Facebooking at work has traditionally been viewed as a productivity killer, but the social network is now ready to make a legitimate play at improving collaboration between workers.
The company has been working on ‘Facebook at Work’ for about a year now, but this week took the tool out of what has effectively been a closed beta, rebranded it ‘Workplace’, and made it available to companies worldwide.
Facebook managed to find 1000 companies to use it while the tool was invite-only. That period helped the company understand just how its tool might get used in the real world.
“We’ve been amazed by the breadth of organisations who’ve embraced Workplace — from a shipping company that can now connect with their ship crews using Live video, to a bank that now uses Workplace instead of fax machines and newsletters to share updates with its distributed bank branches,” Facebook said in a blog post.
In addition to offering chat-like collaboration, Workplace has the ability to create “multi-company groups”, which Facebook describes as “shared spaces that allow employees from different organisations to work together, to extend collaboration beyond your company in a safe and secure way.”
Workplace isn’t free, at least after a three-month trial period or you’re a non-profit or educational institution. Corporates can expect to pay $3 per user per month, less if they have over 1000 users.
Of course, Facebook isn’t first to the workplace collaboration space. Its biggest competitor is likely to be Slack, which has forged a formidable user base and role in enterprise collaboration. (Slack also offers a free tier, which has helped spur adoption).
Still, Facebook has managed to secure some high-profile business support for Workplace – including the likes of Danone, Starbucks, Oxfam, Booking.com, and closer to home, the national broadband network builder, NBN.
NBN said it was the “first large corporate in the country to sign up to the beta product six months ago”.
It trialled the software with 100 employees before expanding to all 6000 full-time staff and contractors back in July.
"We had set a target of 50 percent [of employees] registered by end of year but our expectations clearly didn't anticipate the team's appetite for collaboration," NBN’s corporate affairs executive general manager Karina Keisler said.
"Within a week of launch 72 percent of employees were on board and, today at 90 percent, there's a steady stream of conversation and collaboration.”
Keisler said NBN tested Workplace functions “with real-time activities including the launch of the Sky Muster II satellite” in early October.
“Work Chat, Facebook’s chat function, was used to keep the lines of communication open between French Guiana, San Francisco and across Australia when news of a potential delay came through,” she said.
“Regular reports from the weather balloon testing was delivered real time and enabled the team to shift the media conference and launch activity without missing a beat.
"When the launch happened a day later Workplace's live video function lit up the newsfeed with experiences across the company.
"There were 1400 posts, 1700 comments and 8400 reactions from across the business, and across the world, that would not have happened via email.”