An article in Techcrunch yesterday says that Facebook may be working on using their platform for internal collaboration. The article isn’t conclusive in any way and doesn’t speculate as to whether any type of new product is being worked on or if the chatter is about simply using Facebook for collaboration purposes. I remember hearing something about Linkedin getting involved in the collaboration space as well, but that’s another topic. So does it make sense for Facebook to get involved in the enterprise collaboration space? I think an argument can be made for either side.
From a simple profitability standpoint Facebook gets to double-dip into it’s user-base which is now well over 1 billion people, a significant portion of the world’s population. Today’s Facebook user includes everyone from the teenager to the company executive and the revenue is mainly generated from ads (around $2.4 billion annually from ads and $240 million annually games and apps) . By getting into the collaboration space Facebook can now generate revenue from these same people in more than one way. The young professional who plays Facebook games or downloads apps then goes to work where his/her company has thousands of annual seats for the business version of Facebook.
The features and functionality of Facebook are also quite robust, heck their graph search is probably better than what most enterprises use for their own internal search today. It’s not hard to see how a few minor tweaks to the UI or a few business-specific features can make Facebook into a formidable player in the collaboration space, after-all, many collaboration vendors today modeled their UI and functionality after Facebook to begin with. Their user list can easily rival any type of active directory within most companies around the world today. Their API and development tools can also make it extremely easy for any company to deploy all sorts of customization to their own deployments. I’m sure they also have an extremely powerful set of analytics tools and a content recommendation engine that can make collaboration much more easy, efficient, and likely to happen within organizations.
Let’s also not forget that Facebook has the resources (money and people), partnerships, existing clients, brand name, and relationships needed to make a serious dent in the collaboration space. If you ask the average person if they know who Jive, Yammer, or Chatter are, you will most likely get a “no.” You’d be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t heard of Facebook. The collaboration space is also very ripe for a new disruptive player to come in especially since innovation appears to have tapered off (for now) and has instead been replaced by aggressive sales and marketing.
Who in their right might would want to ever have their personal Facebook account associated in any way shape or form with their business profile? The personal information just BEGS for some kind of security or privacy issue to come knock Facebook in the teeth. It would be a bit tricky to have these two exist in complete isolation with no overlap. Facebook’s brand is also all about personal communication and interaction so it really has no credibility or association in the collaboration space. If anything, Linkedin has much more of a shot at succeeding in this type of a place since most people already associate it as being the business network, but it’s not worth the risk for Facebook. Instead they should just focus on their core strengths of dominating the world one new user at a time.
Although Facebook does have a great set of tools and existing features it’s still miles away from what an enterprise would need it terms of true collaborative capabilities (not to mention security). Sure you can have groups, status updates, chats, and those types of things. But what about project or task management, sharing and editing files, integration with business tools, and gamification?
Facebook is also quite late to the party with many established vendors in the space such as IBM, Microsoft, Yammer, Jive, Chatter, and several others. These companies are already working with many of the largest and most forward thinking companies. They already spent money on the technologies, have lots of data uploaded, and their employees are used to it; there’s no way they would all of a sudden make the switch (unless Facebook for business was free?). Let’s also be honest, Facebook doesn’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to privacy so trust would be a huge issue here as well.
Obviously only Facebook knows what it plans to do but as I mentioned above I can certainly see a case for either approach here. In fact when looking at the features, functionality, and UI, Facebook is truly not that far off from what can be a great collaboration platform but there are just as many risks/cons as there are benefits/pros. At this point everything is just speculation but it’s interesting to at least think of what the possibilities are. In fact I’m sure much more can be written about the “yes” and “no” side for Facebook getting into (or not) the collaboration space. If they do make a move though I suspect it won’t be that long before they do. There are still plenty of companies in the world today who are looking to make investments around connecting their people and information or those who have already made the investments that are not quite satisfied with their deployments.
What do you think? Does Facebook have a play here and if so would you or your company use Facebook for business? What did I miss?