Facebook Unveils Workplace, an Enterprise Collaboration Suite



In a bid to making businesses use the various forms of its service to improve their productivity, Facebook has finally announced the unveiling of its Workplace by Facebook, a new effort which it hopes will finally convince companies to use Facebook.

Workplace is essentially a specially constructed version of Facebook’s desktop and mobile apps. It does away with all the bloat of the regular versions, emphasizing productivity tools and Facebook’s collaboration elements. The interface also gets an overhaul, making it visually cleaner and more appropriate for corporate use.

Facebook has firmly established itself as the leading social network amongst friends, groups and family members. It has never gained a handle on corporate environments though, despite repeated efforts to do so. Facebook’s feature set doesn’t naturally integrate into workplaces. Instead, companies tend to adopt solutions firmly aimed at productivity, such as Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s Apps for Work.

Still not content to be locked out of businesses, Facebook has built Workplace as an enterprise collaboration suite designed let workers in organizations communicate with each other. Facebook has been testing Workplace with 1,000 companies worldwide for over a year. it has finally opened up availability to the public, enabling any business to get started with Workplace.

The majority of Facebook features have made the jump intact. Users can post status updates to members of their company and see them added to the News Feed. There’s full support for Groups, Messenger, Search and Trending posts. Facebook has also retained newer features including Live and Reactions. While initially these may appear incongruous in a work environment, Facebook said they are already proving useful to companies.

Behind the scenes, Workplace includes a comprehensive analytics and tracking suite that enables system administrators, team leaders and IT professionals to get the low-down on how employees are using Workplace. The exposed data ranges from the simple, such as the number of posts published last week, to advanced insights into individual users’ behaviour.

Workplace allows data to extend beyond the company too. As part of today’s announcement, Facebook unveiled Multi-Company Groups, a feature that will rollout “in the coming weeks.” It enables organisations to create shared spaces for collaboration, letting companies create a group that includes a project’s workers and their counterparts at the client.

Workplace by Facebook appears to be an attempt to give Facebook a presence in the company intranet field, a space that has seen little change in recent years. At its core, Workplace by Facebook rivals enterprise collaboration enablers such as Slack and Microsoft’s Office 365. Facebook’s not targeting the same breadth of features as Microsoft and Google though.

Workplace by Facebook doesn’t support serious cloud storage, online document creation or individual team sites beyond basic Groups. Companies running on Office 365 or Google for Work can enjoy all of Workplace’s collaboration features alongside the robust file sharing and task management capabilities that Facebook currently lacks.

Facebook already has some big names using Workplace though. Companies including Danone, Starbucks, and Oxfam are currently collaborating with Workplace. Facebook considers the software’s primary purpose to be keeping people connected wherever they are, using an app they’re already familiar with from the traditional Facebook. This premise appeals to many of Workplace’s early adopters.

“The workplace is about more than just communicating between desks within the walls of an office,” the company said. “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. We’ve been amazed by the breadth of organizations who’ve embraced Workplace.”

Facebook Workplace is available to organizations today. The company said it will be pricing the service “competitively” based on the number of users actively engaging with the product. Prices range from $1 to $3 per month depending on the number of users, significantly less than Facebook’s rivals. The company also offers a 3-month free trial and an entirely free option for non-profit companies and educational institutions.

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