G-Suite is a great package of office applications option for small teams. It is cheap, user friendly, and pretty familiar to a lot of users (so less training time). But a tool is only as good as the hand that holds it. Here are a few tips for getting the most out G-Suite for your organization.
Share (Almost) Everything
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend about 20 HOURS per week hunting for internal information. 🙀 The minimum wage for a salaried employee comes out to $455 per week. That means an office of 5 burns away about $12,000 per year in labor capital. (If 20 hours seems a bit high to you, let’s make it 10, in which case you are only losing $6,000 per year. There. Feel better?) Google Drive is indexible. It uses shared drives and folders to store information. Make it a rule at your company that pretty much any frick’n document anyone creates has to be stored in a shared folder. Every organization needs to be able to pass the rock-on-the-head test. If a rock falls onto somebody’s head, can the work continue? (Feel sad, but your mission matters.)
Organize Your Folders
Remember filing cabinets? Imagine if everyone in the office had a different filing system. Your folders on Google Drive should be no different. Information that people cannot find is basically no information at all. You need to have a system for organizing folders and subfolders. Think about what works best for your organization in terms of your yearly cycles, longitudinal tracking, client accounts, projects, etc. For example, a school might have a folder called “2020-21,” and within it, “Fall 2020,” “Spring 2021,” and “Summer 2021,” followed by appropriate classes, sections, etc. The system will vary by organization, but it needs to be predictable and consistent.
Follow Naming Rules
I once spent 30 minutes in a meeting where a team was looking for a reference document from the previous year’s company-wide meeting. Finally, one of them found it: “Comp Mtg-19.” Obviously! 🙄
There should always be more than one way to find what you are looking for. Assume someone will get the filing system wrong (or just not care), in which case you should have standard naming rules for documents. Around here, a Statement of Work document for Operation Cookie Shame for Some Company would be: SomeCompany-SOW-CookieShame-0.1. You can use abbreviations, just as long as people know what they are.
Speaking of information redundancy, you can make your files even more searchable by including brief descriptions of your documents in the information pane. Just right click on the file, and select “View Details” near the bottom. In our opinion, this is generally a bit of overkill, but every group is different, and some might find it helpful. You could also use the description section for tags, such as for the department or fiscal year. Again, just be consistent.
Download Drive for Desktop
Drafting docs in Google Docs is a great way to be collaborative and productive, but maybe you want the final version to have a bit more polish. So you finish it off in Word. But then you have the problem of the final version not being available to anyone else. You could simply drop that Word file into the appropriately organized Google Drive folder, but it is unlikely you will remember to do that every time you make a change. Fortunately, Google has some desktop apps you can use to more or less seamlessly keep your Word files backed up to the cloud and always accessible to those who need them.
Keep in mind that this will affect your storage quotas.
The cloud is great, but what does your team do when North Korea hits you with a ransomware attack? Being a small team, the more likely scenario is that your Comcast internet goes out, but the principle is the same. You want to be able to keep working. When you work in Google Apps, you can set files to be accessible offline. That way you and your team can remain productive while you wait for Comcast to promptly and professionally handle your internet outage, as they always do.
Disclaimer: We are not suggesting that North Korea would ever take aggressive action against any company, especially small consulting firms.
Rules are only helpful if people will follow them. Some people will get it wrong, and some people just won’t care. For that, you need a team member acting as the vicar of the boss (vested with the boss’s authority) to make sure that everyone follows the gosh darn rules! The ideal would be a charming, borderline obsessive-compulsive office manager who can send gentle emails like, “Hey Kim! I noticed that you named the meeting agenda doc ‘Comp Mtg 19.’ I went ahead and changed it for you to ‘Internal-CompanyMeeting-Jul2019’ so that people could find it easier.” Absent such an individual, anyone named “Flo” or “Roz” will probably do.