We may have seen the demise of Google Wave as we knew it but the good news is that it’s main feature of simultaneous collaboration has now been integrated into the Google Docs feature set. Which means that when you share a document with another Google Docs user/s it means they too can edit your document simultaneously in real time.
So the first question is, is this a gimmick or a real productivity feature? Think about it, currently your only mechanism of co-authoring documents is via a linear sequential model whereby person A makes individual edits and then forwards to person B for editing who either forwards it back to Person A again or onto person C.
For example, imagine editing a comprehensive document such as a policy, functional specification etc. Simultaneous editing means that those members writing individual modules to the functional spec can contribute at the same time, the legal team can also make changes and keep abreast of things too. None of this clumsy check-in and check-out stuff--this is the future of collaborative document editing!
Now, instead of having various copies and versions of the document flying around the organisation you have just one copy, with all of it’s revisions intact with the ability to roll back to any revision in the history of the document. Also and this is the killer feature of the real time collaboration frame work of Google Docs is that you have all of the editors and reviewers notes intact which provides a reference as to why edits or changes were made and even why decisions were made about the content of that document. Imagine if you will that you are putting together a policy document and collaborating across various depts inc. IT, Legal, Media etc. Now you have a full history of the development of that document--That’s powerful!! That’s Knowledge management. Staff may come and go but any new staff can get a full picture of the development of that policy.
And that’s what I really like about Google’s approach to it’s application suite. It hasn’t focussed on the bling side of things such as the Office ribbon strip/bar or whatever it’s called which far from being really useful to users was really about leveraging its marketshare by cornering the IP on a new UI. No, instead Google focuses on killer productivity features that often lie under the hood so to speak and to me, that’s what makes them a game changer on the personal and team productivity front.
So let me explain how it works. Recently my wife was applying for a new position and as a new Australian still coming to grips with the finer points of the English language and the Australian way of doing things I said I might be able to assist her. As we are both users of Google Apps I thought let’s see how this works in real life. I logged into Google docs and made a search for an appropriate resume template. Found a good one and immediately set to work on adjusting it to what I thought reflected my wife’s knowledge skills and experience. Then after I had banged some rough shape into it I then shared the document with my better half, whom whilst I was working on one section of the document began to make changes to the other section of the document --simultaneously as I watched.
Note: Live editing of Word docs is available on Office 365 but only on the E3 account at $240 US per year.