In January 2015, Facebook quietly took the covers off its first venture into the enterprise collaboration space with the introduction of a beta programme for “Facebook at Work”, a version of its flagship platform designed for enabling collaboration inside an organisation. Eighteen months later – with over 450 early adopter organisations signed up, including large enterprises like Royal Bank of Scotland and Heineken, and a further 60,000 having applied to join the program – Facebook is ramping up for a wider release later this year. So can the consumer social networking giant really make an impact in an already competitive market, or will naivety about the enterprise IT space be its downfall?
A bold – and unexpected – move
When trying to describe their technologies, many social collaboration technology vendors have used the phrase “well, it’s like having Facebook inside your organisation”. Against that backdrop, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that Facebook decided to give the opportunity a try – but, given the company’s lack of experience in the enterprise software space, there’s no doubt that it took many by surprise, and caused a flurry of media attention and excitement surrounding the move. Despite this, Facebook kept very quiet about its plans for more than a year after the beta announcement, gradually adding to the list of early adopters it has signed up, and gathering feedback to help it shape its approach. Now, the veil is starting to lift and we’re getting a better insight into the company’s plans for this product.
What is Facebook at Work?
Facebook at Work takes the product that you are likely familiar with in a personal context – with the same socially-enabled core capabilities and user experience – and delivers this in a private, ring-fenced sub-domain for your organisation, provided as a SaaS-based service, without advertising, and without the social apps and games that proliferate in the personal, consumer-focused Facebook experience. It has a different colour scheme to differentiate it from the personal application (the theme is grey as opposed to blue), and you will not see updates from your Facebook friends and family within the Facebook at Work stream.
Interestingly, however, Facebook has enabled some connection between the two environments; while you can’t access Facebook at Work from your personal Facebook page, there is an optional setting which enables individuals to log into their personal Facebook from the Facebook at Work UI, and then toggle between the two of them – although this has only been enabled in a handful of early adopter organisations.
The Facebook at Work application focuses on five key areas of functionality: