The introduction next year of Facebook at Work will make the already flimsy wall between consumer technology and social networking on one hand and corporate-level unified communications platforms on the other even more porous.
It’s a topic I discussed last month. Essentially, people like the tools that they use in their private lives – those with which they are comfortable – at work. These tools, from Skype and similar services to text to plain old email, enable them to do many of the tasks that purpose-built, full bells-and-whistles platforms make possible.
Many of the extras that corporate platforms bring are either unfamiliar to workers or things with which they wouldn’t deal directly in any case (such as security, archiving and hooks into backend databases). In other words, they are things that that won’t be missed.
Thus, the rationale for management to invest in, and workers to use, the expensive platforms grows more tenuous as the consumer devices grow more sophisticated.
That brings us to Facebook at Work, which is nearing release, says InformationWeek. It will enable users to create separate personal and work accounts. Facebook rolled out a pilot last January and now has more than 300 companies on board. These range from large companies such as Heineken to small players. In October, Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to use Facebook at Work beyond the pilot.
ZDNet’s Larry Dignan provided a few reasons that he thinks that Facebook at Work will work “probably pretty well”: It will require no training, people are familiar with it because products already on the enterprise market have heavily cribbed from Facebook and the economics are favorable. The final reason Dignan gives suggests both the shared consumer and enterprise DNA and the fact that the market still has not been fully addressed:
Collaboration hasn't really been cracked. Collaboration is something that everyone needs, everyone uses and no one is satisfied with what's on the market today. Enterprise software vendors have been trying to improve interfaces and collaboration for years yet most workers (this one included) use a hodgepodge of tools and usually stray from the sandbox the enterprise provides.
Matt Kapko, a senior writer for CIO, said that Facebook at Work will be free at launch. Eventually, however, the company will charge for support, analytics and integration with Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and other enterprise collaboration platforms.
It seems increasingly clear that the purpose-built unified communications platforms are being squeezed out. They clearly bring something to the table in terms of functionality and advanced capabilities. The question is whether enterprises will want it.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.