Where Workplace by Facebook Sits in the Enterprise Social Network or Workstream Collaboration Platform Debate
Enterprise social networks (ESNs) have been around since the late 2000s. At the time, they were predicted to be the future of work, given the success of social networks like Facebook on the consumer side. However, much of their value was indirect, through connection and engagement, and therefore difficult to quantify. What does this mean for Workplace by Facebook?
Workstream Collaboration (WSC) represents the next stage in the evolution of the ESN. With a greater focus on collaboration, tasks, and integration of work-enabling technology, WSC platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams promise greater employee productivity. Industry analysts are abuzz with their potential, with Gartner predicting that by 2022, 70% of teams will rely on WSC platforms to complete their work. However, the information overload caused by a constant stream of information is criticized for its negative effect on workers and is leading to digital dysfunction. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2023, 80% of organizations will offer digital detox for their employees to counteract the problems of constant connectedness, including a 70% increase in depression symptoms.
At a high level, the goals of enterprise social networks and workstream collaboration platforms are very similar: bring people who work together into one digital location. However, below the surface, the differences are glaring. What makes Workplace by Facebook so interesting is that it sits between these two market categories, bridging the chasm between ESN and WSC. Workplace by Facebook incorporates many characteristics of an enterprise social network, lauded for its ease of use, given its similarities to consumer-focused Facebook. However, its file sharing and integration capabilities fall closer to workstream collaboration. Here, we break down the workstream collaboration platform and enterprise social network comparison to understand exactly where Workplace by Facebook stands.
Enterprise Social Networks Connect People
Looking at the enterprise social network definition, ESNs involve the use of private social media internally within an organization to connect employees who share business or social interests. Yammer is a classic example of an ESN, and Workplace by Facebook shares many of these characteristics as well. Ultimately, ESNs are people-focused. Moreso than accomplishing their day to day work, ESNs serve as a digital community for employees. This is reflected in the value ESNs claim to provide. A successful ESN promotes employee engagement and retention, and the new relationships that workers build socially allow for a new, more open exchange of ideas. Especially when executives actively participate in these communities, ESNs help to foster a culture of transparency.
Because these benefits directly tie to human resources, the push for ESNs often comes from HR. Enterprise social networks are typically deployed wall-to-wall and feature large, open groups. Thus far, Workplace by Facebook has followed this model of rollout. The key to success for ESNs is getting as many people as possible across an organization actively engaged. However, ESNs have been criticized as detrimental to work, especially since activity on an ESN isn’t necessarily work-related. Just because employees are discussing who has the cutest dog doesn’t mean they’re engaging on the new product line. A connection doesn’t equate to accomplishment or productivity.
Workstream Collaboration Gets Work Done
Compared to enterprise social networks, workstream collaboration platforms support users in finishing their day-to-day work by connecting them to the information, apps, and people required to get things done. WSC is task-focused. While Slack and Microsoft Teams spring to mind as examples, Workplace by Facebook shares many of these features, including integrations with productivity-enabling software and video calls. The value of WSC is more direct than that of an enterprise social network. Workstream collaboration platforms promise to increase productivity and allow remote teams to work together successfully. Rather than a community, WSC offers digital workspaces, organized by projects or topics.
Given WSC platforms enable end-users to accomplish their work better, they’re often picked up directly by these users instead of through a centralized effort. This type of shadow IT is especially common with Slack because of how easy it is to download the free version.
Workstream collaboration platforms have faced some backlash. A constant, uncontrolled barrage of messages interrupts busy workers leading to the very context-switching the platforms claim to reduce. Without clear guidelines in place, several disjointed conversations occur at the same time, and fear of missing out on important information leaves some workers unable to disconnect in their off-hours.
Key Workplace by Facebook Features
Workplace by Facebook started as a classic enterprise social network, drawing from its roots in the consumer space. As such, it boasts a familiar interface for end-users, who require little training on how to use the product technically. However, through years spent on consumer Facebook, Workplace users default to more social posting than on other workstream collaboration platforms.
Users are more familiar with managing Facebook notifications, and there is less urgency to respond immediately to every post. The layout of posts additionally aids this type of asynchronous communication. While posts on Slack and Microsoft Teams show the newest at the bottom, with the ability to make another post below, Workplace shows newest posts at the top of the page. This layout leads to more replies to posts rather than new posts, and thus a page organized by conversation threads. Although Slack and Microsoft Teams both have reply options to posts, these are significantly less-used than the Workplace reply option.
Workplace is also unique in how it approaches video. Users can post video announcements and broadcasts in addition to typical chat posts offered by Teams and Slack. This is often a more engaging way to connect with other users and helps connect employees in the field with an organization’s leadership.
Workplace by Facebook also does an excellent job connecting frontline workers, who are often disconnected from the rest of a company. Its familiarity combined with mobile-friendly design makes it easier for users who may otherwise be left off email updates to stay up to date on important announcements and feel a sense of community previously inaccessible.
Where Workplace by Facebook is Evolving
While Workplace by Facebook originated as an enterprise social network, its workstream collaboration functionality is clear. Additionally, many recent updates demonstrate an increasing shift toward an even more powerful WSC feature set. Major changes to the interface for groups created separate tabs for posts, chat, and files. This cleaner layout makes it significantly easier to find files than previously, even in a shared folder. Workplace also released several recent guides aimed at showing users how they can manage projects or host meetings. Workplace by Facebook appears to be continuing a shift to a workstream collaboration future. By becoming more than just an enterprise social network, Workplace has the potential to realize both the relationship-building benefits of an ESN and the productivity benefits of WSC.
Are you choosing a workstream collaboration platform? Unify Square can help. Our multi-platform workstream analytics suite will empower you with information including workplace analytics (i.e. how end-users are engaging with platforms like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, and Microsoft Teams). And, if you’re not quite sure how to get started with workstream collaboration at all, our Consulting Services have you covered from adoption planning to collaboration security.
Our expert consultants understand how the right workstream collaboration platform will benefit you. From adoption planning to collaboration security, Unify Square Consulting has you covered!