This article was written by Scott Donald: Google Workspace Developer, Google Developer Expert, and Google Champion Innovator.
You’ve probably heard this common request punctuating the productive buzz of the office on regular occasions: “Hey, Tam? Where can I find the deposition file for the Hobart case?”
Just swap out the name and the file and you’ve likely heard it time and again. This call for aid has now occupied the time of two people who are now engaged in a search for the document. Not only does this disrupt the workflow of co-workers, but may also be the tip of the iceberg on time spent on a frustrating search for documents that resulted in the plea for help.
Time spent searching for files and folders throughout the course of a project can add up to many lost hours of productivity for your team and can unnecessarily add to your team’s stress levels especially when they are under a tight schedule.
So what’s the solution as a Google Workspace administrator or team manager? Share docs and locations in emails? That ends up in another confusing and disjointed email chain. Add comments to docs to direct your team to them? Again. Watch those messages get lost in their emails. How about adding your team members to files, folders, Google Chat spaces, etc? Sometimes the data your team needs is stored across multiple locations. Adding each one of your team members to each location by hand is time-consuming for you and can leave room to miss someone out. Plus what happens when a team member moves to another project and you have to remove them? Yet another time-consuming task of searching for where they have been shared and removing them by hand.
So what’s the solution?
The simple answer is: Manage your teams in Groups in Google Workspace.
If you are a Google Workspace administrator or manager you might already be using Groups to organize your email lists or assign staff to departments. However, Groups can be used for much more.
You can add groups to many different locations within the Google Workspace ecosystem such as:
– Google Drive folders and files
– Google Drive Shared drives and even subfolders of shared drives.
– Google Chat spaces
– Google Sites
– Google Cloud Console
– Google Calendar
You can even assign access policies to your Groups to improve your workspace security.
We will cover best practices for these locations in a moment, but first, let’s learn how to create a Group in Google Workspace.
How to Create a Google Group in Google Workspace
There are two ways to create a group in Google Workspace:
- From Google Groups
- For Google Workspace administrators, from Google Admin.
If you are a team leader or manager who does not have some level of access to the Google Workspace Admin Console, you can create a Google Group by heading to groups.google.com.
One of the benefits of creating a Google Group for a team is that you can also host focused discussions within the Google Group UI.
Create a Google Group
The setup is simple.
Click the Create group button and then fill out the Group name. This will automatically fill the group email. Then you have the option to add extra details to describe your group.
Next, you can choose the privacy settings for your group.
If you are building a group for your team project, then it’s probably the best approach to keep the group closed by selecting Only assigned users. However, you do have the option of letting anyone in your organization (That’s the domain like @zenphi.com that your Google Workspace account runs in) join or ask to join the group.
Let’s keep our communication under wraps and set all privacy settings to prevent the whole organization from viewing, posting, and seeing who is in the group. Then click Next.
You can then add all the members to your group. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the members of your team yet. You can always set your group up in advance and then add your team later.
Add your team members and create a welcome message. It’s probably a good idea to explain what the group is about and how you intend to use it here. Specifically, explain that all team files and folders should be shared with the group. This way everyone knows to keep everything together.
Your new group now has its own email address in your domain and Google Group URL.
Update a Google Group
The left-side menu of your group allows you to add and remove team members to your group.
You can also use the Group Setting to change your group management settings or assign more granular settings like assigning moderators.
Communicating in the Google Group
You can create a new conversation in your group by selecting the New Conversation button in the top right. You will probably notice that the conversation input screen is almost identical to a Gmail editor.
The conversation will be sent to the group either immediately or as a digest depending on how you set up the group correspondence.
The benefit of Google Groups is that team members can review group emails and individual team responses from their email directly or they can navigate to their group URL and search the group posts directly. This has the benefit of removing the noise of other emails and allows them to focus on the team correspondence exclusively.
While creating a group on its own is helpful, it becomes much more beneficial when we start sharing the group email address with document folders and other Google Workspace apps. However, before we dive into this, let’s see how to create a group from Google Workspace Admin.
One final important thing on Google Groups. You can also create other groups that you can make as sub-groups so you can assign different documentation or roles to different branches of your team. This way those team members can work on sensitive material in private. Alternatively, you can assign certain sub-groups as editors of a range of documents while others have comment access.
Google Admin Groups
In the Admin Console under Directory > Groups you can see all the groups created by any user in your organization including those created by users with administrative permission.
One of the extra perks of creating or managing groups from the Admin Console is that you can make a group a Security Group. This allows the admin to control access to sensitive information and resources in your team.
How to Use Google Groups in Google Drive Files and Folders
Here is where groups become their most valuable for documentation management and improved accessibility.
Adding a group is exactly like adding an email to a folder or file. When you add a group email to a file or folder all members of that group have access to those documents.
Right-click on the file or folder and select Share.
Add the group email to the email input field, set the role, and choose to either send a notification email or assign the group to the document.
Now when a team member needs to be added to the group, they will immediately have access to the groups files and folders. Likewise, if a group member leaves the group. It is a simple task for the group owner or assigned manager to remove the member, removing all access from the documents and folders with just a few clicks.
You could also add subgroups to child folders of the main folder to give them access to specific data making it easier for them to focus on what is important for their specific task.
Of course, you can also share your group directly within Google Workspace apps like Google Sheets, Google Docs, and Google Slides too.
Shared Drives are a great way to separate projects into sectioned shared files and folders. There is no need to worry about who owns the file because the shared drive owns the file. That means if someone leaves the Shared Drive, all of your files stay where they are.
Image that your organization partitions one shared driver per project. Not all parts of the project need to be accessed by all members involved in specific stages of the project. Further, some sections of the project might be sensitive. You might not want everyone to be able to see what your project’s finance team is working on. Alternatively, you may want to assign a folder for your client to access, but not share all of your proprietary trade secrets on how you build your client’s project.
Here you can assign sub-groups to specific folders within your project, to ensure that they access only what they need.
Likewise, you could create groups of responsibility within the project. Perhaps you have an administrative team that handlings file management and file deletion. So you give that team Content Manager access. Then you can assign the rest of your team Contributor access under another Google Group email. The content managers can be assigned to both groups, but they will always maintain the highest level of access according to the group with the highest level of permissions.
Again, adding and removing or promoting team members becomes a simple matter of changing their group.
How to Use Google Groups with Google Chat Spaces
Now we have assigned our files and folders to the group, we can return to communication. Do you need a quick way for your remote team to collaborate on a project or set up meetings or calendar events? Create a Google Chat space and add the group.
When you add a group to a Space everyone in the space will get a request email to join the Space.
From there you can:
1. Add calendar events to the group.
2. Assign tasks
3. Add relevant files and folder locations for the project.
How to Use Google Groups with Google Sites
For more long-term group coordination creating an internal Google Site is a great way of keeping the information in a centralized location (I like to call it a “Hub”) for everyone to access.
Just like other Google Workspace apps you can assign a group to have exclusive access to this internal website.
A group-specific Google Site is ideal for adding links to your documentation and other resources like links to your Google Chat Space, Group, or Calendar. You can also directly embed documents into the site and add separate site pages for different aspects of your group project.
I use this often for centralizing resources in a convenient way. This way all a team member needs to do is bookmark one page and they have access to everything they need in their assigned group.
Assigning team members to groups in your Google Workspace is an excellent way to reduce the overwhelming sense of data overload for team members and keep them focused on tasks. On top of that, moving users to and from groups is much more efficient to handle access to files, folders, and other application access points.
Yet, you can take group management one step further with zenphi – the only no-code process automation software built specifically for Google Workspace products like Gmail, Drive, Sheets, Forms, and more. Imagine setting up an entire project generation workflow. That’s automatically creating a group, assigning users, generating a Shared drive and custom folder directors, and creating a group calendar and chat space all with a click of a button. You can set it up with this pre-built zenphi template.
Likewise, you could use zenphi to set up a project onboarding flow for new team members joining the team. Assign a new team member and bam! Automatically send them a welcome email, perhaps a follow-up instructional email series on what they need to know, assign a mentor, and give them their first task and all with a couple of button clicks.