Worried that you’re not spending enough time on Facebook while you’re at work? Never fear! The social media megalith has just made it possible for you to spend all day on the network in an effort to boost productivity and enhance professional communications. Announced on October 10, Facebook Workplace is a new platform designed to compete with business tools like Slack, Yammer and Google Hangouts.
Though it looks very similar to the consumer version of Facebook, Workplace is supported by user fees rather than advertising revenue. At just $3 per month per user for the lowest priced option, it is the least expensive of the business communication platforms it’s intended to compete with. However, it doesn’t come with all the features the competitors offer. What it does provide is a familiar interface for chat and messaging functions as well as easy integration with Google and Microsoft productivity tools. It also comes with Facebook Live, for simple live streaming of events or presentations.
In a blog post announcing Workplace, Facebook acknowledged the importance of modern communications tools for organizations of all kinds, saying, “The workplace is about more than just communicating between desks within the walls of an office. Some people spend their entire workday on the go, on their mobile phone. Others spend all day out in the field, or on the road. […] People work in different ways, around the world, and Workplace’s mission is to help them stay connected.”
The company boasts that the new platform offers everything today’s business users need and want: “We’ve brought the best of Facebook to the workplace — whether it’s basic infrastructure such as News Feed, or the ability to create and share in Groups or via chat, or useful features such as Live, Reactions, Search and Trending posts. This means you can chat with a colleague across the world in real time, host a virtual brainstorm in a Group, or follow along with your CEO’s presentation on Facebook Live.
“We’ve also built unique, Workplace-only features that companies can benefit from such as a dashboard with analytics and integrations with single sign-on, in addition to identity providers that allow companies to more easily integrate Workplace with their existing IT systems.”
Julian Codorniu, who introduced Workplace at the event launch in London, touted the advantages of utilizing a business platform that most people are already comfortable using: “No training needed. It’s for everyone: from factory workers, to baristas in the coffeeshop, to the CEO.” That familiarity may encourage employees to adopt the platform without hesitation. According to Nicolas Bordas of TBWA, which tried out Workplace extensively during its 18-month beta development phase, “It’s a game-changer.”
Facebook has taken a disciplined approach to Workplace, indicating high hopes for the platform’s future as a valuable business tool. The company doubled engineering staff at the London office, where Workplace was developed, and spent about $202 million in 2015 for engineers, sales and marketing staff who worked on the project. New features and extensive interface adjustments followed feedback from beta testers before Workplace was finally deigned ready to go live for paying customers around the world.
A widely adopted and easily mastered messaging application could certainly be of benefit to accounting firms (and every other kind of business) as teams share information and coordinate marketing strategies. The question is, do we need another? Are Yammer, Slack and Hangouts covering the need adequately or are they all works in progress that could be replaced with a better tool? If you believe Workplace might improve efficiency at your firm, check it out. I’d be very interested to know what you think of it.