Achieving a Seamless Process Flow with Google Apps

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Posted: 03/28/2017

G Suite (the new name for Google Apps) just passed over 3 million paying customers. Is your organization one of them?

With Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, Hangouts, and much more, G Suite is becoming too good to pass up, especially when the price point is often below what you pay for similar services with Office 365. G Suite also continues to add enterprise options and reduce cloud security concerns to lure more organizations away from Microsoft.

But what about creating automated processes? Microsoft offers SharePoint, a very clunky way to create workflows and connect applications. Does G Suite offer an out-of-the-box tool to create automated processes with the same ease and design that Gmail brought to email?

Similar to Office 365, the short answer is no; neither suite offers a simple solution for creating automated processes. But there are a few features inside G Suite that can be used to create workflows and automation if you know about them. If your organization is considering a move, or if you work with clients that have committed to G Suite, it’s worth your time to learn about these options.

Achieving a Seamless Process Flow with Google Apps

Data Capture Using Google Forms

Google Forms is a highly useful tool for capturing data and it doesn’t have comparison inside Office 365. Google Forms allows you to collect validated data from an impressive amount of field styles. The application is intuitive even as you create forms as it suggests field types based on how you phrase your question. For example, if you start typing, “How would you rank the following…” Google Forms will automatically bring up a matrix to allow for ranking multiple items.

By using forms internally, you can also automatically collect the email address of registered G Suite users as they fill out a form. Power users of Google Forms can create multi-stage forms where the user is directed to a different section of the form depending on their answers to different fields.

The key feature when considering processes in Google Forms is that it will automatically take responses and link them to a Google Sheet. This not only eliminates the need for a paper form to start a process, it also goes the next step of collecting all the data in a sheet that can then be organized and filtered. No shortcodes or plugins are required for this functionality.

Google Forms can be a great initial tool in an overall process, but its limitations end after the data is on the sheet. Once it is on the sheet, it must be manually moved around or transferred to other sheets. The sheet only acts as a collection point for all the form responses and doesn’t do anything to process the data.

To go beyond that you’ll need to use something else.

Let Your Apps Talk Using Apps Script

Apps Script is a very handy tool to pass data and actions between Google Apps. An Apps Script is a little snippet of Javascript code that allow the apps to communicate together or create custom functions within apps. With Google Apps Script, you can automatically send an email based on data in a spreadsheet, create a team vacation calendar, and deliver personalized emails based on a form submission.

Google Apps Script is incredibly helpful in creating a more customized and powerful experience for G Suite users, and it also gives a good solution to linking apps together. There are nearly infinite possibilities of how to use Apps Scripts within the G Suite ecosystem.

While Apps Script gives some native workflow functionality, it’s more like stringing wire from one building to another to make connections. Apps Script can work brilliantly, but relying on it for an automated process is asking for trouble down the line.

For starters, you can’t manage all of your scripts in the same place; they exist in different corners around all your apps. So, they are very difficult to manage across a large organization. Access to the different scripts can be a problem if you are sharing process management duties with other people, and coordinating between Apps Scripts can be almost as big of a nightmare as SharePoint.

Scripts also need to be individually set and edited for any change in a process. So, if one step changes, it is a lot of effort to find the script that needs updated, change the right set of code, and test it. This is very tedious work and requires a lot of patience and maintenance on the part of those managing the processes.

Outside Help

Thankfully, there are some great options when it comes to finding a third-party workflow tool for Google Apps. For starters, you’ll want to find something that feels like a G Suite app in design and functionality. Google has set a standard when it comes to user-interface and user-experience and G Suite users won’t have a lot of patience for an application that is designed poorly or cumbersome to use. Within G Suite, you can manage your users directly from an Admin panel, and a good process tool will sync all of these users automatically.

One reason many organizations turn to G Suite is because of its reliance on the cloud. So, on-premise workflow solutions aren’t your best option. In fact, a workflow tool that takes advantage of Google Drive’s storage capabilities and can integrate users with their files quickly is a huge advantage.

Highly integrated workflow tools can also include built-in Gmail quick actions on email notifications so that approvers can keep a process moving from the safety of their inbox. Other smart actions like automatically adding Calendar events, creating Google Drive folders, and adding information to Google Sheets can also be done.

Maximum Flow

With so many organizations turning to Google for their basic productivity stack, process experts need to have good solutions on hand. While G Suite doesn’t offer a native BPM tool, automated processes can be created using Apps Script, but are best handled by a tool that works well with Google Apps.

Process experts and consultants need to be selective in pairing a BPM tool with a company already heavily invested in G Suite. Integrations are key, and a reliable cloud-based vendor with built-in integrations will be a quick favorite. Users will expect a seamless experience across all of the apps they use, but won’t be willing to back down from a high-quality and feature-rich BPM tool. G Suite users are used to experiencing world-class functionality for a very small price.

As G Suite continues to offer more and more enterprise options, process consultants with large companies will see more requests to find a tool that can bring the power of BPM into G Suite. Until Google unveils a native BPM app into their productivity stack (which is unlikely to happen), it is important for process consultants to educate themselves on all the options available to G Suite customers when it comes to creating seamless automated processes.

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Posted: 03/28/2017

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