Facebook, Symphony: Team Collaboration from All Angles

Among the crowded field of team collaboration providers, Facebook and Symphony stand out as examples of the diverging approaches companies are taking into this game, as can be seen in recent announcements from the two.

Facebook's Approach: Catch 'Em All

Let's start with Facebook, which is looking to parlay its pervasive use among consumers into an enterprise presence. The strategy appears to be working, based on Facebook's numbers. More than 14,000 companies have signed on for Workplace in the year since its launch, reported Workplace VP Julien Codorniou in a recent blog post. The latest is Walmart, which aims to leverage Workplace as a means of enabling its mobile employees and distributed workforce to stay better connected, regardless of where individuals may be, Codorniou wrote.

Facebook has been busy with product enhancements, as well. Last week at Box's BoxWorks event, for example, Facebook announced an enhanced integration with Box. Group admins will be able to link Box folders to a Workplace group so new members will automatically gain access to the folder contents upon joining the group. Additionally, for sharing files, users will soon be able to select document preview images that meet compliance mandates around third-party image capture.

The Box integration enhancements follow on last week's quiet launch of Workplace Chat desktop apps for PC and Mac computers. These desktop apps, now in beta, will have native notifications, support voice and video calling, enable one-to-one and group chats, and, for the first time, allow screen sharing.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the launch to TechCrunch, saying, "This was one of the most widely requested features by customers, so we built it. The desktop app is still in beta and being tested by Workplace customers who are providing feedback that we'll use to improve the product before a wider rollout."

The screen sharing capability is available on the desktop and Web versions of Workplace Chat, TechCrunch's Josh Constine reported. Additionally, the screen sharing capabilities sound like they are a bit more sophisticated than typical offerings, Constine said, enabling users to share either a full screen or a specific desktop app, like Excel.

Screen sharing seems like a natural next step in Facebook's evolution of Workplace, and the desktop app a no-brainer option for meeting the needs of a workforce we all know to have diverse requirements.

These latest enhancements continue Facebook's steady evolution of Workplace. Earlier this year at Facebook's annual F8 Developer Conference, the company announced Workplace milestones, partnerships, and integrations -- with Box, as well as Microsoft, Salesforce, Quip, and Dropbox. Just prior to that, the company added Message Reactions and Mentions to it's the Workplace Chat app.

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Symphony's: An Expanding Niche

If Facebook represents one side of the spectrum in its aim for widespread adoption, vertical-oriented Symphony represents the other . Established in 2015, Symphony purpose-built its team collaboration app with the financial services industry in mind, designing the solution to meet particularly strict security and compliance mandates.

Last we heard from Symphony, company Founder and CEO David Gurle told No Jitter that the industry uptake of its team collaboration solution surpassed even its own estimates. In 2016, Symphony reached more than 150,000 paid subscriptions across 130 companies, beating its own target by 50,000 subscriptions, he said at the time. As for 2017 goals, Symphony aims to double its 2016 paid subscription base to 300,000, he added.

Now nearing the end of the year, Symphony apparently has made considerable progress toward meeting its goal. Last week at the company's Innovate user event, Gurle reported that Symphony now has 235,000 licensed users at 200 companies. Symphony is now "firmly entrenched enterprise-wide across our core market and now expanding to other parts of financial services like private banking, institutional and e-commerce," he said.

Surely in part to meet its ultimate year-end customer goal, Symphony last week also announced two enhancements to its collaboration platform. First, employees can now invite clients to interact with them via a secure channel through the new Customer Engagement Platform. Second, the company announced the Embedded Chat Module, which lets organizations embed secure messaging capabilities in websites or third-party apps, complete with filtering, social tagging, file transfer, and automated bot interactions.

"The Customer Engagement Platform and Embeddable Chat Module open the door for Symphony in entirely new markets -- extending our platform with new solutions that allow for secure collaboration with high-value clients and counterparties," Gurle said in a prepared statement. "The historical tradeoff between convenience and security in digital communications is no longer necessary."

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