Facebook At Work: what it means for managers

25 January 2016 -


The social media giant is looking to move into the office with a new work-focused social media platform exclusively for businesses

Jermaine Haughton

Is having a quick scroll through you social media accounts frowned upon in your workplace? Well, perceptions could be set to change in 2016, as Facebook prepares to launch a new version tailored specifically for use at work.

Recently valued at $11.67billion (£7.88bn), the workplace communications market seems to be the next big target of domination for Facebook, as it looks to find new ways of generating revenue from its site.

Currently, Facebook has a Business Manager function which is a tool for companies to manage ads and Pages, but Facebook at Work will take on a different role for the tech giant intended to collaborate workforces.

Apart from allowing users to have a completely different profile, Facebook at Work looks almost identical to its original incarnation, with the news feed, likes and chat apps all present.

Candy Crush won’t be available, but it will feature exclusive products such as security tools.

Facebook will sell the social network to individual companies, who will allow workers access and be in control of what happens on the site. The beta-version of the site has been in closed testing since last January, with major firms like Heineken and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) taking part.

Kevin Hanley, director of design at RBS, says the introduction of Facebook at Work will help the bank drive a more transparent, collaborative and non-hierarchical workplace culture.

“There’s a real potential to transform the way we work together and ultimately improve the service we provide to our customers,” he said. “It enables us to communicate and to discuss and to share and solve problems in ways that traditional tools such as email simply can’t.”

Until the full version of Facebook at Work finally becomes available, the full host of benefits (and limitations) to employers is difficult to identify, but some are already clear.

With the system operating similarly to the original Facebook, employers are unlikely to need to put too much time into helping workers learn how to use the system, limiting confusion and mistakes.

Secondly, teams will benefit from the wide range of communication and organisational tools offered by Facebook at Work to help workers complete tasks successfully and quickly.

In addition to the option of sharing events and calendars with colleagues, users can create groups that match interests, projects, or organisational groups. Facebook Messenger can also be used for direct one-to-one or one-to-many chatting.

And finally, Facebook At Work is unlikely to dent the balance sheet, as it is being sold to clients through a software-as-a-service freemium model; although for enhanced customer support, integration and analytics, Facebook will ask for a fee each month.

Still, some analysts say it’s too early to gauge impact. “It’s a little hard to tell whether it’s a game changer yet,” said Brian Blau, research director of personal technologies at Gartner Inc.

Judging by the beta version, however, one of the major limitations of Facebook At Work is that it lacks integration with file sync-and-share services.

The ability to share files among multiple users and devices, and synchronise the shared files to retain file integrity are a valuable tool for most managers.

Facebook has stated it intends integrate the service with productivity tools and other enterprise software, but is yet to reveal full details.

“We are already talking to all the software vendors that we can think to talk about our API strategy,” explained Julien Codorniou, Facebook at Work’s director of Platform Partnerships.

But whether Facebook at Work is compelling enough to convince bosses who have already invested in the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive to transition to Facebook at Work and a new file sync-and-share service at the same time is uncertain.

IDC research manager Vanessa Thompson believes many companies and IT managers find it difficult to retool social networks such as Facebook – commonly used for recreation – as a productive workplace asset.

“Context is really important for a social network for business,” said Thompson. “On the consumer side, I care about what my friends are doing. But if I’m looking at a feed to a certain workplace project, I need to know the context of the business process and data sources involved for it to make any sense and keep me engaged.”

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