Cardinal Group: How G Suite helps us foster a more collaborative culture

Editor’s note: Today’s post is written by Cara Athmann, VP of IT and Data at Cardinal Group, a Colorado-based property management, investment, and consulting company. Cardinal Group recently deployed Google Drive and G Suite to build a more collaborative and productive working environment for their more than 1,000 team members.

At Cardinal Group, we have four distinct lines of business, each of which are critical to our overall company performance: real estate investment, third-party property management, construction management, and marketing. As the VP of IT and Data, one of my top priorities is giving each of our team members across these teams the tools they need to be productive, while also ensuring all of our company’s data is safe, secure, and properly managed. And with a variety of different business units, it’s critical that our team members are able to collaborate effectively across teams. We rely heavily on Google Drive and G Suite to help us accomplish these goals.

Prior to partnering with Google, we relied on a legacy content storage and management solution. Our team members found this tool cumbersome and unintuitive—finding the right file at the right time was very difficult, and it was challenging to collaborate and share content effectively across the various teams within our company. We also struggled with document ownership and version control. One team would start working on a contract, and then share it with a collaborator over email, who would then share it with a third collaborator, and so on. It was never clear which version of the document was the most up to date, who owned it, and who should be working on it. Our team members relied on these tools every day to get their jobs done, and the subpar experience was impacting productivity and morale. 

Moving toward a more collaborative company culture

We began to explore various solutions to these problems, and quickly realized that Google’s approach to productivity was most closely aligned with Cardinal Group’s desire to build a more collaborative and innovative culture. We worked closely with Cloudbakers, a Google partner, to migrate all of our existing content and data to Drive. And most of our team members were already familiar with Drive and found it very intuitive and easy to use, so change management was minimal and we were quickly up and running. 

With Drive, it’s easy for our team members to quickly find and access the files they need at that moment, which saves them valuable time and increases productivity across our teams. Live, real-time collaboration across Drive and our other G Suite apps is a huge selling point for us. For example, if we’re building a marketing plan, our onsite, marketing, and operations teams can all work simultaneously on the same plan, which saves us a ton of time and also eliminates version control and ownership issues. We’re also moving towards a “work from anywhere” model, and Drive is a huge enabler of this transition, with team members able to easily access and collaborate on files, whether they’re working in our main office, at home, or at a customer’s community. 

Fewer support tickets lets IT spend time on more impactful projects

Since we started working with Google a few years ago, our company has grown significantly, from 800 to 1,400 team members. During this tremendous growth, the number of productivity-related support tickets we see has remained flat; this translates to a 43% decline in the number of support tickets per team member. As a result, our team members can spend more time being productive and my IT team can focus less on resolving support tickets and more on creating business value for Cardinal Group and our team members. 

Moving to Google Drive and G Suite has been a big part of our journey towards being a more collaborative and innovative company. We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership with Google and we’re excited to see what’s next!

5 ways your team can start collaborating with Google Drive

Google Drive helps teams move faster with collaboration tools like Docs, Sheets, and Slides—all on a secure, cloud-based platform that makes it easy for you to share, store, and access files. And it’s easy to get started! Here are five things you and your team can do today to begin collaborating effectively in the cloud with Drive:

1. Upload content to get started

Getting started with Drive is easy. Simply click the “New” button to upload files (over 100 file types are supported, including Office files and PDFs) or folders, or just drag and drop files directly into Drive. Drive for Desktop, which operates just like a regular desktop folder, makes it simple to manage your Drive files and folders alongside the rest of the content on your device. Any updates you make are automatically synced in the cloud and across all of your devices.

To learn more about how Drive can help your team collaborate more effectively, take a look at our website. And when you're ready to get started, sign up for a free trial.

2. Create a shared drive for your team

Drive has two different spaces for files: My Drive, for personal files owned by you, and shared drives, for files and folders that your team is collaborating on and accessing frequently. Shared drives are owned at the team level and every member of the team automatically has access to any files in the shared drive. My Drive and shared drives give you the flexibility to control where files live and how they’re accessed, based on your needs.

To learn more about how Drive can help your team collaborate more effectively, take a look at our website. And when you're ready to get started, sign up for a free trial.

3. Collaborate in real time with your team

Drive enables you to easily collaborate with team members in real time. Add a comment to any file type, including PDFs and image files, and tag team members into your comment to assign a task or action item. Drive sends email notifications that summarize activity and comments on your files, and you can respond to these items directly in the email, without the need to switch between apps. With tagging, commenting, and action items, Drive takes your collaboration to the next level.

To learn more about how Drive can help your team collaborate more effectively, take a look at our website. And when you're ready to get started, sign up for a free trial.

4. Work more effectively with existing Microsoft Office files

Did you know that Drive supports 100+ different file types, including Microsoft Office files? For example, you can store and comment on Microsoft Word files directly in Drive, and you can edit and collaborate in Office files without converting formats. Drive also features real-time presence for Office files, enabling multiple users to work on the same file without worrying about version control issues. With support for over 100 different file types, Drive empowers you to collaborate effectively with others, no matter the file format.

To learn more about how Drive can help your team collaborate more effectively, take a look at our website. And when you're ready to get started, sign up for a free trial.

5. Keep your team on the same page and avoid version conflicts

With Drive, version control isn’t a problem. Each file has a rich version history, and granular changes are recorded and color-coded by person, so it’s easy to see who made what changes and when. You can see minute-by-minute versions of each file, and you can always copy content from older versions over to the current file, or even restore an older file completely if needed, exactly as it was. All of your collaborators can work in the same document, at the same time, and create a single source of truth for your team.

To learn more about how Drive can help your team collaborate more effectively, take a look at our website. And when you're ready to get started, sign up for a free trial.

As you can see, it’s easy to get your team up and running with Google Drive. To learn more, take a look at our video playlist on YouTube, and when you’re ready to start using Drive with your team, sign up for a free trial of Drive Enterprise.

How Mynd uses G Suite to manage a flurry of acquisitions

Editor’s note:Today’s post is by Gordon Thomas, IT Architect for Mynd Property Management, based in Oakland, California and operating in 16 U.S. markets. Mynd uses G Suite Enterprise to manage acquisitions and keep its staff of 400 workers productive.

In the past six months, Mynd Property Management has doubled in size—in part by hiring, but also through acquisitions that help build our business. It’s an exciting time to be at Mynd—every week brings new people who need to be set up with email and network access, which can also be a bit hectic. To speed onboarding, we use G Suite Enterprise to get our new people working as soon as they walk through the door.

Streamlined onboarding
We started using G Suite when we launched the business because it fit our overall approach to technology—that is, deploying cloud tools that are flexible for our employees and easy for IT to manage. Good thing we picked G Suite, because given the pace of our acquisitions—13 at last count—we have our hands full with combining business systems and keeping people productive. Onboarding is literally 80 percent of our daily work! 

Some people on our team don’t have technical backgrounds, so we are careful to only introduce new software tools once people are prepared to use them. With G Suite, people need very little ramp-up time because it is an intuitive, integrated solution. In one of our in-person training sessions, we showed an accountant how to open up a Microsoft Excel file in Google Sheets, and he started working on it right away, without much help.

We’re a remote-first company, so working in the cloud is second nature to us. About 75 percent of our total workforce are remote full-timers. G Suite tools are optimized for mobile, so they’re especially useful for the 50 full-time property managers who work solely on mobile devices in the field. 

Better meetings, easier file storage
In Mynd’s early days, we used G Suite Basic, but upgraded to G Suite Enterprise after Google Cloud Premier Partner Suitebriar showed us the benefits of using tools like Hangouts Meet and shared drives in Google Drive. They’ve really helped us scale the business, so we can stay productive even in the midst of acquisitions—and of course, onboard people more quickly. 

Many G Suite tools have become things we can’t live without. Our executives got first crack at using Hangouts Meet Hardware, and loved it so much—especially the recording feature—that now all of our conference rooms have it. 

Google Drive got the same love from everyone. It’s all we need for file sharing and storage, which means we don’t have to pay for another storage solution. Drive also helps with onboarding; as soon we assign an employee a Google Account, she or he automatically gets access to the shared drives (in Drive) that they need to do their jobs. 

Customizing the tech stack
As much as we love G Suite, we still like to use some non-G Suite tools. It helps that we can tailor G Suite to fit in our technology stack any way we want. We’d never get that control and customization from other vendors in the productivity space.

For example, we love using Slack for internal chat and messaging, so we turned off Hangouts Chat. We like that we can control these channels, and that G Suite is not an all-or-nothing product. That means we’re not afraid to try out new G Suite features, since we can roll them back if they’re not right for us. 

The result of our day-to-day G Suite use is that we don’t suffer much down time even during acquisitions. We can pull relevant data from users’ old systems and easily automate user creation from start to finish. When we merge with companies that already use G Suite, we can move their data over to the business in less than a week.

When we recently moved over 80 new employees and 50 different web domains to G Suite, it was much less challenging than we expected. Since we don’t plan to slow down on acquisitions, we breathe easier knowing that G Suite keeps everyone working in the middle of so much change.

Ultimate guide: use these free G Suite resources

Business gets busier this time of year, which means many of you are smack in the middle of 12-hour days. Whether ramping up for the year’s biggest sales, hiring seasonal employees, or simply doing business as usual, we all could use a little help. Toward that end, here are our gifts to you: several helpful (and free!) G Suite resources to help you stay focused and productive despite the year-end craze. 

To help you get started…

  • Set up G Suite in record time. It’s easy to set up G Suite for your small business with help from G Suite’s Quick Start Guide. Use this self-serve guide to learn how to take care of common tasks on your own, like adding new email accounts, managing shared Google Drive accounts, or turning G Suite features on or off for your employees. Note: Make sure to log into your G Suite admin account when you visit this page—when you do so, you’ll see links that take you to the correct pages in the Admin console so you can complete tasks faster.

  • Get new users up and running quickly. Onboarding new workers? Want to help employees sharpen their G Suite skills? Send them to the G Suite Learning Centerfor easy-to-follow tutorials, like setting up Gmail and Google Calendar. 

Pro tip: organize your inbox when you first set up G Suite. It’s a good idea to make sure you organize your email when you first start using G Suite. It can help you establish healthy work habits and track down information quicker later on. Check out these must-read Gmail tips to achieve “Inbox Zero” (or at least get close to it).

To help you brush up on skills…

  • Use free training resources. We already mentioned our Learning Center, which houses many useful product tidbits. If you need help with something more specific in G Suite, you can also check out the Help Center or visit the G Suite YouTube channel for ongoing tips and tricks. For example, this is a huge timesaver: Did you know that if you type “” into a Chrome browser URL box, you instantly open up a blank Google Doc? Same goes for “” and “”

  • Learn best practices from other G Suite-rs. Don’t struggle alone with a challenge or question about using G Suite. Visit the G Suite Administrator Help Community and type your question into the search box to find posts from business owners like you who’ve asked similar questions. Or, post your own question to the community to get answers and help out others. 

  • Take your skills to the next level.The G Suite certification is an exam you can take to test your aptitude in G Suite productivity tools, like Gmail, Drive, Docs and more. The exam costs $75 and takes about two hours to complete; it’s a great addition to a resume. Learn more.

Pro tip: Before you take the G Suite certification, practice your skills by participating in our Qwiklab, taking this Coursera course, or trying your hand at lessons in applied digital skills.

To help you stay in the know…

  • Double-check that you are using the right edition. As your business grows, so might your collaboration needs. It’s always a good idea to check in on your subscription to make sure you’re making the most of your G Suite account. Learn specifics about pricing plans, ask questions about billing, or upgrade to the latest and greatest on our website.

  • Keep up with new features. Check our website to stay posted on product or feature releases in G Suite so that you’re organization is operating with the most up-to-date tools.

  • Get inspired by others. Whether retail, manufacturing, healthcare or another industry, G Suite is helping many different businesses collaborate and scale efficiently. See how companies are doing big things, like Nubile Skin, or read more stories on our website.

  • Follow G Suite on social. Check out G Suite on Twitter (@gsuite), Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest news, hacks, and tips.

Pro tip: watch out for “Tuesday Tips” on Twitter. Each Tuesday, we release must-know G Suite tips on Twitter. Test your skills each week and wow your colleagues.

Now that you’re on your way to becoming a G Suite whiz, it’s time to do something nice for yourself: Open up Gmail, create an event, call it “R&R,” and give yourself a break. You deserve it.

Made in the shade: How Nubian Skin makes more inclusive fashion with G Suite

“Nude” comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. But for Ade Hassan, finding undergarments to match her skin tone took more effort than necessary. Born in the U.K. to Nigerian parents, Hassan searched unsuccessfully for underwear and swimwear that matched her skin—a problem that continued to frustrate her through college and into her professional life. 

“My nude isn’t the nude I see in shops,” Hassan says. 

Like many other black entrepreneurs, she created her own solution. Hassan founded Nubian Skin, a company that sells lingerie, hosiery, and swimwear for women of color. With shades like “cafe au lait” and “berry,” Nubian Skin products reflect diverse skin tones and are sold in shops located in the U.K., Nigeria and the U.S., as well as online. Beyoncé and her dancers even asked Nubian Skin to outfit them for their  2017 “Formation” tour. 

Since nearly the beginning, Hassan has used G Suite to keep her business humming. From managing meetings with retailers and manufacturers, to coordinating publicity efforts with fashion press, to keeping track of retail invoices, G Suite has helped Hassan scale her business as quickly as people have demanded her products. “There are so many pitfalls and so many things that are hard about business,” Hassan says. “It’s really amazing to have something like G Suite that is easy and intuitive.”

Nubian Skin’s fashion fame arrived seemingly overnight. When Hassan posted the company’s first campaign images, its Instagram followers jumped from 50 people to more than 20,000 in just a few weeks. “People called asking, ‘Can we have the contact for the press department?,” says Hassan. “But at the time, it was just me.” To easily handle media requests, she set up a [email protected] email address through the G Suite Admin console. And because she had used Gmail for several months before launching the company, using the business version of Gmail came naturally.

“Having that address gave the business an air of professionalism, which we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Hassan says. “Usually you need a whole IT department to set up new emails and passwords, but the Admin console removes the hassle of that process.”

Because Nubian Skin employees aren’t always in the showroom together, they need to be able to access business documents—like model photos and customer invoices—from anywhere. To help, Hassan securely stores business documents in Google Drive (which can be accessed on mobile, too) and works collaboratively with her finance team to process orders using Google Sheets. “Everyone has access to the spreadsheet so we can fill in what we need at any given point,” says Hassan. “This way, nothing slips through the cracks.” And when she needs to connect with colleagues quickly or face-to-face, she uses Hangouts Chat or Hangouts Meet. Chat makes it so employees are only a message away, and Meet helps her connect with people as if they’re in person at the office.

Five years after launching Nubian Skin, Hassan is a recognized entrepreneur who’s influenced other retailers to create more inclusive designs. “Even if you’re small, you want people to see you as a professional business,” Hassan says. “If you’re still growing, you need the building blocks to get you where you want to be. I can’t imagine working without G Suite.”

Want to keep your employees productive? Pay attention to shadow IT clues

Employees use tools at their disposal to get work done, but if these tools (often legacy) hamper collaboration or are inflexible, they’ll turn to less secure options for the sake of convenience. According to Gartner, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will come from Shadow IT usage by 2020. 

And this problem is not unknown. Eighty-three percent of IT professionals reported that employees stored company data in unsanctioned cloud services, a challenge especially apparent with file sync and share tools. When people work around their legacy systems to use tools like Google Drive, it’s often because they find their current systems to be clunky or that they can’t collaborate with others as easily. They’re unable to do three key things in legacy file sync and share systems (like Microsoft SharePoint):

  1. Unable to work on their phones. By now, people expect to be able to work on the go—and this means not just opening an attachment, but actually making edits to and comments on work. It gives them freedom to work when it’s convenient for them and to help teammates anytime. 
  2. Unable to create workspaces independently and easily. This might sound counterintuitive, but if an employee needs to contact IT to have a new project folder made on a drive, the bar is too high. Employees need to be able to quickly, and independently, create documents that can be shared simply because of the changing nature of collaboration. Work happens ad-hoc, on the go (like we mentioned above), and with people inside and outside of your organization. If someone has to contact IT to create a new folder, they’re more likely to neglect the request or use a different tool altogether to get started. 
  3. Unable to make the data work for them. Traditional file storage is just that, storage. Like an attic, we store things in these systems, but at some point stuff gets stale and it’s hard to tell what we should keep or pitch. People need their storage systems to not only house their data, but to help them categorize and find information quicker so that they can make this data work better for them.

The way I see it, you have two choices when it comes to making a decision on file sync and share systems:

Option 1: Continue to let your employees work on unsanctioned products, some of which may open your business up to unintended security issues (and, in some instances, scary terms of service).

Option 2: Buy the tools that your users want to use because these tools are making them more productive.

If you want to create a more productive workforce, take cues from your employees. Your tools should not only meet the highest security standards for IT, but let people work they way they want to (and be intelligent enough to guide them along the way). Imagine if your technology could flag that a file contains confidential information before an employee accidentally shares it. Or surface files as they’re needed to help people work faster. Google Drive does this.

Remember, if the technology doesn’t suit your employees, they’re just going to work around it anyway. Instead of investing time and resources on routine maintenance, shift this energy toward helping your employees stay productive in ways that work for both you and them.

New report analyzes the future of workplace productivity

TL;DR: we examined the future of work in a recent report. Download and read the findings

Look at the contemporary business landscape, and it seems like everything has changed in just a short amount of time. 

Today’s mid-career professional may have been in high school when the World Wide Web made the Internet a big commercial proposition. She likely started her career just before the dotcom bust, and, for nearly two decades, has witnessed the advent of big data, mobile, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, ecommerce, social media and more. Alongside the advent of these shifts in tech, the “office” has also transformed. From closed doors to cubicles to open plan, from typewriters to email to instant messaging, each transformation occurred in search of better information sharing and problem solving. 

Yet while it’s true that the world has changed, our ambitions as workers have not. The same things we’ve always wanted to get out of work remain: 

  • To be able to work fast, with fewer mind-numbing hassles in our day.
  • To be able to work smart, with quick access to the best possible information and the sharpest expertise.
  • To be able to chase the best ideas, and get our work recognized and improved for maximum impact.

While technology has increased the number of people we can connect with and how readily we can access new information, these opportunities can at times look like new challenges, especially if you rely on dated tools in the workplace. Nearly four in 10 U.S.-based business and IT leaders say their current systems make it harder, not easier, for their employees to work quickly. It’s like being asked to make carbon paper copies, when the rest of the world was first on email. 

Google’s latest report on the future of work examines challenges such as this, and how businesses can change their tools, workflows, and cultures to improve productivity and encourage innovation in the modern workplace. 

One of the interesting things about Google is that it was one of the first great companies to grow up assuming the internet as part of life. Consequently, this paved the way for the arrival of web-based email systems like Gmail, and productivity software to drive location-agnostic collaboration, like Google Drive or Docs. If you look at how these tools now incorporate advanced security and artificial intelligence for faster task execution, you’ll see a deep reflection of how work—and the world—has changed. People use these tools, however, because they meet human needs that have not changed.

Click here to download Google’s full report on the future of work, collaboration and productivity.

3 questions to ask before moving your organization’s content to the cloud

In the past five years that I’ve worked on Google Drive, I’ve seen the content collaboration market evolve dramatically. What was once dismissed as too risky—in this case, managing corporate content in the cloud—has now become commonplace. In fact, the market for cloud content management is estimated to grow 28.6% year over year through 2022. 

Yet, despite the opportunity in front of business leaders, many still choose to stick with legacy on-prem storage and enterprise content management (ECM) systems. These legacy systems can hamper employee productivity (just look at user adoption rates for solutions like Microsoft Sharepoint), demand expensive maintenance and create unnecessary security vulnerabilities

If you’re ready to modernize your business, here are three questions I encourage you to consider for your ECM solution.

1. Will it transform how my employees work and help them be more productive?

This one is the most important. 

Let’s think critically about how companies get things done. Does emailing attachments back and forth count as collaboration? Does time spent managing outdated files, version control, and conflicting edits count toward productivity? Is a shared repository useful if it’s filled with only “final” (likely outdated!) documents? If you’re working this way, and many companies are, your systems are not unlocking the potential of your people.

With Google Drive and Docs, we solve these problems at a fundamental level because we believe that collaboration is a habit that technology can encourage, not just something to be marketed. We deliberately built our apps to leapfrog legacy inefficiencies so teams can stay connected and productive. Seemingly small features can have a major impact in behavior—for example, something as simple as eliminating version conflicts with a single, canonical document stored in the cloud prevents the spread of outdated information within an organization and saves users time.

“Collaboration” may seem like an amorphous benefit, but it’s actually measurable. Companies that work with our tools are out-innovating and out-executing their competition and saving upwards of $1.8 million, according to a recent report commissioned with Forrester.  

2. How painful is the migration and change management?

We understand that you have many competing priorities and your organization can only take so much risk and change. 

But change doesn’t have to be painful. We intentionally designed Drive Enterprise to co-exist and operate seamlessly with tools like Microsoft Office, Outlook and Slack, so you get the collaborative magic of G Suite without the pain of changing your email and calendaring solutions.

Introducing new tools to your users can be daunting enough on its own—you shouldn’t have to worry about migration on top of that, or pay extra for it. So we made migration services a core part of Drive when we acquired and re-launched the industry’s leading migration tool (AppBridge, now G Suite Migrate). With G Suite Migrate, you can move your content, hierarchy, meta-data and permissions, at no additional cost. When you come in on Monday morning after a migration, all your content still shows up at H: (or whatever you want), but now backed by Drive so that you can work wherever you want.

3. Will it create security vulnerabilities or be hard for users to adopt?

When it comes to practical applications, legacy ECM systems often fall short on security because they’re cumbersome to use. So users find their own insecure workarounds—e.g. files get sent from personal email accounts or uploaded to unapproved storage systems. 

To effectively protect your content, you need a system that: 1. meets the highest level of enterprise standards for security, privacy, compliance and transparency and 2. is something your users will want to use and not tempted to work around. Drive is both of these things.

On #1: Drive includes advanced security controls like machine learning-powered data loss prevention (DLP), mobile device management, and Vault for eDiscovery and retention rules. These benefits are why organizations like Airbus and the State of Arizona have entrusted G Suite with their data. More importantly, we’ve made sure these controls are practical and easy to use. Admins can get insight into external file sharing within the organization or metrics to demonstrate security effectiveness in a single, comprehensive dashboard within the Security Center. They can also get security-related notifications and actions within the Alert Center. These security tools help an organization prevent, detect and remediate threats quickly and effectively.

On #2: Having the best security is irrelevant if your end users decide to work around the systems you put in place. More likely than not, your employees already know how to use Drive (it currently has over 1 billion active users), and if they don’t, we’ve intentionally built the product to be easy to learn. Why wouldn’t you encourage your users to work within a secure environment that you’ve endorsed?

Bringing it all together 

The most competitive companies are focusing directly on making their workforce more collaborative so that they can innovate. Talk to someone who has used Drive and Docs extensively, and you’ll get a sense for how these tools have fundamentally changed the way people and teams work together. It’s possible to upgrade your ECM systems in a low-risk way, without disrupting existing investments like Exchange or Outlook. When you’re ready, contact us.

Everyday AI: predicting the work you need to do, with the work you’ve already done

Nearly all of us have felt overworked and under-resourced in the workplace. Imagine what we could accomplish if we had extra help with mundane tasks like replying to emails, organizing files or even finding relevant data. With G Suite, we aim to do just that by providing assistive features to help you stay productive. For example, in Google Drive we use a feature called Priority that’s powered by machine learning (ML) to find and surface documents for you. If you’re curious about how ML works in Drive, we’ll go “under the hood” in this post. 

Refresh: what is Priority in Drive?
Before we explain the technology, let’s recap what Priority is. In Drive, there are page options on the left side of the homepage to help you access documents: 1.) Priority, 2.) My Drive and 3.) Shared Drives. The Priority page is a spot in Drive that uses several different ML techniques to continually surface relevant files for you. It looks like this.

Priority in Drive.png

When you click through to the priority page, you’ll see that it is comprised of two parts:

  1. Priority cards, located in the top half of the page. These cards continually surface important content via predictive machine learning models. Using signals (like upcoming meetings or people you frequently work with) Drive suggests relevant documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. It can also suggest associated actions to take. We’ll explain how these two things work in a bit.
  2. Workspaces, located in the bottom half of the page. This is where Drive suggests clusters of files for a project that may need attention based on signals like a common topic (such as a codename) or team members. As time goes on, Drive offers new workspace suggestions and/or flags files that you might want to add to an existing workspace so that you can keep them fresh.

First, how does Drive know what files to surface for you? 
Priority uses several different ML models, each with their own unique purpose, to decide which “cards” to surface for you. Let’s break them down by the information they help gather.

  • Using signals from other G Suite apps you use. One deep learning model we use in Drive is Quick Access, which we constantly update and retrain. This model collects signals from across G Suite to predict which files you will open next. For example, files attached to Gmail threads or upcoming Calendar meetings are both examples of signals that improve Quick Access ranking. Naturally, so are repeatedly-edited Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Check out this research paper, which breaks down the Quick Access model in more detail and includes information on the multi-layer, feed-forward, neural network architecture.
  • Learning from collaboration patterns. To suggest files in Drive’s “Shared with me” section (located in the left of your homepage under “Shared Drives”), we launched a new model that predicts suggestions based on who you collaborate with frequently. This model informs the Priority page, too, by using the graph of who you share your files with, who you work with in Docs, Sheets, and Slides, who you meet with in Calendar, and who you talk to in Gmail and Hangouts Chat. Unlike the file suggestions from Quick Access, the collaborator model is more robust because it’s informed by your most frequent interactions. That means that when deciding which comment to show, Priority will favor showing the comment from your #1 collaborator instead of your #2.
  • Registering important comments to identify files to suggest. In G Suite, you can comment on Docs, Sheets, Slides, and even Microsoft Office files, PDFs, and images. The frequency at which you comment can be a great indicator of important files. We built a comment model on top of the ML models above to rank your closest collaborators’ comments higher. This model also informs our suggested actions, which we’ll explain a little further down.  
  • Defining your “working set” to predict what files are important in the near term. We built a deep learning model that estimates the likelihood that a file will appear in your working set, that is, the set of files you will need to do your job for the week. This model comes in handy for the “workspaces” section. It works similarly to the Quick Access model, but it filters out files that you haven’t recently edited. Also, it’s trained from data collected over an entire week instead of a single visit to Drive.  

With these multiple ML models split across Priority cards and Workspaces, Priority can optimize for both precision and recall to surface exactly the right files when you need them.

Next, how does Drive know what actions to suggest? 
We know your work encompasses more than just opening the file you need, which is why Drive is smart enough to not only surface relevant files for you, but to also suggest actions for you to take. For example, it can provide links to help you respond to comments from the Priority page (without having to switch to the document itself) or even suggest files you might need to review before an upcoming meeting. This is all made possible via the ML comment model we built and described above.

Drive suggested actions.png

With so many comment threads going in our documents, you’d expect it to be hard to track for ML models. Not for Drive. The advantage of being in the cloud, is that we can aggregate these otherwise hard-to-find signals to make useful suggestions—something that isn’t possible with on-premises or hybrid content management systems. And the benefits show: in internal analysis, Drive users respond to comments 10–15 minutes faster via Priority than other methods, thanks to the help of ML.

Last, how does Drive intelligently organize workspaces? 
Drive’s ML models, which we outlined above, helps create workspaces for you to access files faster, essentially providing suggestions based on clues from the files.

Let’s say that you just finished a working session with a colleague. Throughout the session you both shared multiple files with each other and started collaborating in real-time with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Drive clusters these files using your content and the “working set” machine learning model to propose a collection of five files as shown below:

drive suggested workspace.png

To begin working in the workspace, you just need to accept it by clicking “Save.” When you accept a suggested workspace, you maintain full control over its name and other files you add to it.

But as you know, projects evolve, and so do their supporting files. In addition to intelligently clustering collection of files to seed a workspace, Drive suggests additional files to add to a workspace to keep it up-to-date:

Drive suggests additiona files.png

Spending time on valuable work 
Altogether, machine learning has helped Drive users find the files they need up to 50 percent faster, which means they can spend their time doing more valuable work instead. IT admins can also spend less time tagging, organizing or categorizing content on the backend. That time adds up.

Learn more about how your business can use Drive.

Mail merge with the Google Docs API

Posted by Wesley Chun, Developer Advocate, Google Cloud

Students and working professionals use Google Docs every day to help enhance their productivity and collaboration. The ability to easily share a document and simultaneously edit it together are some of our users’ favorite product features. However, many small businesses, corporations, and educational institutions often find themselves needing to automatically generate a wide variety of documents, ranging from form letters to customer invoices, legal paperwork, news feeds, data processing error logs, and internally-generated documents for the corporate CMS (content management system).

Mail merge is the process of taking a master template document along with a data source and “merging” them together. This process makes multiple copies of the master template file and customizes each copy with corresponding data of distinct records from the source. These copies can then be “mailed,” whether by postal service or electronically. Using mail merge to produce these copies at volume without human labor has long been a killer app since word processors and databases were invented, and now, you can do it in the cloud with G Suite APIs!

While the Document Service in Google Apps Script has enabled the creation of Google Docs scripts and Docs Add-ons like GFormit (for Google Forms automation), use of Document Service requires developers to operate within the Apps Script ecosystem, possibly a non-starter for more custom development environments. Programmatic access to Google Docs via an HTTP-based REST API wasn’t possible until the launch of the Google Docs API earlier this year. This release has now made building custom mail merge applications easier than ever!

Today’s technical overview video walks developers through the concept and flow of mail merge operations using the Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Gmail APIs. Armed with this knowledge, developers can dig deeper and access a fully-working sample application (Python), or just skip it and go straight to its open source repo. We invite you to check out the Docs API documentation as well as the API overview page for more information including Quickstart samples in a variety of languages. We hope these resources enable you to develop your own custom mail merge solution in no time!

Enhancing security controls for Google Drive third-party apps

In October of last year, we announced Project Strobe—a Google-wide effort to review third-party developer access to Google account and Android device data. As a result, we rolled out an updated user data policy further restricting access to Gmail data. Today we’re announcing plans to extend the same policy to Google Drive as part of Project Strobe.

With this updated policy, we’ll limit the types of apps that have broad access to content or data via Drive APIs. Apps should move to a per-file user consent model, allowing users to more precisely determine what files an app is allowed to access. This means that only certain types of apps can request these scopes from consumer Google accounts. As always, G Suite administrators are in control of their users’ apps.

How to prepare
If you’re not a developer, you don’t need to do anything to prepare for these changes. While changes will not go into effect until early next year, we recommend developers begin preparations ahead of time by taking the following steps to ensure their apps using Drive APIs stay compliant and keep working for users. You will not need to go through the verification process if your app is created and used by only your organization (and is marked as internal).

  1. Before getting started, review the Drive updates to the user data policy and FAQ.
  2. Ensure project owner and editor email addresses are up to date.
  3. If you’ve developed a Drive app that uses any of the restricted scopes, we recommend migrating your app to use the drive.file scope in combination with the Google Picker. This combination will enable users to select the specific files from their Google Drive that they want to allow your app to access. Apps that use the drive.file scope will not be required to go through the restricted scope verification and third-party security assessment outlined in the policy.
  4. If drive.file is not a possible option (e.g. for backup clients), you should begin preparing your app for the restricted scope verification, a process that, among other steps, ensures your use of data is compliant with the Limited Use Requirements and includes a security assessment if your app stores or transmits through servers. Restricted scope verification for the Drive API will begin early next year. Refer to the FAQ for more info.

In the next few months, we will start to notify impacted developers of the policy changes and will provide additional guidance on how to meet the updated policy requirements.

Upcoming changes to the Google Drive API and Google Picker API

If you use the Google Drive or Picker APIs to power your apps, there are a few upcoming changes that you’ll need to plan for to ensure your application continues to work properly (and that you’re taking advantage of the latest features in Drive).

First, we’re making changes to authorization for the Google Drive API. If you authorize download requests to the Drive API using the access token in a query parameter, you will need to migrate your requests to authenticate using an HTTP header instead. Starting January 1, 2020, download calls to files.get, revisions.get and files.export endpoints will no longer be supported, which means you’ll need to update your authentication method.

Here’s what we recommend you do:

  1. For file downloads, redirect to the webContentLink which will instruct the browser to download the content. If the application wants to display the file to the user, they can simply redirect to the alternateLink in v2 or webViewLink in v3.

  2. For file exports, redirect to the export link in exportLinks with the desired mime type which will instruct the browser to download the content.

It’s important to note that Drive API calls to files.get or revisions.get that do not download media content (i.e. do not set the query parameter of ?alt=media) will not be affected.

Next, we’re introducing a new Drive API resource collection, called “Drives,” to replace the “Team Drives” resource collection. This new resource collection can help you create, delete, get, list and update your shared drives, and features all the same fields, resources and available methods as the “Team Drives” resource collection. If you have been using the “Team Drives” resource collection in your applications, consider migrating as soon as possible as all related fields for Drive API , Drive Activity API and Google Picker API, will no longer be supported starting June 1, 2020.

It’s also important to note that starting June 1, 2020, applications will no longer be able to opt-in to support Team Drives. This means that Team Drive items, including both Team Drives and files within a Team Drive, will be returned in all relevant requests, if applicable, so you’ll need to support this functionality by default. Read more on how to do that here.

Doing more with the Drive API

We’re constantly improving Drive to make it easier to organize and access information quickly so that you can use that information to make your applications more useful. For example, more recently, we added a new feature that allows you to hide drives (which is supported by the new “Drives” resource collection we talked about above). This means that when you list a user’s “Drives,” you can specify the query to filter results based on the hidden state of the Drive, which helps users quickly access the Team Drives, or files within Team Drives, that are most important to them.

There are so many ways to use the Drive API to improve your applications or speed up workflows. Learn more about the Drive API (and other APIs) on our website.