Why Workplace by Facebook will win

Rob Castaneda

I start this story back in 1970, when a young man migrated across the world from El Salvador to Sydney in search for a new life. Over the following decades he worked job after job doing hard labor. In factories, painting bridges, driving trucks, stacking pallets in warehouses. Part of the union, on minimum wages.

My father, like my mother were immigrants and still are union workers today on award wages. They, like millions of others do a hard days work for a days pay and those values were instilled in me when I was 13. I began washing my dad’s truck and then scored the job of my dreams at IKEA. Working in the warehouse, putting boxes on trolleys and serving customers. I did this for 5 years.

And then it happened.

From blue collar to white collar

Like many of us of the next generation. I discovered technology. My parents bought me and my brothers that Atari ST 520. My elder brother immediately hacked it with some 3rd party RAM to upgrade it to a 1040.

We were set.

We took to technology with a newfound passion and our parents were happy to see us happy. Our enthusiasm naturally led us to a pathway that our parents could only dream of. University and a job in the city. I can remember how proud my mother was to see me doing work experience in a jacket that was too big and a tie that looked like it needed to go back to the 1970’s.

Then I landed the job on the helpdesk at Borland. I had made it. I had jumped the gap that every migrant and working class parent wants for their kid. Blue collar to white collar.

I would argue it was no collar to white collar, but that’s a different story.

I still kept my weekend job at the warehouse for 6 months into it. Sitting in a nice chair, looking out over the harbor, eating out at steak restaurants for lunch Monday to Friday. Hamburger and chips at the warehouse on the weekends.

So why the heck is that relevant to Facebook?

Read on.

Stay with me.

Head disconnected from the hand

White collar was and still is head office. It is the center of control that tells the rest of a company what to do. I can recall countless times that we saw silly things happen in the warehouses and we all just laughed at “head office”. Conversely, getting a job in a head office meant that we would naturally look down at those working in the factories, warehouses and shopfronts. The blue collar folk were doing what we told them to, we were smart. If a metric wasn’t right — we should fire them and get someone else.

And here is where the disconnect is. Business has been broken because the head has been disconnected from the hands.

For the past 20 years, the enterprise software market has provided solutions for head office and for the machinery and systems for the “whole” enterprise (the head). But it has left out one important piece — the blue collar worker (the hands). Even today’s solutions tout themselves as enterprise collaboration suites, but they assume that everyone is at their desk and can comment, like and access all the wonderful features that these platforms have — the gamification, the blogs, the learning and all the magical features that CEO’s demonstrate on stage at their conferences.

Meanwhile, folks like my dad, who is in his late 60’s now were largely ignored. They never really cared for email. At best you could get them on Skype to see the grandkids if you set it up to auto-answer, until the past few years. The iPad and iPhone (along with Android) changed this.

Now, I regularly get messages from my parents but now it’s also chat and Facebook messages — and rarely email.

So, why is this important?

Workplace by Facebook is the first platform to understand this. Facebook’s mission is to connect the world. Not just the head office, and not just the people sitting at desks with like buttons. But to connect the world.

Not everyone has email at work, but [almost] everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket

Workflow tools are exciting but next to useless for the barista that spots a problem with the new batch of coffee beans, the shelf stacker that identifies a problem with the way trucks have been stacked, or the delivery driver who spots a hazard at the dock and wants to alert their fellow drivers.

It is possible to connect the workplace — not everyone has a desktop, a browser or easy access to email. But nearly everyone in the workplace has a smart phone. How often have you been inside a store, to see an service representative pull out their phone to message their friend. To view a loved ones Instagram, or send a WhatsApp message to their spouse to pick them up.

And this is where Workplace by Facebook will shine almost untouched by every other enterprise software provider.

If you look at the Apple Appstore today, take away any apps from Apple and Games, you’ll see that Facebook has 4 of the highest downloaded and used apps. Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. You can’t deny that company after company have failed to build scalable mobile apps for the enterprise to use — I don’t see any apps from all the usual enterprise suspects (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, etc) in this list.

So the promise is this — Enterprises can now truly be connected. From CEO to barista. From product owner to shelf stacker. From board room to flight attendant to baggage handler. There is no other platform that comes close to this promise. From head to hands.

What will this lead to?

Connecting entire organizations

Imagine a world where these ideas flow, and the “silly head office” becomes a true center of leadership and the frontline can truly become the eyes and the ears of an organization. What waste can be avoided? What mistakes corrected quickly and what impact can it have to our communities as a result of organizations being more in tune with the real world? What will this do when the technical divide between the white collar and blue collar is evaporated and entire organizations can truly collaborate? Will the best managers and leaders rise to the top?

We will soon find out.

Because that future is now and the next generation of the Workplace is here.

For decades, universities pumped out MBA’s who were experts at optimizing businesses, usually at the expense of the blue collar worker. The past decade has seen the rise of a new generation of mission-driven, values-led entrepreneurial leaders, who lead with heart. Workplace will only serve to amplify the impact of the new generation of leaders, who connect entire organizations, like no other platform can.

We will truly have organizations that are connected from heart to head to hands — and imagine what that will do for our world.

Rob Castaneda

Written by

Founder/CEO of @ServiceRocket. iDad. Bad Guitarrista. Football coach. Aussie in Palo Alto.

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