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Like it or not Facebook Is Coming to Work

The enterprise is becoming more social. It's been a long ride that began with curiosity adoption of intranets, wikis, and blogs. The current generation of collaboration tools are becoming central to workflow.

Messaging-first collaborative applications such as Slack, Jive, and HipChat offer groups, persistent chat, shared content, newsfeeds, and search. These services are proving to be very effective for team communications. They all offer asynchronous communications, and some support video conferencing.

Workstream communications and collaboration (WCC) applications offer similar services for asynchronous communications (messaging and content) and also bridge the gap to include real-time voice and video. WCC apps become central to workflow because they include content, contacts, and communications in one place. Several UC vendors now offer WCC apps, which include Cisco Spark, Interactive Intelligence PureCloud, Mitel MiTeam, RingCentral Glip, and Fuze Spaces.

So Facebook-like
Sometimes the asynchronous features of these solutions are described as "Facebook for work," and that's about to get messy because Facebook is piloting "Facebook at Work." It's effectively a business edition of Facebook (uses separate IDs) that provides work-related persistent chat, groups, shared content, newsfeeds, and search.

Facebook at Work has significant potential. Facebook is a $300 billion-plus business with deep expertise in online social interaction. This new at-work implementation is essentially the same, familiar service that many employees already use and love. If Facebook is serious about entering business communications, then it certainly has the brand awareness, technical competencies, and financial wherewithal to dominate the sector.

But domination seems unlikely for two reasons. First, enterprises are unlikely to accept Facebook at Work due to concerns about privacy. Secondly, Facebook is unlikely to give its full commitment to the service.

Where's the Money?
The issue at hand is the business model. Successful companies understand their business models, and in the case of Facebook, that's advertising. Facebook has stated that its new work application will not include advertising; thus, how strategic can the work edition be at Facebook?

It's analogous to Google for Work and Google Apps, which feel more like a hobby than a strategic part of the Google business.

Google provides the world with some phenomenal software and services at no cost because the company monetizes information obtained through that software and services. First Google monetized search with simple advertising, and over the years it has broadened its service portfolio to obtain more information to serve more targeted and relevant ads. Email provides conversational and relationship data, Contacts reveals social reach, Maps provides information on locations of interest, and Android provides location, habits, and a bevy of other personal details.

Google created each of these services with the aim of collecting more information, which it then uses to generate revenue in the form of targeted advertising. The company monetized its free services to the tune of nearly $75 billion in 2015. This is a clear and profitable business model.