Is Facebook Workplace or Yammer everything you need for your company in a digital age?
The short answer is no.
Ok, so what else do you need? Well in true consultancy style, “It depends…” on quite a few factors.
The first thing to consider is what type of work do your people do?
Simplistically, you could split staff into two very broad groups:
- Information Workers, often office based (primary role is to work with information, review, edit, create, search for, communicate and share.)
- Front line Staff, often retail store, factory, hospitality or transportation (primary role is often customer facing or physical labour, although have a secondary need to receive information, review, edit, create, search for, communicate and share.)
In this post, I am going to deal with the ‘Information Workers’ and in a later post, I will cover the ‘Front line Staff.’
Most ‘Information Workers’ need the following tools to do their job:
- Document creation and editing (docs, spreadsheets, notes, presentations)
- Task list
- Place to share documents
- Central location for all company information
- Central discussion platform for sharing ideas and getting involved
- Instant messaging
- Conference calling
- Group meetings with ability to join remotely from PC or Phone
- Desktop sharing
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So does Workplace or Office 365 provide everything?
|Document creation and editing (docs, spread sheets, notes, presentations)||No||Yes|
|Place to share documents||Yes||Yes|
|Central location for all company information e.g. an Intranet||No||Yes|
|Central discussion platform for sharing ideas and getting involved – ‘the feed’.||Yes||Yes|
|Telephone||Partly, peer to peer calling through the app or website only.||Yes, full telephone functionality available with E5|
|Group meetings with ability to join remotely from PC or Phone||No||Yes|
From the table above, you can see that Office 365 has a lot more features than Workplace, although this isn’t really a fair comparison for the following reasons:
- Workplace is most similar to Yammer (and some of Skype) rather than all of Office 365.
- You can add additional solutions to Workplace to get the extra functionality.
- Workplace on its own is less expensive than the complete Office 365 suite.
So, let’s address the points above.
What other solutions can you add to Workplace to get everything you need?
I am not going to list every possible alternative solution, my focus here are Microsoft products and others that are supported by Facebook Workplace. I know there are other office products available and free apps, however most businesses want a well-known and proven IT solution that is officially supported.
The other solutions listed are also reflective of what Facebook use internally too. Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook explained at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference that Facebook uses a mix of technology and that productivity is the primary factor with security being second.
Tim Campos explained in a recent blog about Facebook’s requirements and why they use Office 365.
Table 2 outlines supported solutions to add to Facebook Workplace to provide the right tools for information workers
|Functionality||Workplace||Additional supported solutions|
|Document creation and editing (docs, spread sheets, notes, presentations)||No||Microsoft Office|
|Task list||No||Microsoft Outlook, Wunderlist, To-Do, Planner|
|Place to share documents||Yes||OneDrive, SharePoint, Box, Dropbox|
|Central location for all company information e.g. an Intranet||No||SharePoint|
|Central discussion platform for sharing ideas and getting involved.||Yes||Included|
|Telephone||Partly, peer to Peer through the app or website only||Blue Jeans, Skype|
|Conference calling||No||Blue Jeans, Skype|
|Group meetings with ability to join remotely from PC or Phone||No||Blue Jeans, Skype|
|Desktop sharing||No||Windows 10, Mac|
You can see from table 2 above that to get a complete solution, you will need to utilise more that Facebook Workplace. Indeed, Facebook themselves use additional document creation and editing, document storage, telephone, conference calling and group meeting solutions.
You may ask why do you need all of these solutions? Well Tim Campos explains to the Wall Street Journal why Workplace doesn’t end the need for email or for a full collaboration solution.
Let me explain the lines in the table above
Document creation and editing (docs, spread sheets, notes, presentations)
Microsoft Office is the most widely used and most familiar application to most organisations, it’s users and if you are a desk bound information worker, then you are likely to want the ‘full fat’ locally installed version called Office Pro Plus. There are not many people who can live without Word, PowerPoint, Excel and the most fabulous OneNote. If you don’t use OneNote, then you are missing out and probably not being as productive as you could be.
While Facebook Workplace has messaging, nothing can replace the need for email. Email is the most popular company communication tool, it is the most widely used tool for communication between companies, suppliers and customers. Email is also great for formal and legally enforceable communication such as official notices or important communications. Outlook is the clear leader here and the most popular email client.
If you need to manage your day, then you need a calendar, especially if you have multiple meetings. While Workplace has Events functionality, this is better suited to organising one off events and is virtually the same as used on consumer Facebook. This works well for social events so you can see who is coming, although lacks functionality for common business scenarios like recurring team meetings. Additionally, as there is not a central calendar, you cannot see if you have conflicting meeting requests or easily plan your week. So, an external calendar is mandatory: viewing calendar free/busy availability of other staff to book and organise meetings is paramount to most employees. Overlaying holiday and team calendars to organise projects, co-ordinate teams and manage a workforce is common place so a highly functional calendar is vital. Again,Outlook is the most popular calendar choice.
Managing and sharing tasks especially across teams and colleagues is how work gets done. Enterprises need both a good individual and group task management tool. Outlook, Wunderlist and Planner are great tools for this.
Place to share documents
Documents are the core of most businesses, having a place to share, store and manage the document lifecycle is key. Natively in Workplace, you can store documents in Groups, although this is quite basic. Once you have more than about 20 documents per group, it starts to get hard to manage as there is limited sorting, lacks the ability to add metadata and undertake version control. Workplace has built in connectors with OneDrive, Box and Dropbox which makes it simple to use a more feature rich solution. SharePoint and OneDrive add document co-authoring, version control, metadata support, file sync and share as well as great mobile apps. Box and Dropbox add great file sync and also provide good apps.
Central location for Company Information
While Workplace has a central feed that is split into Groups, it is not a central or departmental news feed that can be curated. Most enterprises have dedicated corporate communications teams and have a requirement for a branded and curated news area that is personalised to the individual. There’s normally a requirement to have dedicated departmental areas for collaboration on documents, to work on business processes and as a permanent area for corporate knowledge. Some commentators may say that if you have Facebook Workplace or Yammer, then you don’t need an intranet, although as you will note if you use Facebook Consumer, then the feed is very temporary and fast moving.It is designed for rapid small constant updates, not for longer lasting or important company news, or a long term place for document collaboration. Therefore, most progressive organisations have both a corporate social network such as Yammer or Workplace combined with a company-wide intranet like Fresh, built on SharePoint. SharePoint is probably the most popular company intranet platform and is the technology choice for 9 out of 10 of the best intranets as voted by Nielson Norman.
Central discussion platform for sharing ideas and getting involved
This is the core purpose for Workplace and it does it really well. It is virtually the same as Microsoft’s Yammer, although there are a few differences worth pointing out.
Yammer has great Praise functionality that allows you to praise colleagues and this public recognition really helps drive employee engagement – which is a key strategic driver for implementing an enterprise social network. We use the praise feature heavily here at Content and Code and it informs our multitude of monthly and quarterly staff awards. Workplace however wins on the app front, as it has slightly better mobile apps that are more consistent across messaging various usage modalities from reading the feed, to chat, to calling colleagues. You can also do things like share location and create polls direct from the mobile app which is not possible on Yammer.
Once seen as a hindrance to real work, instant messaging is fast replacing email communication in many areas. In Workplace, this is undertaken in the browser in the same way as for consumer Facebook. In Office 365, Skype is used for instant messaging and more. Both solutions offer a good instant messaging solution with presence information (showing who is available, away or offline). Workplace has the advantage that everything is kept within a browser window, although one disadvantage is the layout of the chat interface – it appears in the bottom of the browser window. This is fine if you have less than five chat windows going, since it becomes hard to easily see who is chatting and navigate between the windows. Skype uses a separate app for this which allows easier navigation between lots of different conversation windows and allows resizing of the message pane to suit the conversation, for example, if files or other information is being shared e.g. tables of information. Both solutions offer good mobile apps for instant messaging.
Telephone, conference calling and group meetings
Even though mobiles are commonplace, calls from your desktop/laptop or calls over Wi-Fi are exceptionally popular – and required when you need to share presentations, documents or want a large video group meeting.
Within Workplace you can call peer to peer (both audio and video) although you cannot place a group video call or audio call.
In Skype, you can do the same peer to peer audio and video call, although you can also easily do group audio and video calls (or a mix in the same meeting). Skype also has PSTN conferencing whereby you can dial into the meeting from a normal telephone, ideal for those without internet access e.g. when driving/travelling, whereas others in the same meeting can be connected with video or only audio from the PC or the mobile app. With Skype, you can also dial out to normal landlines direct from the mobile app or from your PC/laptop – this is not possible with Workplace.
Skype has a broadcast feature (called Skype Broadcast), which is ideal for ‘town hall’ style large company meetings with the ability to record the session and for anyone who joins to be able to watch from the start and have forward/rewind functions like watching a video on demand. There’s a group question and answer functionality and ‘Pulse’ whereby you can get constant feedback on the broadcast live from the audience while you present.
Workplace has a broadcast feature that can use your phone or laptop camera (or an external web cam) to record and share the completed broadcast in the group feed as a video. This is very simple to use and virtually the same in consumer Facebook.
Blue Jeans is popular and Facebook reportedly use this service to provide conferencing and group meeting functionality. I have not used this myself, although from the website, it looks very similar to Skype and I believe would adequately provide the extra functionality needed on top of workplace for information workers. It has a supported add in to Workplace.
Within Workplace there is no functionality for sharing your screen or application – a common place requirement when people are working together in different locations. This is built into Skype and very simple to share a presentation, an app, a screen or your entire desktop. This makes collaboration very easy with Skype. Blue Jeans can provide an alternative desktop sharing solution.
Identity and Access solution
This may not be in the functional requirements list above, although you will need a cloud identity provider to get the best experience with Workplace or Office 365. With Office 365, this is natively provided by Microsoft. However, with Workplace, you will need an identity provider for single sign on especially if you use any integrations – and importantly if you do not want to manage users one by one. Workplace has many supported providers including Microsoft Azure, Okta and Ping identity. See the full list here (note: you will need to click on the blue navigation button ‘Identity Providers’).
So, you can see that you can get a full digital workplace solution with either Microsoft Office 365 or Facebook Workplace. Although Office 365 has multiple different apps in one suite, Workplace can have apps lots of great external apps added to it to provide the full functionality.
So this answers point 1 and 2 above, although what about the cost? Workplace on its own is cheaper than Office 365, although what does it cost if you want all the extra add ins? Read my next post to find out.
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About our author
CEO and Founder
Tim is the CEO of Content and Code and founded the company in 2001. As CEO of Content and Code, Tim focuses on corporate strategy, client and partner relationships, and has overall responsibility for driving the growth of the company. Tim founded Content and Code so he could help transform organisations to be more responsive, more competitive and engage their employees to better realise business goals.
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