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Monday, July 18, 2016

Audit your Google Apps with GAT

For a couple of years, we’ve been supporting the deployment and adoption of a KM platform for the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA). As the programme has evolved and matured, so has the platform, with almost 500 user accounts, and anecdotal evidence of its usefulness to support knowledge sharing.

But besides counting the user accounts created, what is really happening on the platform? Can we learn more about the users? What are they contributing? Is there any champion emerging? What Apps are most used?

Go beyond Admin Reports 

Google provides its own reporting functionality through the admin panel. If you have a domain admin account, you can access Reports and track Apps usage, security, accounts activity, etc. The reporting features are rather rich and are a perfect fit for ongoing monitoring of the platform. However, Google Reports allows you only to look at data for the previous 6 months period - which is probably not enough if you want a comprehensive picture of how the platform has evolved over time, and what users have been doing with it.

For this purpose, the best solution we could find is the General Audit Tool (GAT).

Launched in 2010, GAT is primarily an auditing and it monitoring tool. It allows you to audit or report on over 250+ separate items for users, documents, email, calendars, sites, groups, etc. Additionally, it counts users’ collaboration activities and calculates a ‘collaboration index’ across your domain, using multiple indicators such as file shares and file visits. Finally, you can set up alerts to get notified if domain policies are not followed - for example, when documents are shared outside the domain. The animated video below provides some more background information on GAT and what it is good for.


GAT comes with a cost, depending on the number of active Google Accounts you have on your domain. However, it also offers a full features trial. If you are using Google Apps, I recommend you test it out and find what it can do for you.

How we used GAT 

GAT helped us to extract a large amount of specific information on users, the frequency they interact with the Apps, and how they work with other users.

We run several daily GAT scans over a period of two weeks and exported several datasets from the Apps and metrics we had decided to include on our analysis. We then loaded this data into Tableau, to be able to aggregate it, segment it, analyze it and make sense of it through charts and tables.

You can read below here some highlights from our analysis:

  • The growth of and demand for new accounts has been steady and well beyond the initial expectations. 
  • The majority of users are active, with 75% of them that logged onto the platform at least once in the past 6 months, and over half of them in the first quarter of this year.
    Date last login
  • The use of the platform has been increasing over time. However, this use is unevenly distributed, with some users clearly emerging as platform champions
  • Google Drive is by far the largest app is terms of usage and the most frequently accessed by users, followed by Calendars and Hangouts. Drive currently hosts over 23K files and folders. The primary function of Drive appears to be to store and archive documents; the creation of new content is secondary. About 50% of all files on shared Drive have been created elsewhere and then uploaded onto Drive. 
  • An increasing number of users are viewing and editing documents on Drive, confirming the adoption of the tool. However, collaboration appears to be limited to a small number of documents, while the great majority see a small number of ‘actions’ (views or edits) performed by an equally small number of users.
    Docs overview: number of users, edits and visits per quarter 
  • In several instances, users are contributing to the CARIAA platform with their personal Google account instead of their CARIAA account. This has potential negative implications in terms of sharing settings, document management and overall platform M&E. 
This is very much a work in progress, we’re learning as we go and constantly testing out new options. What’s good about our progress so far is that we’re generating the kind of longer-term, trend data that really helps us provide support and the client to adapt to evidence about pattern use. And once it has been set-up it is not too time-consuming.

Of course a lot of these features are available in those expensive all-in-one packages used by commercial organisations and the deeper-pocketed big NGOs. But it’s hard work keeping up with trends and providing accurate, useful, timely data on a smaller budget, one more typical of the mass of Development players. So help us - what tools and approaches have you found useful and can share? And are your clients or service users listening to you and the data and changing how they work?

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