Putting it together: Google updates Hangouts (and more) for the enterprise

Four recent updates to Hangouts and Google+ paint Google as serious about the enterprise.

"Bit by bit, putting it together
Every little detail plays a part
Having just a vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution."
-- "Putting it Together" lyrics from Steven Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George

George Seurat's painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is huge. At around 7 feet by 10 feet the painting has an enormous presence in the gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. Yet when viewed at a distance of centimeters, you see that Seurat created the painting with thousands of tiny brush strokes of color.

That's the essence of pointillism: Up close, we see only small dots of color. From a distance, a recognizable image emerges.

Google's approach to the enterprise is "pointillistic:" each blog post announces a new feature, providing a dot of color. The tech blogs focus on the feature. Then another feature is launched; another dot.

I think we're seeing bits and pieces of Larry Page's vision of Google and Google+ emerge with each detail. Put together, though, we're looking at an image of an increasingly enterprise-friendly organization. Here's a quick look at a four recent updates added to the picture.

New admin controls for Hangouts

Google Apps administrators gained greater control over how people in the enterprise use Hangouts. Some controls limit Hangouts. Administrators may now restrict user chats to conversations within the organization. Voice and video calling may be prohibited. Chat history may be turned off, as well (although users are able to turn it back on).

Other controls make Hangouts easier to use. It's now easier to chat with anyone in the organization thanks to auto-complete access to the Global Address List. Administrators can also configure chat invitations to be auto-accepted between users in the organization. Google also improved support for Hangouts.

To enable and access these new settings, login as an Administrator to your Google Apps domain at http://admin.googl.com, then select Google App, then Talk/Hangouts from the list, and choose Sharing Settings.


Google enhanced administrative control over Hangouts

Restricted Google+ Communities

People can now create Google+ Communities accessible only to members of the organization. While community creators have always been able to restrict access, this makes it possible to use a Google+ Community for organization-wide discussions. For example, a Community now could be used to share and discuss Human Resources info across the entire organization.

To create a restricted Community, your organization needs to have activated Google+ features. (A Google Apps administrator can then set default Google+ sharing settings.) To create a new restricted Google+ Community, people should login at http://plus.google.com, select Home, then Communities from the list, and then select the "Create community" button.


People can create a Google+ Community accessible only to organization members

YouTube videos for the organization

People who use their Google+ domain identity in YouTube may now make a YouTube video accessible only to members of the organization. This is useful for organization-wide information, such as an internal training or news videos.

To share a YouTube video privately, first upload the video to your YouTube account, then look for the "Privacy Settings". Choose "Private", and then choose your organization's domain (e.g., mine displays in the image as "WolberWorks.com").


Organizational users with Google+ and YouTube accounts can make videos accessible only to organization members

Cross-platform Google+ Location Sharing

Google recently updated their Google+ iOS app to include Location Sharing, which had arrived earlier in the Google+ Android app. People may choose to share their "pinpoint" location or general ("city") location with other domain members. For larger organizations, this may make it easier for travelers to meet up with co-workers. It may also make it easier to identify when people are "out of town".

To enable location sharing with others in your organization, your organization needs to have enabled Google+ features (as mentioned above). Each person needs to install the Google+ mobile app, either for iOS or Android. After logging in to the Google+ app, tap the three line menu in the upper left, and tap "Locations" from the list of menu options. On Android, then tap the Menu and choose "Location settings"; on iOS, then tap the Sprocket in the upper right, then choose "Settings". Once there, turn on Location Sharing and choose with whom to share your pinpoint or general location.


Enable Google+ location sharing with organization members in iOS or Android

Putting it together: Google is serious about the enterprise

Each of these changes may seem small or even unrelated:

  • New Administrator controls for Hangouts,
  • Google+ Communities and YouTube videos restricted to organization members, and
  • Location sharing with organization members from iOS or Android devices.

But each piece is a brush stroke that paints a larger picture: one of a Google intent on providing services useful to organizations. As the Sondheim lyric in the musical goes "bit by bit, [they're] putting it together."

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