Introducing Workplace by Facebook

October 10 2016 01:40:08 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today Facebook officially launched Workplace by Facebook, their enterprise version of the Facebook social network. 

Workplace, formerly named Facebook at Work has been in private beta for over a year and is being used in over 1000 companies, dozens of which have more than 10,000 people using it. Current customers include Coldwell Banker, Club Med, Heineken, Royal Bank and Scotland, Canadian Tire and Telenor. Workplace is now available for any organization to signup. 

Workplace resembles the consumer version of Facebook, with a central newsfeed of posts, groups for specific topics, and a messenger client named Work Chat that provides group chat and 1:1 video. Some of the key Workplace features include events, polls and live streaming which allows organizations to broadcast content to employees in real time. 

It should be noted, Workplace was the name IBM gave to their next generation messaging platform in 2003, but was discontinued in 2007.

As outlined in my research report, “Can Facebook at Work Bring Collaboration to the Business World”, one of the greatest strengths of Workplace is that most employees will immediately be familiar with how to use it. The real test comes in how seamlessly integrated Workplace can become with the business workflows that employees use to get their jobs done.

At the time of launch, Workplace does not have integrations with popular enterprise software such as Office 365, Salesforce, Workday, ZenDesk, etc. Instead, Facebook has focused their initial development efforts on the security and administration aspects of Workplace. For example, customers will be able to use single-signon via providers like Microsoft Azure AD, PingIdentity, Okta and OneLogin. While SSO is critical for getting started and gaining adoption, Constellation Research recommends that Facebook quickly develop business software integrations or partner with companies that can provide this functionality.

Workplace does allow for multi-company groups which contain people from other organizations. This is extremely important for many collaborative use-cases, but the caveat (at this time) is that each organization must be using Workplace, there is currently no guest access. 

Rather than using the common “price per user/per month” licensing model, Facebook is doing something very customer friendly and only charging for what is used. Pricing is:
$3USD for each 1-1000 monthly users
$2USD for each 1001 - 10000 monthly users
$1USD for each 10,001+ monthly users

Can Workplace Compete With A Suite?

The main collaboration battle over the last few decades has been fought by Microsoft, Google and IBM. The core of these vendors' offerings is the combination of email/calendar + content creation (documents, slides, spreadsheets) + unified communication (chat, web-conferencing). Along the way vendors offering niche services such as file sharing (Box, DropBox, Egnyte, etc), task management (Asana, Clarizen, Trello, Workfront, etc) and group chat (Slack, Glip, HipChat, Ryver, etc) have each claimed their own spot in the market, but always as a layer in addition to the Microsoft, Google or IBM stacks. 

Workplace by Facebook is not a complete collaboration suite. Since it does not provide its own email, task management, file-sharing or content creation tools, customers will still have to purchase those other products. So can Workplace succeed as a Corporate Social Intranet or Enterprise Social Network? Options such as Yammer, Jive, SocialCast, Thoughtfarmer, and Igloo have been around for years, yet none have dominated the market the way suites like Microsoft’s Office 365, Google's GSuite (formerly Google Apps for Work) and IBM Connections have. Also vendors like Salesforce, Workday, SAP, Oracle, Cisco and Infor have all added communication and collaboration features into their platforms.

In order for Workplace by Facebook to really become a critical business tool, they will need to provide deep integration with email, file-sharing, task management, and as mentioned above business process software such as CRM, ERP, HR, financial, etc. or else they risk the same fate as many social business software platforms that came before them.

So can Workplace provide enough value on it’s own to warrant being an additional tool for employees to use? If early customer interest is any indication, it would appear it can. Leveraging Facebook’s name recognition, Workplace has a big opportunity to become a leader in enterprise social software. Look at the level of attention newcomer Slack has obtained, and that was starting from ground zero. Slack claims to have 3M active daily users, it will be interesting to see how many Facebook cites in 6, 12, 24 months.

The strengths of Facebook’s name recognition and massive business partner ecosystem are certainly assets that can help their road to success. Constellation Research has already received a great deal of customer interest in Workplace (when it was Facebook for Work) and expect interest to increase with today’s official release.



Google Rebrands Apps for Work to GSuite: Is That Enough?

September 29 2016 11:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today at Google Horizon the company announced they are rebranding Google Apps for Work to GSuite, "Google's intelligent apps designed for business."

GSuite, contains the same applications that Google Apps for Work did; Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites but now Google+ is included as a fully supported product. GSuite starts at $5/user/month and doubles to $10/user/month for unlimited storage and admin controls for areas like discovery and compliance.

The announcement of GSuite comes around the 10 Year anniversary of the launch of the original Google Apps for Your Domain offering and Google is now claiming 2M paying business and enterprise customers use Google Apps for Work.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

Google Apps for Work provided a clearer definition of what the offering did, where as GSuite is a more generic term akin to Microsoft's Office 365, which they have always struggled to explain. I can see the marketing benefit's of reducing the perceived boundaries between personal computing and business tools, but is that in the vendor's best interest or their customers? Also GSuite does not instantly convey that this set of products will leverage Google's considerable experience in Artifcial Intellignce. That said, at the end of the day it's just a name, and once people get past that the products and the benefits they provide are really what matter. 

So what's new about GSuite?

Google says they are focusing GSuite on 3 areas: employees, teams and organizations.

For employees, they want to make creating content easier. To do this they have enhanced the former feature called Research into a new tool called Explore. Explore searches for information, images and other content on the web (via Google search) and makes it easy to insert into Google Docs. Microsoft Office offers similar functionality, and takes it a step further with tools announced this week that help you automatically format the content. Still, users of Google Docs should find the new Explore function helpful when creating content.

Other tweaks Google has made to GSuite to help people get work done include:

- Find A Time, a smart meeting scheduler that help people book meetings.
- Quick Access, which makes it easy to add attachments from Drive by placing your newest and most frequent files just a click away


For teams, Google has introduced Team Drives, which can make files available to everyone at the domain level, instead of individual owners which then have to grant access to other colleagues. Hangouts have also been enhanced, making it easier to dial into meeting and record meetings and save the recording to Drive.

At the organizational level, GSuite will allow administrations to configure Springboard, Google’s new cross application search feature, to search not just GSuite applications, but also 3rd party content as well.


While GSuite provides a few nice new features, it seems more like a point release than a product worthy of a complete name change. For a company with such an image of innovation (Google Glass, self driving cars, AI winning Go, etc) I’m disappointed that they have not seized more of a leadership role in redefining the way employees work.

- Google has access to so much content and context via email, calen dar, maps, photos, videos and docs, and such advanced AI algorithms and search features, that I’d like to see them pushing the boundaries of the way people work together in more innovative ways. For example, on our phones Google Now is an incredibly powerful personal assistant, often surfacing information proactively, I’d like to see a similar level of automation within GSuite. I’d like to see Google using their AI capabilities to automate many of the common and repetitive tasks that employees do everyday.
- GSuite does not offer anything new in the way of project/task management. Products like Google Keep do not offer the functionality that Microsoft OneNote, Wunderlist and Planner provide.
- What is GSuites's enterprise strategy for messaging? While Google Hangouts is being enhanced, should customers expect to see Enterprise versions of Google's new consumer tools such as Allo, Duo and Spaces?


Current customers will be happy with the new GSuite features, but at this time Constellation Research does not see enough product differentiation to cause Microsoft Office customers to switch.

BoxWorks 2016 Event Report: From File-Sharing to App Platform

September 11 2016 09:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

This week I attended BoxWorks 2016, Box's annual conference in San Francisco.

If you don't have (15m) time to watch the video below where I review the major news, then just read this one thing:
Box is no longer just a cloud file-storage service, it's a platform for building content-centric applications.

My coverage of the event is mainly focused on the collaboration/productivity tools. If you'd like more details on the application developer/infrastructure/platform side of things, please click here to view my colleague Holger Mueller's event report.

Here are the key product announcements:

In the video below, I discuss the news in detail, including my advice on areas I think Box should improve in.


FutureOfWork: The Combined Microsoft and LinkedIn Graphs

August 23 2016 10:20:13 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

On June 13, 2016 Microsoft announced their intention to acquire LinkedIn for $26B, Microsoft's most expensive takeover to date. Why is Microsoft willing to spend that money? What's in it for them, for customers and for partners? My Constellation Research colleagues Steve Wilson, Cindy Zhou and I examine what this combination means and how it impacts the future of work... from personal productivity and team collaboration, to changing the way career paths and hiring are managed, to the impact of marketing experiences.

To find more information see the complete report: Microsoft Acquires LinkedIn, Shaping the Future of Work.


Table Of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Microsoft’s Priciest Acquisition Reveals The Vision Of An Intelligent, Integrated Workplace
  • Linking In To Microsoft’s Vision
  • Linkedin Data Is Safe With Microsoft
  • Looking Ahead : Upcoming Challenges
  • What To Expect In Microsoft’s Future Of Work


FutureOfWork: Atlassian HipChat Adds Group Video Chat

August 18 2016 01:40:47 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Atlassian, best know for Jira (project management for software development teams) and Confluence (enterprise team collaboration), has released an update to HipChat, their group chat and video conferencing product. Prior to this release, HipChat could be used for group text conversations and 1:1 video chat, but now you can have group videos chats with up to 10 people. HipChat can be used as a standalone communication tool, but excels when combined with Jira and Confluence, enabling people that have conversations right within the context of the work they are doing. Atlassian acquired HipChat in 2012, and has continued to expand its functionality via additional acquisitions such as BlueJimp and Hall. 



MyPOV on Enterprise Video - Culture Needs to Catchup to Technology

Tools like Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and Google's new 1:1 video application Duo make it easy for people to have real time video conversations with their friends and family. It's amazing to be able to say hello when on a business trip, share an experience while on vacation, or even ask for advice before making a purchase... but are employees ready to be on camera during meetings? Video lends itself to great product demos, but does that translate to real business scenarios? 

The ability to video conference has been around for decades in products like Lotus (now IBM) Sametime and Microsoft Lync (now Skype for Business) or via tele-presence solutions from Cisco, Avaya, Unify and others but ask yourself how often do you take advantage of them? With so many remote or home employees it's great to be able to see your colleagues, smile and share a story for a few minutes, but is the main reaction to video: "Oh no, now I need to shower, shave and get dressed before that meeting!" 

Don't get me wrong, consumer technologies such as email, chat and social networking have all become commonly used tools at work, and video certainly will as well. With laptops, mobile phones and tablets becoming entry points the meetings it's now simple for anyone from developers to doctors, architects to zookeepers to participate in a video chat. But In contrast to our personal lives where we ourselves are the content for the video, at work most often it's documents or applications that need to be shared. Finding the right mixture of "humans on screen" to "content on screen" is important, and tools like HipChat are helping make this a reality.






FutureOfWork: Salesforce Inbox Calendar Helps Provide Context

August 17 2016 02:54:46 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

For the last year or so Salesforce has been on a rampage acquiring startups that utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help employees (especially Sales professionals) see the right information at the right time. With the clock clicking down to Dreamforce 2016, Salesforce has starting dropping hints that AI will be the big theme this year... for example this week's announcement of SalesforceIQ Inbox Calendar.  (see image below)

SalesforceIQ Inbox was launched at Dreamforce 2015, and is the result of the acquisition of RelateIQ, an intelligent email client that helps Sales professionals manage their customer relationships right within their inbox.  This week's announcement adds calendar functionality, which comes from Tempo.AI, a smart calendar application Salesforce acquired last year.

The new SalesforceIQ Inbox Calendar examines meeting invitees and shows connections to Salesforce CRM records for the attendees and their organizations. By providing information in context of the meeting invite, people don't need to copy/paste and manually switch between multiple applications to access the information and actions they need.

As the number of tools people use to get their job done grows... for example: email, calendars, social media, tasks, file-sharing, CRM records, and on and on... it becomes increasingly difficult to link together all of the relevant people, content, and conversations.  By providing a more seamless experience, Salesforce is taking the right steps to helping people become more efficient and perform more effectively. The integrated email, calendar, task and CRM experience is just the beginning of what Constellation Research expects to see from SalesforceIQ. The next steps involve leveraging AI to help people be more proactive and to automate many of the manual processes employees currently follow.


Microsoft News July 2016 Enhancing Office and Outlook

August 2 2016 11:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [1]

In the video below I review several recent announcements from Microsoft around Office and Outlook.