Workplace by Facebook is rocket fuel for the digital workplace

12 October 2016 by

fb-at-workDemo of the new Workplace by Facebook service

When I met Julien Codorniou, Global Head of – what at the time was called “Facebook for Work”, now “Workplace by Facebook” – over the summer, I left the highly illuminating chat with an intriguing idea: What if the Facebook workplace service has as big an impact on “work” as it has had on “life”?

This question about the ultimate impact of Facebook on work was in my mind when the new Workplace by Facebook service was officially announced this week, as it has all the impressive features and “test bed clients” that Julien had referenced when we were together.

For the past two years the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) has stayed close to DWG member Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) throughout its pilot of the Facebook technology, and I have been struck by how much RBS like the service, allaying many early concerns about work/personal blurring and senior reluctance around workers using Facebook in the workplace.

And now we can add to the RBS experience, Starbucks, Booking.com, Norwegian telecom giant Telenor, as well as non-profits Oxfam and Save the Children.

The smart moves from Julien and his 120 London-based engineers and account people include several impressive strands:

  • Facebook made sure to get some large household-name organizations onboard for the pilot wave (unlike Google for Work, which started small, hoping to upgrade to larger players, but failed to achieve that transition).
  • Having a London (not Californian) HQ for the service, with its own engineering and commercial staff in London, which created a degree of independence from the “host” Facebook brand.
  • Price points that are (for now at least) significantly lower than Jive or Slack.
  • A concern for competitors must be the Facebook strategy to work with Microsoft as a partner rather than to try to displace it; this allows organizations wedded to SharePoint and Office 365 to integrate Workplace by Facebook into those services.
  • It would appear that Facebook wants to innovate at pace by adding new services to Workplace by Facebook, such as Facebook Live, plus whatever new intelligent systems come to the Facebook universe.

For me, this all brings about quite a change of mind. When the service first launched as a pilot, I blogged vigorously that Facebook for workers would fail, for a host of (what at the time seemed very plausible) reasons – but since seeing for myself the reality within RBS I have had to review this initial stance. Time will tell, but executives at Jive and Slack must be feeling nervous today given the fanfare from happy early users and the much lower prices offered by Workplace by Facebook.

Apart from the RBS experience, we also know of a large manufacturing company which has been testing Facebook quite extensively. This company has used Yammer, Slack, Chatter and now Facebook, and is very enthusiastic with 500 users on the tool. Facebook has passed all their security concerns, impressed with its architecture and zero onboarding required, and has been great for mobile working.

What is attractive to me, whether or not Workplace by Facebook actually transforms or just improves the general digital workplace experience for organizations, is that the focus is placed not purely on office-based knowledge workers but more on the mobile frontline – a group I have called for many years the “digitally disenfranchised”. This has the ability to change how organizations work at profound levels, as power (in terms of communications and information) moves to the frontline from the centre.

So, given the PR that will no doubt come with Facebook, start investigating the product and reach your own conclusions – before your C-suite start asking for your viewpoint on its value for your organization.

Categorised in: Digital workplace

Paul Miller

Paul Miller is CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG), rated by the Financial Times in 2020, 2021 and 2022 as one of the UK’s leading management consultancies in digital transformation. He is a business and social entrepreneur. His latest book is ‘Nature of Work – The new Story of Work for a Living Age’ (co-authored with Shimrit Janes). His previous book, ‘The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future’ (co-authored with Elizabeth Marsh), was shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year 2016 Award. Paul’s previous book, ‘The Digital Workplace: How technology is liberating work’, helped to popularize and explain the term “digital workplace”. Paul has given many inspirational talks on the digital future of work, for audiences at Microsoft, IKEA, Google, Accenture, Harvard Business Review, Cisco, European Commission, IMF, Adobe and Oxford University.

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