Blog Post: Google Contacts “Delegate” Feature vs Shared Contacts for Gmail®

The main contribution of Google Workspace solutions for businesses worldwide is the amount of efficiency they create. 

Can you imagine 30 years ago working with a colleague from the other end of the world in real-time? People use typewriters with carbon paper and send documents through posts. That will take weeks, if not a month for a response.

Now, productivity, technical development, and possibilities have increased enormously, and Google is one of the main tools.

Google Contacts Delegation Feature vs Shared Contacts for Gmail

And this is not even factoring in the global pandemic that has taken remote collaboration tools from ‘cool to have’ to business-critical. Where would we be today without Zoom, Slack, and Google (and yes, arguably Office365 as well)?

Needless to say, these developments are facilitated by SaaS services and the elusive ‘cloud.’ 

Instead of having information in silos, on pen and paper, or in people’s heads, data is moving to the cloud, accessible and shared by everyone across the organization. Accessible and shared, though? 

Not so fast. While this is the general paradigm of Google tools, one thing is quite tricky to share: Google Contacts. You can find it curious that Google Contacts does not include contact sharing in their feature in the premise of sharing information.

For instance, Google Drive allows anyone to instantly share entire folders with whoever they want and define how they can access these documents.

Google Contacts does not offer the same flexibility out of the box. However, there is a contact delegation feature in Google that makes contact sharing possible.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at how this delegation feature looks in practice, what kind of limitations there are for contact delegation, and the main difference between this contact delegation feature and Shared Contacts for Gmail®. 

What is contact sharing and why is it important?

Moving from Office365 to Google Workspace

Many companies are making the strategic shift from Microsoft to Google tools. No need to get too personal, but real-time collaboration is still a big difference between the two ecosystems. It’s visible which one came with native sharing capabilities.

That said, though, Office tools have been around for a while, and they know the use cases businesses have when it comes to their tools. In Office 365, one can simply create distribution lists. 

This makes it easily possible to send an email to a specific subset of people within an organization. For example, you are organizing a Christmas party at the office (pre-corona or, shall we say, post-COVID). 

In Office 365, you can easily select the distribution list for that specific office. Now, Google also has groups, but these are pretty different when it comes to handling them.

microsoft office to google workspace plus shared contacts for gmail

Google Workspace Shared Contacts Edition

Limitations of Google Groups

Google Groups provide many conveniences — no doubt about that — but it is pretty advanced and complicated to handle. Moreover, it differs significantly from the standard Gmail interface, and it can easily be time-consuming to learn how to use it.

It comes across as a particular challenge if you are not the Admin of your Google Workspace, or use Gmail. On the other hand, even if you are an Admin, just because you are in IT doesn’t mean you should settle for substandard user experiences.

Google itself does not reveal the addresses or identities of the members sending an email or sharing a doc with the group. It can be inconvenient if you do not know who is in the same group as you — and can access the same folder.

Does it mean that you can forget about using Google Groups? Not really! These limitations do not apply to Shared Contacts for Gmail®, which helps you make the most of Google Groups. 

Solutions to the Limitations

With Shared Contacts for Gmail®, you are given complete visibility for your Google Group members, making it easier to manage.

The Google Contact delegation feature allows you to select who can access your contact. Those given access can see, add, or remove contacts from your address books. That means you are giving access to your address book to someone else, which creates a host of privacy and GDPR-related questions. 

Managers mostly use this feature to delegate their contacts to their admin assistant. In turn, the admin assistant will have access to all the contacts. However, the admin assistants will not be able to “use” the contacts under their own account. For instance, they can’t use the delegated contacts to send them emails using Gmail autocomplete, find them on their mobile phones, or even find them through Google Contacts or Gmail search) for themselves.

In addition, you cannot control what kind of access rights you share, and you never quite know what happens when someone accesses your delegated Google contact. Will they change it, delete it or leave it be?

How to Share My Contacts With Shared Contacts for Gmail®: Getting Started

How is Shared Contacts for Gmail different from the Contact Delegation feature?

Shared Contacts for Gmail® offers a real contact-sharing experience to their users. They can create a label named “Vendors” or “New York Office” and share it with several users or even a Google group containing users.

More importantly, they can define what access permissions my colleagues have (read-only, can edit, can share). This is the same way I am used to sharing access rights in other Google apps.

How to use Google Contacts Delegation Feature: Pros and Cons

If you share your Google contacts via Shared Contacts for Gmail®, the person you shared them with will be able to find these contacts in contact lists or groups and send emails via auto-complete. 

It doesn’t stop there. Shared Contacts for Gmail® allows contacts to be searched from all the Google applications. It covers mobile phones and even Microsoft Outlook if the person you shared the contacts with is using Office tools.  

Comparison Between Google Contacts Delegation Feature and Shared Contacts for Gmail®

Google Contacts DelegationShared Contacts for Gmail®
What can be sharedOnly allows sharing of contacts in the “My Contacts” group.– “My Contacts” (main label)
– Every contact label
– Google domain directory
Where it can be synchronizedDoes not synchronize with Phones & Outlook.Shared Contacts can be synchronized with Mobiles/Tablets & Outlook.
Who it can be shared withWith Google Delegation you can only give access to users in your domain.With Shared Contacts for Gmail you can share contacts with your domain users, sub-domains, external domains, and users.
Integration with third-party appsDelegated contacts cannot be found in third-party appsShared Contacts can be found synchronized with apps like  Whatsapp, Ringcentral, Zoho CRM, and 3000+ apps.
PermissionsThere is no way to set any restrictions. Only allows “Editing Mode” for everyone. No granularity on permissions.Owners can choose between the following permissions when they share a contact label.
– View Only
– Editors
– Can Delete
– Can Reshare
– Transfer ownership
Searching for contactsDelegated contacts can only be found in the Google Contacts interface and not through the search function (delegate has to scroll down until they find the delegated contacts)Shared Contacts can be seen by other collaborators in Google Contacts through the list and search function.
Autocomplete in Gmail, Drive, Calendar, and other devicesDelegated contacts do not appear in Gmail or Google drive autocomplete mode.Shared Contacts appear in
– Gmail recipient field
– Gmail sidebar
– Drive autocomplete
– Drive sidebar
– Calendar autocomplete
– Calendar sidebar
– mobile devices
– third-party applications like Whatsapp, Slack, Zoom, etc.
Contact BackupIf a delegate deletes a contact, you can restore it in the 30-day grace period of Google Contacts.You can restore deleted shared contacts without a limitation of time.*

You can use Shared Contacts for Gmail as a mini-CRM that will not come with the price of a CRM. Clearly, you cannot use the Delegate feature in that aspect. Read more about it on our blog: CRM alternatives to boost your sales team’s productivity.

The Google Delegation feature is more if you want someone to manage and edit your contacts. If you want to share specific contacts and want to control who has access to these contacts, go ahead and try Shared Contacts for Gmail®.

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