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Can Facebook at Work spur true enterprise social collaboration?

Facebook at Work attempts to rejuvenate enterprise social collaboration. Also in Searchlight: Russian hackers stream live footage from 600 U.K. webcams; Firefox ditches Google for Yahoo.

Despite a lack of enterprise collaboration capabilities and their focus squarely on consumers, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn top the list of collaboration tools used by employees in the workplace (74%, 51% and 45%, respectively) -- beating the likes of collaboration tech built specifically for business use, such as Microsoft SharePoint (39%), Salesforce Chatter (12%) and Yammer (11%), according to their global study by managed services provider Avenade.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time, then, that Facebook would make its enterprise play to take on such collaboration giants as Microsoft, and Google.

Facebook at Work will be separate from Facebook's consumer version but will include similar features such as a news feed, messaging tools and group capabilities, including document sharing. But while Facebook's entrance into the enterprise space is hardly a shocker among CIOs, other questions loom in their minds, starting with how much of a say they will actually have in their organization's adoption of Facebook at Work.

"If [users] like a service, they slap down a credit card and they get the service without even going to the general IT organization," Jonathan Reichental, the CIO of the City of Palo Alto, told SearchCIO's Linda Tucci and Kristen Lee, predicting that the employees will drive the migration.

And the statistics expand on this disconnect between IT leaders and employees. Avenade's study -- which surveyed 1,000 C-level executives and senior IT decision makers, as well as 4,000 end users -- found that while business and IT leaders believe the chief benefit of social collaboration tools is making employees' jobs more enjoyable (trumping productivity and efficiency), the end users ranked speed and productivity higher than happiness in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, privacy is a leading concern among IT executives, given Facebook's use of consumers' data to overwhelm them with targeted advertising, not to mention its ever-changing user privacy policy.

"Facebook's historical behavior of changing their data use rights frequently would need to remain more static … before I would support a pilot at the enterprise level," said Cynthia Nustad, CIO at Health Management Systems Inc.

Another factor that could hamper Facebook at Work's enterprise progression is a lack of training and IT support. A good chunk of IT decision makers surveyed in the study (26%) believe there is a lack of employee collaboration tool training, and another 26% said there is a lack of IT resources to implement such tools.

Not all the CIO predictions were doom and gloom, though.

On a more optimistic note, Facebook at Work, which is backed by a large Facebook user base and offers collaboration features more attuned to business versus consumer needs, could be the key to finally making "social collaboration and social enterprise finally work," said Reichental.

Whether it's Facebook at Work or SharePoint, the Avenade study offers the following tips to truly enable social collaboration in your company:

  • Invest in technology that is simple, aligns with business goals and fulfills user needs. "Otherwise, they can become another source for information overload and distraction," said the study's author, market researcher Vanson Bourne.
  • Consolidate information and provide employees with unified solutions to access it. This will enable your end users to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
  • Beyond the technology, communication and education are crucial. "End users in an organization are never going to know how much more efficiently they can communicate and how much easier they can access data unless they know how to appropriately use the tools," Bourne said.
  • Make it easy to connect people with one another. Your company is full of experts, the study explained. Provide employees with tools that make it easy to contact these individuals, be it through instant messaging, video, email, blog and more.

CIO news roundup for week of Nov. 17

More news as we wrap up the week before Thanksgiving:

  • Another day, another Russian hacking. Regulators in the U.K. are warning people to take stronger security measures after they discovered a Russian website that's been streaming live video feed from about 600 hacked webcams in Britain.
  • Firefox is so over Google. The search engine, which has been Mozilla's browser default for a decade, is being replaced by Yahoo, both companies announced Wednesday.
  • Snapchat is jumping into the money-sending ring with PayPal, Venmo and Google -- to name a few rivals. The company is partnering with a payments processing firm so users can securely send money to friends.
  • Google's new project actually sounds more bold than loony. Project Loon, which has been in the works since 2011, involves test-flying Internet-transmitting helium balloons over Australia, in the hopes that it can eventually provide Internet connections to remote parts of the globe.
  • What if you can make even your 1996 Toyota a smartcar? Mojio and Automatic, two devices that can be installed in almost any model made since 1996, feeds your mobile device data about your vehicle and your driving habits, as well as contextual data, such as nearby parking locations.

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on the USPS security breach and Microsoft's free Office apps for mobile.

Next Steps

See more CIOs' responses to Facebook at Work. Then, take a peek inside SearchCIO's e-handbook on how social networks in the enterprise can boost productivity and innovation. Finally, find out how gamification can drive employees to adopt enterprise social networks.

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Do you think Facebook at Work will replace enterprise collaboration tools such as SharePoint?
FB at work will nost likely not fly, Facebooks priorities are not in usability &productivity, which are the most important aspects when you are working.
Amos, I'm not sure I agree that Facebook does not prioritize usability, given that many of its users come back every day and easily perform basic tasks. My guess would be that the familiarity of a Facebook collaboration product would be an advantage over learning something new, regardless of how intuitive that new system might be. 
Some companies might jump at FB at work, I find that collaboration tools and their usage varies on the team.  Having said that, I think sharepoint has more competition from Wiki's both internal deployed ones, and hosted ones like Social Text.  The trick isn't even the tools so much, its starting to become how to best present information that needs to be shared, and to do so quickly.  I think the next big thing in this regard will have to find a way to improve past these barriers.
I'm definitely eager to see how Facebook at Work plays out, and in the long term if networks like Yammer will be hammered out of business.