This post provides key considerations when choosing an email and collaboration service provider for your architecture, engineering or construction firm. Microsoft and Google are the two most popular options. We breakdown the key areas to consider before making this important decision.
Naming confusion abounds
Google and Microsoft have recently renamed their solutions, from GSuite and Office365 respectively. Lets kick off with a brief explanation of the two offerings:
Google Workspace includes all productivity apps most of us are familiar with — Gmail, Google Meet, Calendar, Docs, Drive, Slides, Sheets, and more. It has created significant integrations between these services – users in a chat room can collaborate on a document or “Meet” within a Google Sheet, Doc, and Slides.
Microsoft 365 is the new name for Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription service. It includes everything Office 365 included—and depending on the package you select can include access to familiar desktop apps like Word and PowerPoint for your employees.
Selecting one of these providers can be tantamount to a religious debate, here are some elements to factor into your decision:
Your current IT landscape
Understanding your current landscape will play an important role in your choice. If you have existing on-premise investments, it is important to know what license entitlements you can carry forward to the cloud.
It is common to find engineering, architecture and construction firms running applications “under the desk” or have home grown solutions built in Microsoft Accesss or Filemaker to support business processes. While this can seem tangential to your email provider choice – how these solutions integrate is important. Typical rule we have seen is if you have on-premise systems the preference is to stick to Microsoft solution.
How you support your current IT environment is also worth considering. Larger firms typically outsource to a managed service provider (MSP) which can layer in addition services (like cyber security, BI reporting etc). If you are already licensing other products there could be intelligent ways to optimise your existing contract.
Change management can be difficult, if you have senior management that have a preference, be sure to include this in your assessment. Changing habits is difficult, we often see that employees migrate to the preferred senior leadership communication tool.
The extent that a technology can improve productivity is often dependent on factors that do not necessarily relate to the technology itself.
What your clients and partners use
While email is the core component of these suites, meetings and conference calling is also an important capability of these suites. Matching your IT profile with the bulk of your partners will smooth interactions. Most larger corporate customers typically have a Microsoft solution and ion our experience the bulk of meetings are conducted via Microsoft Teams.
Another common challenge we see meetings requests being received in Gmail with the .ics format (that is sent from someone using Outlook).
Volume of emails and document sharing
Email is still dominates communication on AEC projects. How large files and emails are shared is worth considering. It is common to use file sharing solutions (Dropbox etc) or industry specific ones to manage and control communications. Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Workspace’s GDrive while conceptually similar have different models of sharing and controlling access externally.
Review your current storage approach and estimate volumes by looking at your existing repositories.
Security and compliance
Cyber security (pre-dominantly malware) is something that needs to be considered for all your employees and partners. Which devices you manage – and how you allow them to connect to your company infrastructure is an important consideration.
How do you handle compliance or claims against your project is important – we often implement 3rd party mail indexing solutions so that information for all projects can be easily accessed by senior management.
Not a simple choice
Providing a definite answer is hard, in our experience the bulk of our clients have implemented the Microsoft 365 solution – Microsoft Teams is becoming ubiquitous and used in a number of parastatals and government departments.
Once you have made the choice, build up internal capacity or engage with a MSP to get the most out of the solution and extend it into the other construction technology applications to drive up efficiency.