the animations, the loading states, and the speed at which clicks are registered all adds up.

One of the worst things about the Microsoft 365 suite is quite counterintuitive. Google Workspace only offers online tools for documents and spreadsheets, so you would think it is an advantage that Microsoft offers native Windows and Mac applications to do offline work on Word and Excel.

But, and this is a big one, this creates many problems because it encourages individuals to work on their versions of files offline, instead of using shared collaborative files. These offline files then get emailed around the organization with names such as “Important statistic v28 (April 22 2022)”, and nobody can find the right file, but it is buried in an email thread somewhere. Then, eventually, you find the right file, mark it up with your offline comments, and then email it back.

This workflow is awful for productivity and discoverability, and I believe can have a major impact on how much an organization can achieve in the course of a given year.

So, to summarize, I think Google Workspace is a much better suite of tools than Microsoft 365 because the user experience is better and the overall design is better. The only thing missing is a good chat platform from Google. But, even without that, I think we are starting to see more and more companies making the switch to Google.

I have never seen that with an organization that uses Google Workspace because it really wouldn’t make sense. You only have the online editing capabilities, which encourages you to share a link that others can use to link or edit the file in question, versus emailing an exported version.

This means that there is one file version where all comments and edits can be seen, and you can roll back to any previous version at will. Microsoft has this, but unfortunately, because it has the offline editing option as well, this creates the opportunity for it to be used incorrectly.

One thing I like about the Microsoft 365 suite is that the calendar has a function to send meeting invites at a time when everyone is available because you can see each person’s availability in the scheduling assistant. Google Workspace does not have this, and it does mean a bit more ping-pong to find the right time to book a meeting.

What is interesting is how the choice of tools have a significant effect on how we work both as individuals and as teams. In some cases, I wonder if this fundamental choice of which core productivity layer to use in an organization has major strategic impact on whether the organization achieves the goals that it sets for itself.

One argument is that in large organizations that use Microsoft 365, individual productivity is less important than in startups. Organizations with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of employees can sustain themselves and even grow if they have many people coasting and not doing much. At the same time, a startup is a much more punishing environment because the resources are limited.

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