Can Facebook’s New Workplace App Really Compete Against Office 365 and G Suite?

Workplace app by Facebook

Facebook seems to be on a app-launching spree this month. First it was Marketplace, which connects buyers to sellers within local communities. Then came the Events from Facebook app, designed to enable users to stay on top of local events and share their activity on their main Facebook feed. Yet another app has been released called Workplace.

Facebook Workplace app is nothing but a collaboration platform for co-workers, but Facebook has been testing this app for more than a year, finally deciding that it’s ready for a global release. And it’s already getting some traction, with about 100,000 groups across 1,000 organizations around the world.

The top five countries where the app is currently being used is India, the U.S., Norway, the UK and France.

The Workplace app seems to the first major push from Facebook into the enterprise segment. Agreed that almost all the big brands and companies now have a Facebook page, but the primary purpose of those pages were to connect with consumers, not to facilitate interaction between office colleagues. Most companies even created their own groups to stay in touch and keep updated about events and all things that happened outside of their work.

But this time, Facebook intends Workplace to be a serious player, or they wouldn’t have added this level of functionality. For example, apart from collaborating with co-workers in your company, the corporate wing can use it to communicate with other companies as well.

Essentially, the app allows you to chat, watch presentations on Facebook Live and so on. But it also allows companies to integrate the Workplace app with their existing IT systems.

It is still in its early stages, but it looks like Facebook is testing the waters for a push into the productivity side of things in the future. The company already has several features that could be used by organisations, such as live video, chat, groups, messenger and so on. With a dedicated app, Facebook can leverage its myriad of offerings and condense them in one single place to facilitate interaction in an office setting, and Workplace certainly seems like a good name for it.

It’s a smart move by Facebook, and one that can leverage its social brand and bring it into the enterprise segment. The company has astutely made sure it has all the right integrations as well – G Suite, Okta and so on. Conspicuously missing from the list of integrations, however, is Office 365.

The Workplace app comes in a tiered pricing. They intend to charge $3 per user for upto 1,000 monthly active users, and it steps down to $2 and then $1 for 10k+ users. The first three months is a free trial period, and then the company gets a single invoice depending on how many users were active during the month.

The pricing is critical because both G Suite and Office 365 have way more powerful apps to offer and go as low as $5 per user per month. Facebook neither has an email service nor office productivity tools such as Excel and Docs. As such, it would be a weak offering were it not for Live video, unlimited file, photo and video storage (of course, there’s a fair usage policy in place) and IT monitoring tools that will most likely piggyback on Facebook’s advanced Insights functionality.

The Potential for the Workplace App

It’s very likely that once Facebook sees some ‘critical mass’ around the usage of Workplace they will double down on productivity apps to add to the offering. That’s going to be a very interesting fight to see. On the one side you have Microsoft with years of expertise in productivity apps that companies have been familiar with for decades – and not to mention Skype. On the other there’s Google with its massive cloud capability offering free storage space to be one up on Office 365. And now there’s Facebook with its social angle trying to get in edgewise.

For all those and other reasons I don’t think Facebook will try to take the software giants head on. I think they’re play the Live video angle in a strong way and use collaboration and communication utilities to strengthen their portfolio of tools within the service. They’re certainly not going to be able to compete with Microsoft or Google on even ground no matter what services they acquire to fill in the gaps. If at all that’s the direction they’re going in, they’ll find that it will take several years for them to offer the same kind of functionality as either competitor does even right now.

At best, the Workplace app could become a “Facebook for Work” type of app where users can see familiar news feeds and collaborate with their colleagues just as they would with their friends and family on Facebook.

However, they may find a niche that fits them as well as corporate users nicely. It’s far too early to draw conclusions at this point, but initial adoption seems to be encouraging.

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