How Workplace by Facebook will Change How Your Team Works

Now that Facebook has launched FB @ Work, or Workplace as it was inevitably named — FB names its products simply after what they are, like the man who named his dog Dog — here are some thoughts about what it’s going to be like for people who work on teams that will adopt it.

I’ve spent about a year at Facebook until leaving recently, and got the chance to use a couple of iterations of Workplace, as a Product Manager on the Internet.org team.

Reading through the tech press coverage of the launch, the angle that has been taken by most reporters has been comparing Workplace by FB to Slack, pitting them against each other like gladiators in the arena. I get that this is the right angle journalistically, and it’s certainly a valid business story that will play out as these products compete with each other, for adoption by teams of knowledge workers. For that matter, they will also have to reckon with what I, for one, consider to be a very serious competitor — the present and future offerings of Atlassian, a company that has the right scale of vision and record of execution to build for the same teams.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about Workplace, at least not for most people who work at organizations that will now adopt it.

For most people who work on such teams today, what’s going to happen is that a lot of multi-way communication that today happens over email, will start to happen on Workplace in stead. And don’t forget: Workplace the Product is essentially Facebook. So it has all of the engagement mechanics of Facebook. At the risk of stating the obvious — these mechanics work; Certainly they work much better than cascades of email replies.

So now when you run into a story about a competitor relevant to your team, in stead of sending it over email to the big alias, you will post it in the team group. When it’s time to send your weekly report, you will post it instead, and perhaps cross post it to a few relevant groups. People will start chiming in and tagging others. In some cases consensus will be achieved and decisions made inline. In others, debates will be channeled into impromptu meetings or agenda items for standing meetings.

There will be much less email in your inbox, and that’s a good thing. It won’t free up so much time because the same content will still require your attention and mental energy. But on average more team members will be engaged with decisions and projects, and in a more natural way, using a tool everyone already uses in the same fashion for their personal life. Drinking from the firehouse of information overload, that every modern knowledge worker deals with, will be more efficient, just. Not by a magical 10x. But by a noticeable measure.

The battle in the arena is not between Facebook & Slack. It’s between modern and relevant forms of communication and collaboration on one side, and good old corporate email on the other. Once you’ve switched to a team that uses the good stuff, I don’t know if you’ll be able to completely go back.

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