Facebook makes inroads in enterprises with Workplace

Workplace by Facebook rolled out in more than 150 organisations with 10,000+ employees
Luke McNeal, head of Workplace by Facebook for Asia Pacific and Japan.

Luke McNeal, head of Workplace by Facebook for Asia Pacific and Japan.

Well-known Australian brands including large enterprises such as NAB are among the businesses that have helped drive Workplace by Facebook to 2 million paid individual users.

The social media giant today released figures on the adoption of its business-focused collaboration offering, revealing that some 30,000 organisations are actively using Workplace by Facebook and Workplace for Good. (Workplace for Good is a free version for not-for-profit organisations and educational institutions).

Facebook said that its (paying) Workplace customers included more than 150 companies with 10,000 or more employees; it didn't break down adoption by market.

The platform launched just under two years ago, after a year in beta as ‘Facebook at Work’.

Luke McNeal, head of Workplace by Facebook for Asia Pacific and Japan, told Computerworld that businesses were using the platform in three key ways: As a way to broadcast communications to employees, particularly in fragmented organisations, as part of an effort boost internal collaboration, and to automate workflows through the use of chatbots.

He gave the example of Hoyts Cinemas, which has employed the service as a way of communicating more effectively with a dispersed and largely millennial workforce: 83 per cent of the chain’s workforce is aged between 16 and 24, many of them working part time, and they are spread across some 50 locations.

“How do you connect with that workforce that’s really highly distributed?” McNeal said. “It also goes the other way,” he added. “By giving everyone in the organisation a voice, being able to get a much better idea of employee sentiment or feedback that people have around policies or business direction or anything that’s top of mind for them – so really reducing distance there.”

“I think the challenge that many organisation have when they roll out a new tool is -- how do we drive adoption,” he said. “There’s always going to be a learning curve for any new platform and I think that’s a real advantage that Workplace has – it’s a very familiar UI.”

Hoyts’ relatively youthful workforce means that the majority are familiar with Facebook already.

Hoyts has seen a “big uplift in communication” between its leadership and its largely part-time workforce.

McNeal cited the Australian Catholic University as an organisation that had rolled out Workplace to specifically boost collaboration between teams, with ACU using the platform to help drive its sustainability efforts, for example.

ACU turned to the platform following its 2017 ‘myVoice’ staff survey, which indicated employees saw 'cooperation and communication' as an area that could be improved across the university.

The rollout followed a pilot among corporate services staff between March and July 2017 during which 85 per cent of employees in the area voluntarily signed up to use the platform.

In late October 2017 the university’s chief operating officer, Dr Stephen Weller, announced that more than 1000 employees had signed up to use Workplace, including staff from the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and President, Research Institutes and the Office of the Vice President.

In a memo Weller said that Workplace would help keep staff informed about what was happening across ACU, engage with colleagues, share work and ideas, find opportunities to collaborate, and “get work done”.

Selling enterprises on Facebook

McNeal said the number of organisations with 10,000+ users on the platform “really speaks to how we have gone to market and the impact and success we’ve had”.

“There’s 2.5 billion people that use [Facebook Inc. services] every month and that really gives us a unique experience to be able to connect really large sets of people,” he said. “We’re confident we’re going to see growth in very large organisations – we’ve had a lot of success to date and we’re really focused on earning large customers’ business” as well as the business of “much smaller organisations that are trying to achieve that same kind of teamwork.”

McNeal said the company was “well positioned” because it has been able to capitalise on the innovation of the consumer Facebook platform and the family of related apps.

“I think our ability to take those learnings and that experience to be able to translate that to what makes sense for the enterprise with security credentials and having that be a standalone platform – I think that’s a really strong competitive advantage.”

McNeal added that the company had proven its ability to rapidly add new features to the business-focused platform. One recent example was adding Safety Check to Workplace. The feature allows employees to mark themselves safe following a natural disaster and has already been used by enterprises including Delta Air Lines following a tsunami in Japan.

The use of video in enterprises is expected to increase and Workplace is well-placed to capitalise on the trend thanks to its heritage, McNeal added.

The association of an enterprise platform with a consumer social media service – which has been at the centre of a number of high-profile controversies including over its handling of user data – is an “opportunity to really educate the market” about the differences between the platforms while still taking advantage of the “ubiquity of Facebook in this day and age,” McNeal argued.

“We’re a standalone platform, there’s a completely different way in which our customers log into Workplace, it’s not associated [with] anyone’s personal Facebook account -- our customers own the data and own sole access to who has access to that instance,” he said.

“We’ve got a number of security credentials to be able to back that up and we’ve earned the trust and confidence of these very large organisations, whether it be consumer goods brands or banks and financial institutions or even government entities.”

Coca-Cola Amatil and Nestle are among the global giants using the platform, including their local operations. Alongside NAB, the ACU and Hoyts, Australian customers include NBN Co and retailer The Iconic.

McNeal said Workplace would continue to have a focus on mobile-first development, with a particular focus on bringing video to the enterprise. Another key area of development is building out integrations with other SaaS products as part of a “best of breed” rather than “one stop shop” approach. “Workplace can be that central pane of glass that connects all of those SaaS platforms through integrations,” he said.

So far Workplace offers more than 50 integrations for platforms ranging from Microsoft SharePoint to Google’s G Suite, Box and Zoom.