Google Apps vs. Wiki for ISO 9001 documentation


Starting to get Involved
I was originally going to convert our legacy ISO 9001 documentation system (Microsoft Office docs on a Windows server) to the hosted Atlassian Confluence wiki. But after thinking about it for a while I began to wonder whether Google Apps might be a better choice.


  1. Hosted Confluence is slow and we don't want to host our own software.
  2. Google Apps is a more familiar paradigm for our users, many of whom are aging baby boomers (I'm one too, so I can use this perjorative) who have used the Microsoft Office paradigm for decades.
  3. Google Apps handles revision tracking well.
  4. Google Apps is fast.
Wondering whether anyone else has implemented Google Apps for this purpose - or has at least thought about it.


Super Moderator
In a wiki, a link is created by simply enclosing a page's name in brackets. In an office document, linking is created by explicitly adding a complete url to the link text. The first is much easier than the second. Then, when a page name changes, a wiki updates links automatically, while in Office documents, links may break easily with common changes. In short, a wiki has "easy linking", while office docs do not.

Perhaps the only effective way to organize lots of detailed documentation, such as that that gets produced through a successful continuous improvement system, is through a small world network. The more difficult it is to create a link, the less likely that the network of links will be a small world. For this reason, it is much better to have documentation in wiki format than in office document format, even when the office documents are shared, and even when you make an effort to link them.

So, indeed, working on a wiki requires breaking a familiar paradigm. But the pain is little and short lived. And the gains are well worth it.

(BTW, Google apps has a wiki app, google sites. You can include dynamic spreadsheets and other such objects in your wiki pages. But creating links is still a bit more difficult than with other wikis, such as Confluence. For that, I'd still favor Confluence over Google sites.)


Starting to get Involved
Pancho, in Google Docs, to link you just type Ctrl + K and then start typing the document name (not the URL but the regular language document title). Google docs will automatically suggest matching documents in the company's Google drive. So I'd submit that the linking mechanism is as good as a Wiki's.

What Google Docs does lack is any kind of file-metadata system, or even tagging. You are stuck with the old nested folder organizational paradigm. But you do get Google search on your documents, which is probably the future anyway.


Super Moderator
I didn't know that. It does sound like easy linking indeed. I'd only make sure that links don't break when changing documents' titles, and that you can "include" documents in other documents.

Good luck and let us know how it works out for you.


Starting to get Involved
The links don't break when titles are changed, but the link text in the referring doc doesn't change.

For example, let's say you have a doc called AAA. In a referring doc you write the link as "see AAA".

You later change AAA's title to BBB. The link in the referring doc won't break, but it will still say "see AAA", even though the doc to which it continues to link is now titled BBB.

Would a wiki behave differently, i.e. dynamically changing the text in the referring document to "see BBB"? That would be a plus point for the wiki.
Did you ever implement this fully?

My company has been trying to figure out what to use since Aug. 2016 and we are still trialing things. We went from just storing word docs on our intranet, to the free DokuWiki, then to a paid software called TeamPage (basically a paid for wiki that is also part project management), then we went back to the DokuWiki...

Presently we are looking at G Suite (new name for Google apps). We will use Drive mostly and only use Word format docs (not the .gdoc format).

It allows offline editing for our field service engineers and available to everyone already since we host our email through Google.

However, I know it has limitations. BTW we have over 500 current procedures, docs, etc that exist in mostly Word using G Suite also prevents us from having to migrate content...


Starting to get Involved
We decided to go with G Suite. It is much faster performing than Confluence. We have set up our environment so that uploaded Word documents are automatically converted to Google Docs and the conversion results are clean.

Google Docs provides full revision tracking and reversion, as would a Wiki.

We have found the collaboration features particularly nice, as we comment in the body of the document rather than chaotic emailing.

The two downsides I can think of:

  1. Linking is harder than in an wiki. If you are working on Document B and want to include a link to Document A, you have to find Document A on Google Drive, click the link sharing button, copy the link URL, go back to Document B and paste the link URL.
  2. There is no automatic creation of a table of contents for your collection of documents, like in Confluence.
What I really like about Confluence (don't know about other wikis) is that, with a 3rd-party add-on, you can create form templates for records, and then create reports that pull data from the form fields. This allows much of the monitoring & measuring to be handled automatically - for example when gathering and analyzing record data for management reviews. this possible with Google?


Starting to get Involved
You could use Google Forms for this purpose. The form responses are saved in a Google Sheet, which then becomes the log of your records. We are planning to do this for our training records, but haven't implemented it yet.

That said, we prefer to keep our records in our ERP system; we use NetSuite.

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