Facebook goes live with its Slack and email killer called Workplace

10 Oct 2016

Could Workplace be just the thing workers drowning in email and various productivity apps need, or will it add to the clutter on the desktop?

With more than 1,000 organisations already using Workplace, Facebook wants to transform the world of work as we know it.

Aimed primarily at the workforce that has already grown up using Facebook, the social media giant’s new productivity and communications platform is being made available to any company on the planet that applies to use it.

You could think of it as Slack as designed by Facebook engineers. But that may be misleading because the entire platform is built on technology that has been used internally at Facebook for a number of years.

‘Workplace by Facebook’ previously had the working title Facebook at Work and more than 1,000 organisations, including small companies up to large multinationals like Danone and Starbucks, have already been beta-testing it for the past year.

Facebook said that it is working with professional services organisations such as Deloitte to bring Workplace to even more businesses as part of the Workplace Partner Programme.

The new Workplace platform, which works for desk-bound as well as mobile-first workers, takes familiar Facebook features like News Feed, Chat, Live video and more to enable a seamless working environment.

The company said that Workplace represents a way to enable a culture change and reflect the way the workplace has evolved, with more and more people spending time on mobile devices.

It is also intended to democratise the working environment by giving every employee a voice, from the CEO to the newest intern.

The platform will compete with other productivity-oriented services like Slack, Trello and Wrike, not to mention various offerings from Microsoft and Salesforce.

Facebook said the new productivity platform will be priced competitively, with companies only paying for people who are actively using the product.

 The new Workplace

Facebook goes live with its Slack and email killer Workplace

Facebook is pitching Workplace as a mobile-first enterprise solution

Workplace has existed as an internal app at Facebook for years. It is designed to achieve better alignment between teams and to help teammates avoid situations where they are drowning in emails.

Over the last 18 months, Facebook has added features that include multi-company groups, allowing employees from multiple organisations to work together. Multi-company groups are always secret groups that can be accessed on an invite-only basis. Members won’t be able to see any information in the other organisation’s Workplace community.

So far more than 100,000 groups have been created in the last year.

Facebook goes live with its Slack and email killer Workplace

Workplace by Facebook includes familiar technologies such as Live video and groups

Other features include Live video, Reactions, auto-translate, video and group calling in Work Chat, trending posts, search filters and more.

The top five countries using Workplace are India, the US, Norway, the UK and France.

Facebook said that the modern workplace is more than just communication between desks within the walls of an office – some people spend most of their day on the go, on their mobile phone.

“We’ve brought the best of Facebook to the workplace — whether it’s basic infrastructure such as News Feed, the ability to create and share in Groups or via chat, or useful features such as Live, Reactions, Search and Trending posts,” the company explained.

“This means you can chat with a colleague across the world in real time, host a virtual brainstorm in a Group, or follow along with your CEO’s presentation on Facebook Live.

“We’ve also built unique, Workplace-only features that companies can benefit from, such as a dashboard with analytics and integrations with single sign-on, in addition to identity providers that allow companies to more easily integrate Workplace with their existing IT systems.”

It will be interesting to see how Facebook does with Workplace, considering it is already a tried and tested tool used internally – in stealth mode – by 1,000 organisations.

Certainly, many users who are already comfortable with tools like Facebook Messenger and groups, as well as Live video, will be quick to adopt it.

In a world cluttered with new tools like Slack or Trello, could Workplace be a platform too far or just the tonic in a planet of the apps?

Time will tell.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years