Summing up 2020 can often feel like an exercise in doomsday-terminology one-upmanship: “unprecedented”, “a year like no other”, “hellscape”, you get the picture! However, as much as 2020 has set a world record for unforeseen events, many things have remained the same this year. The sun keeps rising, LeBron keeps winning and Google keeps...creating? Well, sort of. Let's look at how effectively, or ineffectively, they're doing this with Google Workplace

Google’s recent branding change of GSuite into Google Workplace brought with it two new products. A Slack competitor aptly named Google Chat, and an Airtable competitor named Google Tables (they didn’t seem too interested in breaking any frontiers with that one). "Why is this news important to me?” I hear you ask. Great question. Let me answer it for you now.

First off, for those of you unfamiliar with Google Workplace, Airtable and products like it, I explored this new category in an article which you can read here. In it, I explained that while these tools typically take on the shape of a wiki or database, the most appropriate name for them is in fact “All-in-one workspace”. These tools often nest functionality of a word processor and spreadsheet all into a web of user-friendly database management. This allows for unprecedented interaction between simple words and data, as well as enabling the embedding of other software right into the “file”.

So far, these all-in-one’s have been largely relegated to hip startups looking to break free from the shackles of cumbersome cloud storage and file management. They are meant to reflect the agile nature of small teams that need a certain level of functionality but not so much that they should shell out money for several different applications (a database, office suite, project tracking, etc.)

However, the two biggest problems for adopting these tools so far has been the:

  1. Seamless integration with Office or Gsuite
  2. User comprehension of what exactly they are best for

Enter Google Tables

GSuite has been dominating the SME market as the leading office suite provider, and slowly edging into larger and larger organizations over the past few years. As people are getting more accustomed to collaborating together in a document, they are slowly realizing that GSuite was missing some core functionality—namely, chat and project management. The latter is what makes the Tables release so interesting. Rather than going for the confusing “all-in-one” explanation, Google is claiming that Tables is the ultimate project tracking tool for those using GSuite (now Google Workplace).

By positioning Tables as a way for teams to do simple things like fill out timesheets easily or manage a project timeline, they are providing an entry point for less tech-savvy customers into this new category. What makes it clear that this is not their ultimate ambition is this interesting opening quote from the use-cases video they released:

“Tables is like a spreadsheet and a database had a baby and gave it superpowers.” <cite>— Narrator from the Google Tables demo video.</cite>

Replace the word ‘Tables’ with ‘Airtable’ or Microsoft’s competitor ‘Lists’ and the rest of the sentence will fit like a glove. Yet Airtable’s website goes well beyond project management and calls itself a workspace and a platform:

The reason for this is likely that Google’s customer base simply isn’t ready to eschew their beloved office suite. For now, Google will fill the gap with an “all-in-one” but sell it as a project management platform until certain metrics are met and then—TA DA—they announce that Tables is so much more!

Now if we zoom out for a minute and consider what’s happening here we’ll see a few patterns:

  1. Market leaders in office software (Google and Microsoft) are taking notice of the all-in-one and trying to carve a space out for themselves
  2. Files are slowly becoming obsolete in lieu of more powerful and integrated “spaces”
  3. People are becoming more comfortable with collaboration and automation as the lines between numbers, words, and software are blurring

From these trends alone, rather than seeing some sort of beautiful congruence and interoperability, it is my view that we’re actually going to see even more fragmentation. As each of these platforms fights to make themselves integrate into as many tools as possible, what they will likely never do is become compatible with each other—at least not without some major data portability legislation like what the EU is hinting at. Since not all of them have the same priorities, they will each choose a selection of tools they will have support for, but it’s unlikely that all of them will support all other tools.

The Results are in for Google Workplace...

The biggest losers? As always, it’s me and you…the end-user. However, where gaps arise, so do opportunities. Just like Airtable, Notion, and now Tables rose up from the gaps between Word and Excel, so too will solutions rise to close the gaps between all-in-ones and all the tools they won’t work with. Automation software like Zapier,  Workato, or Pipefy, will likely become even more popular to cover some of it up. Then again, these tools suffer from exactly the same issues. They are not truly compatible with everything and there is always that “last mile” where a human needs to get involved to clean up any broken or missing data.

This is why we’re working so hard at Wrk to build a platform that eradicates edge cases. We want to make sure that we cover all the gaps—not necessarily by directly integrating with everything. Rather we’re leveraging some much-needed human capacity in proprietary Hybrid Automation technology. We are building a platform that is as powerful as existing automation services, yet as comprehensive as a human center of excellence.

By creating a single place where you can manage your robotic automation processes and human delegation, we’re able to truly fill in gaps between any combination of tools and services. You may not use Wrk to write out your file or create a Gantt chart, but you can plug in your Gantt chart and have Wrk break it up, tag it, and action it for you. Much like how the creators of the new all-in-ones are constantly surprised by the use cases their users come up with, our goal is to build a tool capable enough that we could never imagine all the possibilities of integrations without our customers.

And Now, We Wait

Only time will tell who will become the true market leader in the all-in-one category (and where Google Workplace will factor in). The most likely scenario is that each one will find a specific value proposition and target market and slowly transform to cater to that audience, making the different space less similar—and also less comprehensive. 

In our case, by focusing on the connective tissue between the tools, rather than the tools themselves, we’re hoping that we can create a platform that reduces the pains of interoperability once and for all. If we achieve this goal then we’ll have done something truly unprecedented. 

Until next time,


If you want to learn more about how Wrk’s Hybrid Automation can benefit teams today, visit our Why Wrk page!

Feature Image Photo Credit: You X Ventures