Four things Facebook at Work must do to succeed where others have failed

Four things Facebook at Work must do to succeed where others have failed
Brent Frei is the co-founder and executive chairman of Bellevue, Wash.-based, an online spreadsheet-inspired collaboration tool. Previously, he was CEO and co-founder of Onyx Software Corporation, a CRM software company where he oversaw the generation of $600 million in direct revenue. In addition, he founded HarvestWest, a farmland investment firm.


Facebook is the next giant to try and slay the collaboration beast.  When it unveiled its new “Work” portal Facebook at Work for interacting with co-workers in the office, it spurred a discussion around whether the popular consumer service has what it takes to be successful in the enterprise. But so far, no social collaboration tools seem to have cracked the enterprise-wide adoption code.

Here are three issues that Facebook at Work initially needs to overcome:

The Irony – Can the social network that is often blocked in the workplace shed its image as a “productivity killer” and become a viable enterprise collaboration tool and a “productivity enhancer”?

The Goliaths – Microsoft (Yammer), Salesforce (Chatter), SAP (Jam), IBM (Connections), Google (Wave – discontinued), and Cisco (Webex Social – discontinued) have all taken a meaningful run at this. Two have fallen on their sword, and the others are far from familiar social collaboration names within any business.  While these companies don’t have a tremendous lead, they do have megaphones, capital, and mindshare.

The Davids – Asana and Quip (started by ex-Facebookers) ventured out to solve what Facebook is now trying to address. Do they know something about Facebook’s inability to pull this off that Facebook itself doesn’t know? There are also companies like Slack that will try to treat Facebook and others as data sources, as well as companies like Jive that perpetuate the concept of corporate intranets. 

Successful enterprise collaboration requires both structured collaboration from tools like Smartsheet and active social collaboration from tools like these. Sooner or later, Facebook, Google, or possibly Microsoft with its clever approach in Delve will get it right.  At that point, I believe we’ll see a positive step function in productivity improvements.  

So what does it take for a social collaboration tool to buck the trend and at last be effective?

Four things that must be mastered for social collaboration to succeed in the enterprise

Rank and relevance filter: Some folks will tell you that widespread participation is a critical component of success. Participation may be important, but it can also be the biggest reason for failure. Noise, noise, and more noise. Too often the most active folks in these settings are not the ones with useful content.  Smart filtering and ranking the streams of content is critical.  It promotes productive use, and creates the proper incentives for participation. 

Enterprise-grade security – Understand and deliver the tools to enable them to fulfill their mission.  This includes offering tools for identity management such as single sign-on, data loss prevention solutions, data migration tools, security information, and tools for auditing activity logs of employees.

Collaboration with external people – Smartsheet’s customers typically have a mix of 65 percent company employees to 35 percent external collaborators involved in coordinating work. Whether they’re working with customers, contractors, volunteers or vendors, employees need a tool that enables them to easily collaborate with people outside of their domain.  Why then, do none of the social collaboration tools enable this? Newsflash: the working world is not an Intranet.

Integration with systems of record -Collaboration without content and context from the systems of record (Google Apps for Work, Office365, Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Workday, Smartsheet, Tableau) would be missing a critical information contributor in most processes. 

Enterprises have been searching for smarter ways to communicate for years now – but whether Facebook or any of its social collaboration competitors are able to deliver the winning formula remains to be seen. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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