Summary: Evaluating Facebook’s entry into the collaborative business platform market, Workplace by Facebook.

Workplace by Facebook is Facebook’s recent entry into the collaborative platform software market. It brought new focus from management on internal communication tools. Workplace by Facebook promises to:

  • Connect everyone in your company and turn ideas into action
  • Use groups to help make decisions and keep your team on the same page
  • Keep work from slowing down when people are out of office
  • Eliminate or drastically reduce need for internal collaboration tools such as the intranet, telephony systems, video conference and distribution lists

While there are potential benefits to Workplace by Facebook, does it address the unique internal communication challenges your organization faces?

How does information flow in your organization?

To be able to answer this question, you need a systematic way to understand how information flows within your organization, and where the inefficiencies are. As an example, here some different types of internal communication:

  • Memo to all staff
  • Discussions to clarify actions
  • Suggestions and ideas
Each of these can be classified by three different dimensions:

  1. Channel (Formal or Informal)
  2. Direction (Top Down, Bottom Up, Across)
  3. Lifetime (Short-Lived, Long-Lived)
Channel Direction Lifetime
Memo to all staff Formal Top Down Long-Lived
Discussions Informal Across Short-Lived
Suggestions & ideas Formal or Informal Bottom Up Short-Lived

 

A memo to all staff, such as announcing a policy change, is formal (sent through a managed communication channel), is top down (sent from management to all staff), and is long-lived (information sent remains valuable for a long period of time).

In contrast, a discussion, whether in a meeting or via email, is informal and is short-lived. Unless revisited, once a course of action has been chosen, the details of the discussion itself are no longer needed.

Suggestions and ideas from staff go up the chain, and depending on how they are managed, the channel can either be formal or informal. While many ideas and suggestions can spark new initiatives, ideas and suggestions are often short-lived, either because no action is taken, or because conditions change.

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Do you have communication inefficiencies?

Collaborative platform software like Workplace by Facebook is best suited to address inefficiencies with informal, short-lived communication challenges. Here’s why:

A key tenant of any social platform is making it as easy as possible for any user to contribute content. A formal channel is the exact opposite of that: tightly controlling the flow of information. With Workplace by Facebook, you can create a group for formal communication (restricting access to who can publish), but other existing solutions already handle this well.

Long-lived information, such as policies and procedures must be stored in a permanent place, easily findable, and managed over time. Collaborative software platforms often lack these features: organizing information into folders, removal of out of date content, and ensuring only the latest version is returned in search.

An informal channel going from bottom up works, but due to information overload, can only go so far up the chain. While a manager or CEO would love to hear from all staff, due to time constraints, they rely on their subordinates to act as information filters, which requires a more formal channel.

Collaborative software solves communication challenges

So, what are the challenges of informal, short-lived communication that a collaborative software platform can help solve?

If your organization is seeing these symptoms or inefficiencies, Workplace by Facebook or another collaboration software platform has value for your organization.

  • Decisions take longer than they should because staff are either in different locations or not available at the same time
  • Misunderstanding between departments because informal discussions are not taking place across the organization
  • At a department level, staff are not making suggestions because there is no dedicated place where they can see other user’s suggestions and follow suit
However, if you’re main internal communication challenges are around formal channels (company news, authorizations and approvals) or involved long-lived information (policies, procedures, documentation) an intranet is a more suitable choice.

Note that there are often overlaps between an intranet platform and a collaborative software platform. In general, both solutions include company news, employee directory and discussion groups. Video conferencing and group chat are a unique strength for collaborative software platforms, while intranets have better document management features, online forms and workflows.

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