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Google’s G Suite, which includes productivity tools such as Drive, Docs, Sheets and Slides, continues to grow in popularity, with Google recently announcing that it is now being used by more than 3 million paying businesses.

Giving businesses the convenience and flexibility of collaborating in the cloud, G Suite is great for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), providing an affordable option for basic content management.

There comes a point, however, when businesses tend to outgrow G Suite - due to Google's workspace limitations - and need to turn to more robust content management solutions.

If your business is using G Suite and is starting to encounter growing pains, it might be time to consider an alternative: namely, an enterprise content management (ECM) solution.

Here are 10 signs Google workspace limitations are impacting your business.

1. You’re experiencing versioning errors

While many businesses use Google Drive as a document storage tool, it doesn’t provide a way to keep track of document versions or control naming conventions, leaving this up to users to develop their own systems. This means users can inadvertently find themselves working on incorrect or out-of-date documents.

An ECM solution, however, makes keeping track of changes and versions much simpler, reducing the risk of errors.

2. You’re struggling to limit user access

When you are a small business, it is not uncommon for there to be few restrictions to document access.

Once a company starts to grow, however, it becomes prudent to begin to limit the type and degree of access that employees have to certain documents – for example, there is no reason someone in HR needs to be able to access sensitive financial statements, nor is there any reason for someone in Finance to have access to personnel files.

With Google Drive, however, it is difficult to keep track of just who has access to what, potentially making your business vulnerable to data leaks. This is a common Google workspace limitation that is much easier to control access to documents with an ECM solution.

3. You need more stringent approval controls

While Google Docs allows users to easily collaborate on documents – even allowing them to do so simultaneously – this can also have its drawbacks. For example, if someone wants the ability to approve edits, this is difficult to enforce, and depends largely on the honesty of the user making the changes.

By contrast, a good ECM allows a document owner to approve edits and lock down the final version of a document, thereby preventing unauthorised alterations.

4. You have files that aren’t supported by G Suite

While G Suite does support many file types, it doesn’t support every one (Drawing Formats, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Publisher and executable files, for example, aren’t supported). A robust ECM is capable of handling a much wider variety of files.

5. Achieving compliance is challenging

Without the ability to track changes, or apply strict review and access controls, it can be difficult to meet the document control requirements for quality programmes like ISO 9001.

A good ECM, on the other hand, allows you to easily apply the mechanisms required to establish an audit trail, thereby smoothing the auditing process and ensuring quality delivery.

6. Your business is suffering from inefficient workflows

Google Drive does in fact have a workflow option, but it is a third-party add-on and is limited to obtaining approvals for certain documents.

A good ECM solution, however, has far more advanced workflow features, allowing it to recognise document types, route documents to certain users for processing, and send reminders when action has not yet been taken.

This not only improves productivity but gives businesses far more control over procedures and processes.

7. You don’t have a good overview of what’s going on

When it comes to business intelligence, Google workspace has further limitations.

For example, while it can tell you how many spreadsheets were created in a certain period, it cannot tell you which of those spreadsheets are awaiting review, or how long reviews are taking.

An ECM solution, on the other hand, can give you much more granular information about what stage documents are in, and how effectively and efficiently they are moving through workflows – all of which is highly valuable for project leaders who need oversight over processes.

8. Your data security is lacking

The ease with which users can access data on G Suite can be a double-edged sword, as it potentially exposes your data to unauthorised users too – and you may not even realise you’ve been hacked. Third-party apps and add-ons can further erode the integrity of security and establishes another Google workspace limitation.

ECM solutions often have far more robust security measures, including using encryption to secure files during storage and transfer, and having more stringent login procedures to ensure only authorised users have access.

9. You can’t share files securely outside the business

Businesses are often required to share confidential documents – things like contracts, proposals, forms with sensitive information – with clients and customers, and while G Suite does allow you to share files easily, whether it allows you to do so securely is more doubtful.

An ECM with a client sharing portal means files can safely be shared outside of the company, reducing the likelihood of data leaks.

10. You find it difficult to find the information you need

Document metadata, which captures additional information about documents without storing it in the document itself, is highly useful for enabling searches and providing insights.

You can, for example, use it to tag documents with sensitive and/or personal information, which can help protect such data and keep GDPR compliant for businesses that have exposure to European markets, and the Privacy Act for Australian businesses.

The ability to create custom metadata and search through it is not available with G Suite. It is, however, often a key feature of good ECM solutions.

A new ECM will change how people work and affect the way documents are managed right across your organisation. It's not an easy or quick decision to make, but our Enterprise Content Management Checklist will help you consider your options and identify the right ECM to meet your business needs.