Google Workspace sees Essentials Starter as a way to 'democratize' collaboration

Google’s new no-cost collaboration option aims to move employees away from legacy technology so they can better embrace the world of hybrid work.

The launch last week of Google Workspace Essentials Starter Edition aims to offer business users a no-cost solution designed to enhance teamwork and innovation with secure-by-design collaboration.

Google said Essentials Starter was designed to help employees and their teams break down silos and work together in new ways, even if their organization relies on legacy productivity tools that weren’t built for the hybrid era of work.

In a recent survey the company commissioned to study global hybrid work, Google found that 75% of respondents believe that hybrid or flexible work will be a standard practice within their organizations in the next three years, said Kelly Waldher, vice president of marketing for Google Workspace.

That makes it crucial for organizations to adopt the right tools to keep people connected and collaborative from anywhere, whether they’re working from home, the office, or somewhere else.

“The future is flexible, and it’s clear people need access to tools they like, and that drive impact and fuel collaboration from anywhere, across any device,” Waldher said. “...Now that organizations are more permanently adopting hybrid and remote models, we’ve been focused on building secure solutions that address the challenges of this new way of working,”

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Collapse the boundaries between people, places, and time zones

Users who want to try Essentials Starter don't need for a new email address, file conversions, new plug-ins, or desktop software. Essentials Starter works within organizations’ existing environments, with a cloud-first design that provides encrypted and secure access to files to keep data safe and user information private.

Users can sign up with a work email address to get an Essentials Starter account (there’s no credit card required or limited trial period). Then they can invite teammates to collaborate using Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Chat, Drive, and Meet; they can store, share, and collaborate on more than 100 file types, including Microsoft Office, without the need for file conversions.

According to a Google support page about the plan, teams are limited to 25 people, although an unlimited number of teams in an organization can sign up. Essentials Starter will roll out over a multiple-week period and may not be available in some regions until mid-February.

Amid the on-going shift to hybrid and remote work, Google has been optimizing its products and adding new features, Waldher said, with a focus on maintaining collaboration equity, determining employee work location, and mitigating background noise and distractions.

“...It’s also important that people have a say over what tools they use at work, especially as many organizations are more permanently adopting hybrid and remote models,” she said.

On potential issue for Workspace Essentials Starter is the lack of oversight, since it doesn’t require or allow for the level of administrative control that most IT departments are used to having over internal software platforms. That could raise questions around shadow IT and issues related to data governance and security.

“There’s a grassroots movement happening at the employee level that’s enabling user choice and fuelling employee empowerment,” Waldher said. “Hybrid and remote work have exposed all of the tools, people know how they want to work, and what tools they want to use. We wanted to give people a choice in how they connect and collaborate at work, even if their organization uses a legacy solution.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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