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Facebook bolsters enterprise integration with Workplace tool

Facebook wants to embed its platform in the enterprise, and hopes to achieve this through integration with third-party services

Facebook has kicked off its F8 conference with a big push into the enterprise. The company used the start of its annual conference to unveil the latest developments in its Workplace by Facebook business.

Workplace is the company’s attempt to deliver enterprise collaboration in a format Facebook users would be familiar with.

Speaking to Computer Weekly prior to the launch, Simon Cross, product manager at Workplace by Facebook, said the product now offers “a huge range of integrations”. In particular, he said there is now a directory listing all the integrations that work with Workplace. Integration is available from the premium, enterprise edition and the free Workplace by Facebook Standard Edition.

“Our vision isn’t to build another island. People will need multiple tools to get work done and they want these tools to work together,” said Cross. “Last year, we had Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and Salesforce.” This has now been extended with integration to Jira, ServiceNow and Microsoft SharePoint.

The company has spent time looking at customer feedback and has adapted the Workplace by Facebook product to meet the needs of modern working practices in enterprises.

“We have spent time doing research with customers,” he said. “Three things cut through. First, is sharing information such as sharing a file stored in Dropbox or a customer record in Salesforce. Facebook Workplace is where people go to have conversations and share a task in Jira.”

The second customer requirement he said Workplace by Facebook has addressed is the ability for employees to keep up to date with what is going on, such as during a campaign run on the Marketo marketing platform. “Campaign integration with Marketo means you can post how your campaign is doing to your team groups,” said Cross.

SurveyMonkey is another service integrated with Workplace by Facebook. “Previously, you needed to look at email survey results, then send a message to your group to chat about the outcome of the survey,” he said, adding that integrations avoids the need to send such emails around.

Read more about enterprise collaboration

Cross said the third area Workplace by Facebook has focused on with the new integration is to make common workflows easier, such as expenses, annual leave and income breakdown requests. “You need to install an app or go to the website. Wouldn’t it be great if your payroll provider could send you a notification in Workplace to tell you how much you have been paid?”

Over time, he expected more services will be integrated with Workplace by Facebook. “We will enable you to go into a Workplace tab, chatbots enabled for things like Workday, or ADP (payroll), and you will be able to start a conversation with that service.”

Developing integration

Virgin Atlantic is one of the businesses that has been developing its own integration with Workplace by Facebook. One of the benefits of working for an airline is the availability of low-cost flights. “Virgin have an ancient tool for staff to check which flights have a low load factor,” said Cross.

Instant Load Checker is a custom bot built by Virgin Atlantic which allows the airline’s staff to check if there are flights from London to New York. “The bot will show you how many seats are free.”

Another airline is building a bot to create a group chat thread for every flight. This is being used to ensure everyone involved in a flight is kept in the loop, to help the flight depart on time.

According to Cross, there has been strong momentum for the product. “In last six months, Tinder, Soho House and Deliveroo have all started running on Workplace.”

Commenting on the rationale behind the uptake of Workplace, Cross said: “People want best of breed. They want to put together a set of tools and services that work best for their business. This is why integration works well. We don’t plan to build a file sharing service as good as Box/Dropbox. Instead, we will have integration with every major provider.”

While it integrates with Microsoft Azure Active Directory for identity management, Cross expected Facebook would build further integration with Microsoft and Google’s office productivity products. “We are thinking about integration with calendars. When you have a messaging or video chat session, you need to know people are free to have a chat. This availability information lives in Google Calendar or Outlook.”

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