On Wednesday, Google showed off some new updates to G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work) that could help the service gain more traction among business professionals. According to Google’s blog post on the matter, the new features are backed by machine intelligence and are “designed to speed up and simplify the way you work.”

The first new feature is Action Items, which essentially help employees track down who is responsible for a specific document or spreadsheet. The Google post cites McKinsey Global Institute research that claims employees currently spend roughly 20% of their work week looking for details or answers to a question.

Users can manually assign an Action Item to a specific colleague by simply making a comment in Docs, Sheets, or Slides and mentioning their name. The user will then be prompted to assign that task to the mentioned employee, who will then be alerted of their assignment.

SEE: G Suite: The new Google office in the cloud (ZDNet)

For example, the post mentioned that if a user were to type a phrase such as “Ryan to follow up on the keynote script,” or “Andrea to schedule a weekly check in,” it would know through natural language processing (NLP) to prompt an Action Item.

When a user has been assigned an Action Item, he or she will see a badge on any Doc, Sheet, or Slide presentation that they’re supposed to follow up on. It will also show them “any unresolved suggestions that others have made to their files,” the post said.

G Suite Forms are also getting smarter, with neural networks powering suggestions for predicted questions and answer options as you build a form. Google claims that that this can save users 25% of the time needed to create a form.

Forms are also getting a File Upload question type, were respondents can upload files that will be collected in a new folder within Google Drive. However, as noted in the post, “This feature is only available for G Suite customers in Forms shared within their organization.”

Additionally, Docs are getting new voice control features for formatting text color, inserting links and comments, and more. G Suite is also getting a Slack integration, so that Slack users will be able to import files from Google Drive directly in a Slack chat using the “+” icon.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Google’s G Suite is getting new productivity features like Action Items, which show users what tasks they have been assigned within a Google Doc or Sheet.
  2. Google Forms are getting an NLP boost that will suggest questions and answer types, as well as a new File Upload option for Forms.
  3. G Suite is also getting a Slack integration, making Drive files importable to Slack chats and more.