It’s safe to say that Google is a household name. If you’ve never heard of it, let me help you. Despite the fact that Google has provided a serious suite of tools for personal and business use, there are still plenty of people who haven’t quite figured out how to use Google Drive.
To put it simply, Google has created their own version of the applications contained in Microsoft Office. When you create a Google account, you receive pretty much everything you need to be a productive human being on a computer.
MS Word = Google Docs
MS Excel = Google Sheets
MS Powerpoint = Google Slides
MS Forms = Google Forms
MS Outlook = Gmail
MS OneDrive = Google Drive
Microsoft builds many other tools – and so does Google – but the point here is that collaboration and productivity is a lot more accessible (and affordable) with Google Drive. And I’m going to show you how.
We use Google Drive at Revelry, but the process hasn’t been without its speed bumps and pitfalls. As we do with all of our processes, we communicate our blockers and learn from each other. Thomas Knoll, our process master and COO, has helped me gather these tips and learnings so that you, too, can utilize Google Drive for work or home.
Keep your Google Drive toolkit organized and useful
I’m going to assume that you – or your team – are only scratching the surface when it comes to getting the Google toolkit to work for you.
Pro tip: if you’re downloading documents in Google Drive, saving them, and attaching them to share in email, you definitely need to read this.
Google Drive is a digital file cabinet. You can store pretty much anything in it. That means that even if you’ve got a PDF that you created somewhere else, or a whole folder full of images, or some Markdown files – a whole variety of document types can be stored here.
The purpose of any file cabinet is to store documents where you can find what you need when you need it. Sounds simple, but when it comes to setting your team up for success in a digital file cabinet, things can get real messy real fast.
So, it helps to start at a high level. Ann Diab, our leader of all things content & communication, put it this way: “I just want to see an index – a Google Drive tree – so that we can feel safe and secure knowing that every document has a home.”
Creating that index starts from knowing what role the documents play, who needs access, where they should be found, and how best to interact with the file cabinet.
Why do you create documents?
Identify the main use for the documents, and label the highest order folders accordingly.
For example: at Revelry, everything that is connected to the execution of a particular project goes into a specific folder for that project, accessible by both the client and our team.
Who needs access to your documents?
One of the best things about Google Drive is the ability to collaborate, but one of the worst things about Google Drive is that you can easily give the wrong people access to edit a document.
Think through who needs access to documents, and the type of access they need.
Pro tip: Do this right away, so that the first five minutes of your meeting doesn’t include multiple exclamations of, “Oh, I don’t have access.”
Doubling down on collaboration, a document stored on Google Drive is effortless to share. Gone are the days of needing to download an Excel Sheet or Word Doc just to email it over. Using Drive, you can share directly from the document, you can send a link specifically meant for sharing, or you can easily embed a drive document into an email.
‘Shared with Me’ vs ‘Add to My Drive’?
Here lies one of the biggest pitfalls associated with Google Drive. What is yours, what is the team’s, and where does it all live?!
Let’s look at it from the organizational perspective.
Each user has access to two types of files: those shared with them, and those they created or uploaded.
Only those documents that you created and never shared are actually your files. Documents created by you and shared with others live in the organizational drive (Shared with Me). Documents created by someone else for you are not in your drive until they are added to your drive (Add to My Drive).
If you’re using your company’s Google Drive, nothing you create is yours. But, the idea of “My Drive” is real. If you create something and do not share it, then no one else can see it.
If you create a document and organize by placing in a shared folder, then it enters the organizational drive.
If you take a shared document and “Add to My Drive” it will not be organized, but live as a separate doc on your drive.
If you take a shared folder and “Add to My Drive”, then it sits unorganized in your drive.
In an ideal situation, your company has created a folder structure based on taxonomy and importance to your team process, and this drive is shared with all employees.
Then, you’ll start in the correct folder before you set out to create a document, and it will live in its rightful home.
In your “My Drive” you can still take the time to make a folder structure. If you create a doc that does not need to be shared, don’t let it float in your drive. Be diligent, and put it into a place where you can easily find it again.
Now you’re really being a productive human being with a computer! But wait. there’s more.
Leveraging Google Sync (No Internet Necessary)
When it comes to managing the structure you’ve built, why force yourself to have internet access? Google Sync is a phenomenal tool.
Google Sync gives you access to your folders offline, and saves you from having to navigate to Gdrive to upload files. And, it comes in handy when making sure documents from emails end up in a shared location.
We’re going to zoom in here with a tangible example.
Setting up that file cabinet
Imagine that we just started a company. You, me, and our best friend Steve. Our company is called Designed by Olive and we make high-end dog toys. Our first product is a wall mounted tug-o-war game because it is our mascot’s favorite game.
You are in charge of Product Design, Steve is in charge of Business Development, and I am in charge of Operations. So far, we have all been using our personal Gmail account and sharing documents without creating a central storage place.
We do have a master shared folder, but alas, not all the documents live in one place. Today we finally bought a domain and we’re ready to be a real company.
Tasked with setting up our digital file cabinet, I went through the thought exercise shared above to get our drive off on the right foot.
I created a folder for our business titled “Designed by Olive”.
Naming your folder is really and truly up to your team. In theory, because the team is using a business account, every document created belongs to the company. So your master folder could be Google Drive itself. When using your personal email, creating business folder makes more sense because not everything you create will be business related.
If you skip this step and go with major folders, more power to you. Just remember that the goal is that any employee can discover any document that is pertinent to their job. So if not everything needs to be accessible, keep a folder that is shared with only the stakeholders who need access.
I wanted to create a folder for each member of our team, but I felt that method could become too siloed.
So, I created multiple folders: Product, Marketing, Biz Dev, Legal, Customer Service, Sourcing, and Fulfillment. Each of the folders represents a piece of the puzzle that allows our company to design, manufacture, and sell the toys. It also represents to the tools to keep customers happy and grow the brand.
I drilled into each folder to create the initial relevant subfolders.
- In the Product folder: Concepts, Designs, Research, Testing.
- In the Marketing folder: Product Images, Social Media, Website, Advertisements.
- In the Biz Dev folder: Leads, Active Deals, Deals Won, Deals Lost, Sales Collateral, Partners.
- In the Legal folder: Employee Agreements, NDAs, Client Contracts, Dog Model Contracts, and Partnership Agreements.
Once you have relevant subfolders, everything you create will have a home where everyone on your team can easily find it.
Enable Google Sync so you have the easiest access possible to the documents you need. If you store a lot of files in Google Drive, you are able be selective about which ones you have access to.
For the Designed by Olive team, each of us has our own version of the team drive on our computers. I live in the Operations folder, so I set it up so I have direct access without the need to navigate to the browser. If I need to access to other documents, I simply navigate to the browser version of Google Drive.
Make it your own
Hopefully this post pushes your team to take a methodical and thoughtful approach in regards to storing your files. At the end of the day, how your team uses Google Drive is up to y’all.