I have to admit that I’ve liked the idea of Facebook at Work ever since I first heard of it about a year ago. It’s finally out as of this week, and now it’s called Workplace.
It might seem like Workplace is outside of our usual topic area for BrianMadden.com, and to some extent that’s true, but on the other hand we’ve spent a lot of time in the past writing about consumerization of IT and FUIT (plus VMware and Citrix have Socialcast and Podio) so really it’s not that far out.
From the headline of this article, you already know that I think Workplace is a great idea. You might already agree. If you don’t, however, you might have one or more of the following thoughts about Facebook Workplace:
- What? Why?
- Social networking is just for kids.
- We already have enterprise social networking and collaboration tools, and nobody uses them.
- We already have enterprise social networking and collaboration tools, so why do we need another?
- Enterprise data on Facebook? Yeah, right!
So let me talk about why I think Workplace is is a great idea and could be a game changer.
First, I’m pretty sure that in 2016 I don’t have to point out that Facebook isn’t just for millennials anymore and that everybody across all demographics uses it, but here it is just in case. (I will note that looking into Workplace did make me a bit nostalgic—I first used Facebook when the URL was TheFacebook.com and it was just becoming available to a handful of new universities every few weeks.)
Enterprise social networks and collaboration tools have been around for years. Some of them are painful (user profiles on the corporate intranet), others try harder but are still lackluster, and some are getting fairly popular, like Chatter, Jive, Slack, or Yammer.
The thing that’s different about Workplace is... well... it’s Facebook. Everybody already knows how to use it because Facebook has 1,700,000,000 monthly active users. It already has groups, chat, group chats, profiles, tagging, news feeds, videos, events, live streaming, full-featured mobile apps, and plenty of other features. Facebook puts billions of dollars into making sure all these things are stable, easy to use, attractive, and can scale. Can any other enterprise social network vendor even come close to this?
But can Facebook make enterprise-grade SaaS? Like I said before, they’re already huge and pouring tons of money into making robust product features, so that goes a long way. And considering the hacking attempts and threats they already defend themselves from every day, I’d trust them more than many other companies.
There are a couple of security and management pages you can look at (technical documentation, trust principles, security and privacy, and FAQs) but the basics are that there are no ads, it’s completely separated from users’ personal Facebook accounts, and that companies retain control over their own data. There are a bunch of integrator partners signed on, and for account management, SSO, and identity federation, Workplace is integrating with IDaaS providers like Okta, Ping, and Azure AD.
One of the biggest initial criticisms is the lack of other third-party software integrations (Box is the only one for now) but other writers with more access to Facebook assume more will be coming soon.
Another interesting aspect of Workplace, as many articles have noted, is that the licensing is based on monthly active users (instead of total seats) and that the pricing is fairly inexpensive (and cheaper than Slack).
There’s one last aspect of it that I think is important, and that is that Workplace isn’t just for corporate employees in the office, rather it’s for all sorts of extended enterprise users, like field workers, contractors, technicians, and other employees that may not have a desktop or even a corporate email address. It also works with partners at other companies, as it will support cross-company groups.
A very sensible objection to Workplace came in a casual comment from one of my TechTarget colleagues, who said “So? It's just another way to talk to your coworkers...” We already have email and plenty of other messaging and collaboration options, and this could indeed be Workplace’s biggest obstacle. But I wouldn’t underestimate Workplace, and I especially wouldn’t dismiss it.