Facebook Workplace: An e-mail killer?

A four-day weekend is very unusual in a year. Thanks to the back-to-back festivals in India which gave me my space away from work to read on some of my favourite topics on AI and Products. And, what better place than reading them at my hometown in Kerala, sitting on the balcony gazing at the endless greenery and water streams that the monsoon season has just left behind. That’s when I got a notification about Facebook’s launch of -Workplace, and it was déjà vu all over again.

About five year ago, the company that I used to work for before launched a social enterprise platform- “Connect” and as any successful product company, ZOHO also has the tradition of “Eat your own dog food first before releasing outside”. And slowly the entire organisation, spread in multiple countries, started realizing the power of the platform. It broke the traditional way of bringing and executing ideas/ projects. It gave a platform to open up the organization or should I dare to say:

It made the enterprise, the facebook way!

And, since then there have been several social enterprise software which have flocked to the market with the most popular one being Slack for small and mid-sized and Jive for large enterprises.

Almost 1.5 years ago when news about #Facebook entering into social enterprise market started doing the rounds, there were a myriad thoughts running in my mind — “How will they shift the brand perception to position an enterprise product”. “How will the future ‘workplace’ look like if Facebook gets it right”. Most of us know about the quality of technology that Facebook uses at its backyard, be it the ones that run their massive Datacenters or to run an application that gets hit by a billion users on a daily basis. But, little I could imagine about the pedigree of beta customers they managed to convince for their first enterprise product- Workplace. With brands having 100,000+ employees trying the beta version and now backing the platform which includes the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland, Starbucks and Bookings.com they have definitely launched the Workplace in style!

Although, it’s a little early to comment, but nevertheless it would be interesting to know what you as readers think about the launch. I see the following trends brewing up here and If Facebook Inc. manages to successfully steer Workplace, then it could become a classic brand story for the Technology industry. Google is struggling hard with GCE and G-Cloud to position itself in enterprises, and they are winning it slow and steady. Winning enterprises’ trust is totally a different play especially when one is known as a Social Media platform. But, automobile industry has done it in the past- Remember the Toyota-Lexus case study? And atleast Facebook has got the start right by keeping it as a partially separate brand! ​

1.The end of e-mail as we know it

Now coming back to the topic of e-mail and a silent revolution that’s been brewing for long in multiple groups on the internet. E-mail has been one of the most widely used and if I am not wrong one of the oldest forms of e-communication that hasn’t seen any innovation since its launch. (Not referring to the interface level changes that every email hosting vendor is attempting or the experience level changes to de-clutter/prioritise emails to increase productivity) The whole concept of email is limited from one individual to specific individual/concerned group of individuals. But, with ‘dare-to-express-anything’ generation storming into our workplaces, the ideas cannot be just restricted to the board rooms or that ‘elite group of senior execs’ within an organisation.

Or, can it be? I doubt it, and, hence I think it slowly became imperative for an organisation to have a platform where ideas can come from any section of the workforce irrespective of their designation or experience. With very thoughtfully crafted features like closed-group-communication, organisations can still use such platforms and yet not worry about their “next mega idea that can change the way we live on this planet”. But this can only happen if we open up the organisation from the boundaries of e-mail ids. Although this has been happening in spurts with organisations like Atlassian, Zoho, SFDC and Microsoft releasing their own versions of enterprise-social apps, but we are yet to see the mega revolution unfolding. Now, with Facebook officially entering into the space. Are we seeing

the beginning of end of email?

2. Changing the way professionals perceive online group discussions

This might be a far fetched thought right now, but with MSFT acquiring LNKD, there have been mixed reactions on the internet. With groups claiming it to be bad for professionals who are just seeking pure sales-free knowledge, to some calling it a marriage made in heaven for folks who are looking into social selling space. Facebook has captured our personal detail to a large extent and with its advanced research in deep neural network technology or to use the popular lingo ‘Artifcial Intelligence’ it can now very smartly link our activities to suggest us places, provide relevant ads and capture these sets information to make its own platform learn deeper about us. But, what it didn’t have so far is depth in our professional world/workplace. ‘What if’, based on the information on “Workplace” it can tag set of similar professionals and invite them to form a closed discussion forum. And, throw a question like this at some point of time on my personal facebook account

Hey Suvish! we saw you’re interested in learning more about deep neural network technology, would you want to join this group with experts and discuss on same?”

Quite possible, right? Or, something like this:

Having a bad day on “Workplace”? We found these jobs in your city which might be of interest to you, do you want to take a look at them?

These could be potential existential questions to some organisations. We know that with Facebook’s local listing feature how it’s now threatening the business model of popular Craig’s list platform.

3. Moving deeper into enterprises

If Facebook sees success in Workplace, then it would be just matter of time before we see an extension into office productivity suite- like G-Docs, Z-Docs etc. and drive deeper into an enterprise. Of course with Microsoft already riding high with their online office productivity suite and also having its own enterprise social platform, it’s not bed of roses ahead for Facebook. But, the Menlo Park headquartered company has both the resources and technology expertise to walk the path!

Consolidation in enterprise cloud is inevitable, we are already witnessing organisations like SFDC desperately buying out companies to expand their portfolio to stay in the game. And, there are organisations like Google and Zoho who because of their technical depth are building technology on their own. But, it’s the organisation with depth in data and user base that can win the game. So, are we heading to a future workplace that looks like- as they call it

The Facebook Way”?

Disclaimer: This article is purely an opinion piece based on author’s understanding of the subjects mentioned in the article and shouldn’t be considered to make any sort of decisions. As the opinions expressed are purely personal, none of the points should be attributed to the author’s present and past employers.

Originally posted on LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2duTqgH