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December 11, 2014

Facebook at Work: can it successfully saturate the workplace?

Nicholas Scholz, Global Product Manager Collaboration at Novell, questions whether CIOs will ever be comfortable using Facebook in the workplace.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

What is Facebook attempting with Facebook at Work? The initial news contained little information, so conclusions are being drawn purely on speculation. However, we already know enough about Facebook that we can start making conclusions as to where this will end.

This is the same site where members share everything and anything with ‘Friends’, people of all ages leave privacy at the door when they sign-in to Facebook. There is no question that Facebook’s branding has been wildly successful, clever and wholly based on the idea of ‘oversharing’. You can essentially equate Facebook to the party guy you want to hang out with on Friday night who’s funny, popular and a bit crazy – but would you want to work with him?

Facebook’s fans love the site and aren’t interested in the brand’s reputation. But what’s interesting is that articles indicate Facebook is not just looking to build another social network to compete with the likes of LinkedIn. Instead, it is planning to offer enterprise collaboration. In this sense, it is set to compete with the likes of Yammer, Microsoft SharePoint, Novell Vibe, Cisco’s Project Squared and many others.

However, what’s set to be a bigger problem than the competition for Facebook? It’s the customers. No announcement has been made on how exactly Facebook plans to make money from its new enterprise offering. Although a model it understands, it seems unlikely that the company will use an advertising-based model which would allow Facebook to give the solution to users for free. A licensing model would make more sense in the workplace but this then begs the question – how do you sell Facebook to a CIO?

IT departments and CIOs have seen Facebook as the enemy for a long time. It kills productivity, takes up bandwidth and creates a hole in security regimes. For businesses that do allow employees to browse Facebook at work, CIOs still face issues with creating proper-use guidelines as well as spending resources on bandwidth.

Facebook must realise that no organisation would be happy for their internal collaboration to be publicly indexed of available. It also needs to realise that its reputation will stand in the way of Facebook for Work just as much as the reality will. As long as IT departments continue to put Facebook in the same bracket as the word ‘oversharing’, it will be the last choice when it comes to enterprise collaboration.

Keeping the enterprise IT environment safe and secure is a huge priority for CIOs and IT departments. With this in mind, it’s unlikely that Facebook will be able to stop IT from feeling comfortable with the safety of their information. Facebook may well be the guy you want at every party – but it’s probably not the person the majority would like running collaboration in your business.

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