Doing Business | IT & Technologies

October 11, 2016

Facebook Unveils 'Workplace' To Take On Slack, Yammer

On Monday, the company widely launched a new enterprise version of Facebook called “Workplace“ to support chat and collaboration within businesses.
Facebook doesn’t only want to be a network for friends

Facebook doesn’t only want to be a network for friends

More than 1,000 organizations currently use the tool, previously known as ”Facebook at Work.” With features that resemble Facebook’s main app, Workplace lets users post about their work, follow a feed of colleagues’ updates, discuss projects in groups or watch a live video broadcast by a company executive. Workplace accounts are ad-free and are separate from users’ personal Facebook accounts, and vice versa, which should alleviate concerns among some companies that the app might detract from productivity. Workplace also looks different from Facebook’s main app with a more subdued, gray color scheme.

Facebook faces a host of competitors in the business messaging space, from Slack, to Microsoft’s Yammer and Jive by Jive Software. (Microsoft recently showed interest in further intertwining enterprise software and social networks through its bid to purchase LinkedIn.) But, Facebook’s broad global exposure — nearly a quarter of the world’s population is a monthly Facebook user and 60 million companies actively maintain a Facebook Page – should help propel adoption of the new tool in the crowded space. Companies will likely also be attracted to the simplicity of the tool, which works like Facebook’s main app and requires minimal training, unlike many other enterprise options.

Workplace will create a new revenue stream for Facebook, which primarily generates sales from advertising. While the tool is free for nonprofits and educational institutions, other organizations pay a monthly rate based on the number of monthly active users: Businesses pay $3 per employee for the first 1,000 employees, $2 per employee for 1,001 to 10,000 users and $1 per employee for more than 10,000 users. The service includes unlimited file, photo and video storage and unlimited groups. (By comparison, Slack offers a free version of its software along with two packages – one that costs $6.67 and one that costs $12.50).

“Workplace will help more companies create the kind of open culture that encourages people to connect and share,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Monday, describing organizations’ feedback about the tool as “very positive.”

“People do their best work when they have more knowledge of what’s going on at their company, and people work together better when they understand their colleagues,” Zuckerberg added.

Facebook first started testing Facebook at Work in January last year after receiving interest from organizations about Facebook’s own internal communication system, which became the building blocks for Workplace. Facebook said Workplace is designed to support a wide range of organizations, from large companies to international nonprofits and teams that spend much of their time in the field or on mobile phones. Starbucks, Booking.com and Danone are among the companies using the tool, along with nonprofits such as Oxfam and YES Bank in India. The top five countries using the tool are India, the U.S., Norway, U.K. and France. 

Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox emphasized the potential of Workplace to make companies run more efficiently. In a Facebook post, he described the impact of the tool on Yoma Bank in Myanmar. Cox said until recently the bank relied on fax machines to communicate with most employees. “They’ve skipped email and switched straight to Workplace, which they use to stay in touch, recruit new staff and even raise money for disaster relief,” Cox said in his post.

Organizations can’t see information about Workplace users’ personal Facebook accounts through the service, but they can track data on employees’ Workplace activity, such as the number of messages and posts they send. Facebook said Workplace relies on industry-leading security tools and that its hosting practices are regularly audited by independent third parties. Facebook has also partnered with several enterprise cloud services such as Box to allow Workplace users to share documents on the app from their storage accounts.

“In the coming months, we’ll be working to build several integrations that will enable seamless productivity and communication – all of which will help power the future of work,” Box CEO Aaron Levie said in a statement. “While enterprise software has often been an impediment to helping people do their best work in the past, cloud and mobile have reversed this trend. For a decade, various companies have tried to deliver Facebook-like enterprise tools without much success, but now that dream can be realized.“

 

Text by Forbes
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