With the recent release of Facebook Workplace, the social media giant made its first major foray into the workplace, offering a tool that promises to make work a more productive and collaborative experience.
But is Workplace ready for the rigors of today’s enterprise work environment? (Spoiler alert: I don’t think so and it could have dangerous consequences for enterprises in healthcare, finance and other industries that place a high premium on security and collaboration.)
Familiarity Isn’t enough
Facebook is positioning Workplace as an alternative to email and collaboration-based platforms like Slack. For a monthly fee of $3 per user ($1 per user for organizations with more than 10,000 users), companies gain access to a Facebook experience dedicated to work-related communication.
Key features of Workplace include Groups, Facebook Live and Messenger chat. One of the primary attractions of the platform is a news feed that parallels the one found on users’ personal Facebook accounts.
Facebook is counting on familiarity with the platform to promote Workplace in the enterprise community — and frankly, it’s a fair point. Even though Workplace accounts will be completely separate from users’ personal accounts, the similarity of the user experience will make it easier for employees to adopt the platform for work activities.
But experienced CIOs and IT managers know that familiarity alone doesn’t ensure the success of a new technology. These days, enterprise technologies must also mitigate risk and deliver benefits that improve the organization’s bottom line business performance.
Where Workplace falls short
I love technologies that make enterprises more efficient and productive, and make life easier for employees.
As the CEO of Infinite Convergence, I’m extremely proud of NetSfere, our secure enterprise messaging solution, because it gives large organizations the technological firepower to simply, securely and reliably share files and information — no small feat given the challenges many organizations are up against.
There are plenty of horror stories out there about organizations that relied on technologies that lack genuine, enterprise-class functionality.
Unfortunately, I think the Workplace platform may ultimately fall into this category.
Here are three reasons why.
#1 Social networking is not the same as secure messaging
At its core, Facebook is a social networking technology that fosters connections among its users. By importing many of the features of its consumer technology into Workplace, Facebook has made its new platform accessible to employees. But it has also imported some of the problems associated with social networking.
For example, if you use Facebook, you know that your news feed is frequently cluttered with irrelevant and useless information. The news feed feature carries into Workplace, so users will likely be forced to sift through posts to discover information that is actually useful to them, reducing the efficiency gains organizations hope to achieve.
Although Workplace offers a Workchat feature for one-on-one and small group conversations, it’s difficult to see how users won’t be overwhelmed with extraneous information and ultimately waste time surfing their Workplace account.
Enterprise platforms that are specifically designed for messaging and file sharing incentivize users to share files and information that are useful and relevant. Rather than surfing a news feed, users participate in conversations that directly relate to their roles and workplace activities.
#2 Security is an issue, especially for enterprises in highly regulated industries
Security continues to be a top concern for CIOs and managers. The risks associated with sharing sensitive files and information are simply too great to rely on technologies that lack strong security protocols.
Facebook assures users that Workplace leverages proprietary security safeguards. However, we’re already hearing concerns about whether the company will be able to deliver on its promise of secure collaboration and information sharing.
The security issue is particularly important for organizations in healthcare, finance and other highly regulated industries. In many cases, these organizations are required to comply with strict security standards for the sharing and storage of files and data. It’s unclear whether Workplace can accommodate complex compliance requirements or even guarantee the security of the information that is shared on the platform.
#3 Workplace may reduce employee engagement
Familiarity with the platform may turn out to be a double-edged sword for Facebook. I think it’s entirely possible that the habits users practice on their personal Facebook accounts could transfer to their Workplace accounts, in a way that is detrimental to the enterprise.
Here’s what I mean: A significant portion of Facebook users are “lurkers” — users who consume information without actively participating in conversations. Given the similarities to the consumer platform, Workplace could reduce employee engagement rather than improving collaboration. Instead of actively contributing to group conversations, some users could simply lurk in the shadows and avoid participation.
Lurking is much more difficult to pull off on a messaging platform. Although messaging conversations often involve multiple users, the groups tend to be smaller and more narrowly defined, requiring the input and participation of everyone in the group.
Facebook Workplace is an interesting idea and a clear nod to organizations that are looking for a way to improve collaboration and information sharing. But for my money, secure enterprise messaging technology is a better bet. It’s more focused, more secure and more capable of providing the capabilities enterprises need to reduce risks and achieve business improvement.