The Space Between Google, Slack, and Microsoft

In so many ways our whole world exists in “The Space Between” right now — from a Presidential election, to a continuous global Pandemic, to kids learning virtually from our homes, to our jobs, and even our families. The condition is pervasive. The Tech world is no different, and it’s grappling with this reality at its usual frenetic pace.

Yet another Google product brand change perhaps best exemplifies the different future we are racing towards.

Google Workspace, the new name for Google’s Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Meet, etc. productivity apps embodies our new Remote Work friendly age. Beyond branding and bundling, Google’s vision has been described by JR Raphael as investing in the “connective tissue” between the apps we work in everyday. There it is again, between. I won’t even try to describe this better myself —

Workspace isn’t exactly a new service, in and of itself. It’s more of a new mindset — a connective tissue that reimagines how Google’s productivity apps exist and reshapes them as more than just vaguely related individual pieces.

“The space in between those apps becomes really important,” Soltero says. “That’s where improvement happens, [and] that’s where innovation happens — the blending between an editing or content creation tool and a communication tool.”

Gmail’s new logo is just a taste of Google’s plan to rethink productivity from JR Raphael in Fast Company

Meanwhile, over at Slack another angle at addressing the space between playing out. This time, Slack’s CEO says it best —

“Everywhere we find and see the gaps between the software we see opportunities for improvement.” — Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO, at Slack Frontiers 2020 Keynote

Stewart Butterfield Slack Frontiers Keynote

The core message at Slack’s annual virtual conference last week could not have been more clear: The future is going to be very different, so start changing now. They are making it easier for companies to bring external people and customers into, previously private, Slack workspaces. In other words, let’s kill off just a little bit more email, one person you talk to at a time. They are also expanding Slack Workflows and App capabilities to enable better bridges between your Slack activity and all your other apps.

One of those other apps is often a part of Microsoft 365. It’s been a long time since we’ve described Microsoft as prescient on product strategy, but in 2020 their years-long focus on delivering a modern cloud office productivity suite warrants it. More and more teams are eliminating the space between their productivity apps in Microsoft Teams each day. Their integration of file sharing, workplace chat, and video calls is undisputedly ahead of the curve. I know, I know — “but it’s not Slack,” much in the same way “but it’s not an iPhone” used to be, at least for me.

Still, there is no doubt Microsoft is leading here, both in their software and in thoughtfulness. In a recent Wall Street Journal article by Kathrun Dill, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella warns about how it can feel like you’re “sleeping at work” and how we need to focus on the “moments of transition” because things like “consecutive video meetings trigger burnout.” Nadella’s plan is solid advice to prioritize managing even our own personal “space between.” Just step back every so often, take a breathe, reflect, and make a plan. The importance of this line of thinking is at the heart of why we started Punch in the middle of “all this.”

Modern remote-friendly tools have introduced a challenging environment in which to be intentional about our personal and team practices. There is so much going on across so many different apps from a variety of often competing providers. They are not always incentivized to help you connect the dots. For example, how can we measure how our interactions across all of these apps make us a highly effective team, or not? Our team is exploring hard questions like this and others. Why? We believe the future belongs to the people and teams who invest in new behaviors and tools that solve the challenges introduced by remote work while embracing its benefits.