Facebook Workplace Review
Facebook launched in October last year (2016) the corporate version of Facebook, a genuine and unique version of Facebook for organizations, named “Facebook Workplace“. I have been using Facebook Workplace while developing a prototype version of a record management integration Facebook API app for a large New Zealand government agency, so thought of sharing in this article some of my experiences and observations about it.
What is Facebook Workplace?
Facebook Workplace is basically a limited version of Facebook.com, the social networking website that you probably know very well, but:
(a) it has limited functionality focused on the work environment (I describe it below), and
(b) it is installed on a secluded and separated sub-domain that would be dedicated to your organization, what makes it perform like an intranet site.
So if for example your organization joined the Facebook Workplace under the domain MyOrganization.facebook.com, this Workplace Website would have separated accounts to the Facebook.com accounts, and only users of MyOrganization will be able to login to it. External users will not be able to browse or see anything which is going on in MyOrganization.Facebook.com (unlike Facebook.com, where external users could see basic information like profile photo and user name).
What is the Facebook Workplace functionality?
So basically, Facebook Workplace it the same as Facebook, only that some functions are turned off. It has the same look and feel of Facebook, but only specific functionalities are turned on:
- Users can create very limited profiles related to their job: photo, job title, who is your manager (which builds the hierarchy) and some words about yourself / your role. All the other profile functions like family, address or relationship etc are turned off.
- Users can have their own “wall” where they can post anything they like , users also have the activity log (“Eran liked X… Eran joined Y… Eran posted in….”)
- Users can create groups – there are two types of groups – public and closed. The “secret” groups which exists on Facebook, are turned off in Facebook Workplace. Groups categories are focusing people on work related subjects, and by default encouraging them to open “public” groups (and not closed groups).
- Messaging system that works like in Facebook.com, including the group messaging, conference calls and video calls.
- Pages, apps, jobs, and many other Facebook functions – are turned off.
- Administrators has a master key which lets them add users / delete posts and view analytics.
- When it comes to copyrights and legality, unlike Facebook.com, in FB Workplace the organization has full control and full ownership of the data / employees’ details. FB won’t share that data with anyone else unless the organization permitted (trust me that I carefully read the privacy rules before I logged in).
So how is it ?
I personally think that Facebook Workplace is brilliant. It is allowing people in large organizations to connect and work together. It is still social oriented – i.e. any employee could run his/her own ideas – but once the Facebook algorithm kicks in (and it does – big time), it basically gives priority to what is really important for the organization (I will explain that below). Thus it is quiet “naturally” improving the social connections between employees, and also works as a powerful broadcasting tool for managers. I think that it can bring some new qualities to large organizations:
- A brilliant way to share ideas and break hierarchical barriers, e.g. create informal groups around specific work projects and not just around structures (“Desktop software – new ideas”, or “How can we improve our work life balance?” etc)
- Ability to support working teams with virtual formal closed groups (i.e. – “Desktop Team – closed group” or “H&R team”) – what Slack is doing, but in a much better way!
- Ability for teams to provide support to other teams (i.e. “Desktop Team – 8 to 5 online support – ask us now” , “H&R FAQ” etc)
- Support social / cultural connections and activities at work and after work (i.e. “Friday night social quiz group”, “Parents and children playgroup club” etc)
- Opportunity for talented employees from the bottom of the hierarchy to get discovered, express themselves and contribute to the organization
- Brilliant voice over IP communication tool – forget about Cicso phones or Skype!
- Smartphone and tablets friendly
- Employees can connect when at home, or when travelling, even from overseas.
- Same look and feel and intuitive GUI of Facebook, so training is almost not required
- Full analytics, engagements KPIs etc for site admins to report to managers
What are the disadvantages?
I noticed several issues that you need to take into account if planning to join Facebook Workplace:
- Security issue: administrating the Facebook Workplace is done by an administrator token. If you are not a technical person then you would have to believe me on this: there is a major security risk here. Unlike Facebook.com which uses a personalized tokenization, in Facebook Workplace it can’t be done. It means that every integration or script development must use the administrator token (or “password” if you prefer) which makes it very insecure. For example, if you want to integrate FB Workplace with (just for example) a cloud EDRMS system, it means that the EDRMS vendor would have to get from you the administrator password. Now imagine you also need to integrate it with your cloud H&R provider – that provider would also need to get the same administrator code, in the end you may find that the master administrator code is spread over the whole planet. In legal terms, I believe that it is a huge risk, exposing organizations to claims in regard to the privacy act. In IT terms, it is not following best practices, actually it is so bad that I believe Facebook would have to address it before they get into troubles.
- Complicated integration: the way Facebook works, it has its own meta language and scrapers which handle information scraped from outside of Facebook. Now, since most likely your organization has its own network and file systems, sometimes the Facebook Workplace has mulfunctions when trying to integrate with those. I will give you an example – say you have files on your local filing system (aka – “strategy-presentation.ppt”), and an employee (aka – “the strategy team”) wanted to share those files on Facebook Workplace. Because the network files are sitting behind a firewall, and because Facebook Workplace is a cloud service (i.e. hosted outside of your organization), Facebook Workplace will find it hard to link to those files and/or to present their preview thumbnails. There are ways to get around it (I personally managed to do so) but it is not as easy as it is done on Facebook.com, where you just paste the required links.
- Organizational background noise: you probably need to analyze the needs of your organization before starting with the Facebook Workplace, obviously it is not required for small organizations, since those could open a “secret group” on Facebook.com and ask employees to join it. In regard to large organizations, it would most likely fit only with specific types of strategies and agendas. Sometimes organizations want to avoid background noise, and Facebook Workplace creates LOTS of background noise: in the organization I worked for, within 2 months we had more than 1,000 active groups for about 1,300 people! Tracking all those by an admin, or by employees, can be very time consuming and could take some employees out of their role focus.
- Facebook Culture: there is a reputation risk in using Facebook Workplace, especially for senior managers. Sometimes the senior managers are not really social media savvy, due to their age and background. I saw messages like “make sure you all join my group *now*!” by one manager and another manager commenting on someone’s private wall “this does not belong here!!!!” (with a long line of exclamation marks)… such misunderstanding of social media can embarrass managers as employees may start seeing them as idiots, what could lead to authority issues and work related stress. Pre-training people could solve such problems, but could you force employees to go on a Facebook course? and say you managed to do so: when you look at the list of your Facebook friends, do you really believe that everyone could be trained on how to properly use Facebook?
If any feedback or questions, please shout 🙂