With all of the negative news surrounding Facebook's privacy and data woes, should your business consider using their Workplace collaboration tool? Of course you should. Two million users already have, and that number is growing.

Workplace is Facebook's business application. Think of it as an "internal" Facebook, a platform where you and your employees can chat, message and share information about your customers, prospects and others in your community. Did I mention that it's free? Oops…sorry.

The standard version - which includes the features I just mentioned plus storage and other productivity uses - costs nothing at all.  A paid version ($3 per month per user) includes those features plus administrative, security, integration and development tools. Within the past year integrations to popular service and sharing apps like ServiceNow and Microsoft's SharePoint were also added. And more are planned.

"We've seen some incredible examples of the 'Workplace effect' since our launch in October 2016."  Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s Workplace VP, wrote in a company blog. "In the last two years, global brands like Walmart, Heineken, Weight Watchers, Booking.com and Virgin Atlantic, fast-growing start-ups like Farfetch, Spotify, Deliveroo and Grab, and NGOs like WWF, Unicef UK and Save the Children have all put their trust in us." Codorniou says that there are more than 150 companies using the applications who have more than 10,000 users on the platform.

Now that the application has matured, Facebook is turning towards the giant small business market, which is mostly dominated by collaboration apps Slack and Microsoft Teams. But there’s certainly room to grow. The company plans to add reseller and other consulting partners (if your business in interested you can sign up here), develop a more robust mobile version and potentially change its marketing approach to appeal to this broader audience.

So should you consider Facebook Workplace as your internal collaboration tool? Maybe. But it depends on the answer to these three questions.

Do you really need an internal collaboration tool?

You probably do. Even if you only have a few employees, building a database where all the information about all the people that you do business with that can be accessed from one shared place by your group has become a critical asset for every company and I don't care if you're a distributor of farm equipment or a Thai restaurant. Knowing your customers, sharing information, keeping notes, storing files, capturing conversations - these are the types of activities that smart, growing companies are doing to stay ahead of their competition and close to their community. Plus, it builds a very valuable database that will be of particular interest to a future buyer or partner if you ever choose to exit your business.

What application gives you the most comfort?

Second - and just as important - do you really need Workplace? If you're a Microsoft Office user (my company is a Microsoft Partner) then it probably makes the most sense to stick with that and use Microsoft Teams. If you've got a customer relationship management or project management application in place then expand its use. If one of your key employees has experience with Slack, Box, Jira, Flock or any of the other great collaboration apps available then consider standardizing on that. Or if you're a big Facebook shop - as millions of small businesses are - then it may make the most sense to just use Facebook Workplace because you're comfortable with it.  They’re all good and I’m sure sufficient for your needs. Choose comfort.

Finally, are you (and your employees) really ready to do the work?

These things don't operate by magic. The data just doesn’t materialize out of thin air.  These systems require effort.  The software needs to be setup. People need to be trained. Integrations have to be configured. Customizations made. Reports created. And then everyone has to commit to the system. So don't drink the software vendor's Kool-Aid until you feel that you are ready to really make the commitment to do the data entry necessary to show value. Does your company have the culture to do this?

The fact is that over the next few years Facebook, Microsoft, Slack and others will be trying very hard to put their collaboration apps in your face and tell you that you must have theirs for your business or the world will end.  Yes, it's probably a good idea to have one. But then again, you may choose to spend your limited resources on something else that provides a better ROI. Don’t feel bad if you do.

Published on: Mar 7, 2019