Sunnyvale, Calif., -- In an attempt to allow its enterprise users derive more information from their user bases, Google becomes generous as it boosts administrative features of its Web-based suite as it prepares to compete with an online version of Office. Google Apps administrators can now have a wider range of Google’s Web Analytics tools allowing them to gain detailed insight into how users are working with Google Docs and Google Sites, according to a company blog post Monday.
Google Analytics for Google Apps will empower administrators with data and graphs on how frequently staff log in to Google Docs and Google Sites, and the duration of their visit. The search giant recommended that organizations could establish whether employees have read the latest company policy, for example, or how adept they are at finding a particular web site.
“Want to view the number of employees watched out your organizations new travel policy? Interested to find out if your European sales team is taking benefit of the same resources as your US team? Because you can slice and dice usage information for content by hour, day, week, month, user location, browser type and more, answering these kinds of questions is easy,” wrote Nick Cooper, a Google Apps engineer in a blog post Monday.
The change follows a couple of weeks after the search engine company progressed its enterprise capabilities in Google Analytics, which was developed to allow advertising and content development professionals track usage information and other factors.
Google has made it easy for administrators of Google Apps Premier Edition and Education Edition to call up the new capabilities from their control panels, according to Cooper: “Just go to the [Advanced Tools] tab, click [Setup Google Analytics] and enter the profile ID number from your Google Analytics account to begin collecting usage data.”
The shift comes along as Google readies its own web-based office apps to compete with Microsoft’s forthcoming online version of Office. Analytics for Google Apps will impact the Standard, Premier, Education, and Partner editions and will only show up if you have the US English language selected.
Last week, Google also presented three new test features for Apps (Moderator, Code Review and Short Links) that -- in conjunction with the new Analytics implementation -- could help administrators in tracing which of their internal sites or documents are most popular with users.
The new attributes will not affect everyday Apps users, though they will certainly make administrators’ lives easier. And with Microsoft on its tail, it is no wonder Google is pushing out more features, so it can gain a larger user base before Office 14 is released sometime next year.
The Google Analytics tool was first introduced to offer businesses more insight into the type of external web site traffic they receive in order to strengthen marketing initiatives. However, Google now intends businesses to set up the tool to monitor how staffs respond to business decisions.
The Visualization API was initially intended to allow developers to build applications on top of Google spreadsheets, but the applications can now be built on top of any database or spreadsheet.
The announcement attracted mixed reactions from Google Apps users on Tuesday.
One can make a clear guess that there are myriad of other comparable business intelligence activities businesses can leverage from this marriage of Analytics with Google Apps. These uses should help business customers gain better insight into their business processes.
Tom Kelly, CIO and chief financial officer of 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment, a retail chain based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, said the company has already been using the analytics for some time, because it often serves as a beta tester on new Apps features.
The analytics have helped the company drive Apps adoption by tracking which employees are logging in and which are not, according to Kelly. 2nd Wind has 300 Google Apps users.
“Those that are not, we reach out to and find out why and help them get into the system,” he said via e-mail. “It also serves another purpose in that we are a [software as a service] -- based company and there is a direct correlation between employees not logging into Apps and the other SaaS offerings we use to run the company.”
What seems like a minor use of one Google application with another is really part of an overarching trend at Google to create the most intelligent applications possible. Google would not admit to having a master plan for its Apps, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the applications would not just matriculate as part of some on-premises-like Version 1.x scheme.
But fairly enough, the company is hurling applications against other applications and seeing if they stick. Gmail is a classic example of this. When the company introduced Gmail in 2004, it did not intend to integrate gadgets from other applications.
But Darryl Shippy, vice president of technology at TruckMovers in Kansas City, Missouri, said the service would be only “marginally helpful” even if it was available to companies like his, where about 40 people are using the free version of Google Apps.
“I do not see it as a big benefit,” he said. “All of our employees have to use Gmail, Google Docs, et cetera, to simply get their jobs done. I, personally, would not gain much by seeing statistics on how much traffic they are doing with Google Apps.”
In any case, today’s Analytics and Docs and Sites addition is just another example of Google’s continuing effort in improving its products and competing with the likes in the industry. Expect more in the future. In time, Google Apps will be every bit as smart and functional as anything Microsoft, IBM or any other productivity and collaboration software provider has ever produced.