Facebook At Work Will Quickly Change Enterprise Social

It may not yet be generally available, but Facebook at Work is a quickly evolving solution that will change how enterprises think about and conduct social interactions. It will also dramatically change, if not eliminate, the single-person role of Community Manager.
Carrie Basham Young, an experienced and respected social business strategist, published a series of blog posts on Facebook at Work last week. Her main thesis across these posts was that Facebook is playing a long game in which the line between social interaction in people’s personal lives and at work becomes blurred or disappears altogether. Facebook is betting that it can change enterprise social to more closely resemble the way that people interact outside of work, on Facebook.
Young made many other astute observations in the posts, including,

  • Facebook controls the message with respect to its product and the social networking industry in mainstream media
  • Adoption (logging in for the first time) does not equal engagement (ongoing, purposeful use)
  • Facebook at Work is “incredibly easy” to use and may nearly eliminate the need for user training
  • Facebook at Work’s extreme end-user focus may cause problems for enterprises, and IT staff at big companies will have a negative view of Facebook at Work until it incorporates enterprise-grade identity management, security and information lifecycle management functionality
  • Facebook has the power to change the entire conversation, user expectations and their behavior without input from currently active community managers

Changing Nature of Work and Organizations

The present (and future) trend in the workplace is toward fewer managers in less hierarchical organizational structures. However, eliminating roles that command others’ work does not equate with getting rid of those who guide and coordinate work. The need for people who can design, facilitate and monitor people interactions within business networks will only increase as authority, responsibility and accountability are decentralized across the employee base of an organization.
If Young’s assessment of the irreplaceable contributions of community managers is correct, then Facebook’s intention to minimize or eliminate them may be a fatal mistake. Instead, Facebook at Work should give all employees access to the tools that Young cites as necessary for successful community management. By doing so, Facebook would accelerate the existing trend of democratizing authority and distributing work ownership. Everyone would be responsible for contributing to the management of communities in which they are members, and stewardship of them would shift contextually.
This vision is not unprecedented. Over the last two decades, Knowledge Management (KM) has moved away from being a top-down activity started and executed by an individual situated fairly high in a company’s organizational chart. Instead, the notion of Personal KM has gained favor, making all employees responsible for creating, capturing, sharing and using knowledge within their company.
It is possible that day-to-day community management will move in the same direction and become a distributed responsibility and activity. Young clearly acknowledged this when she wrote,

“Facebook will maintain a pure focus on viral adoption, resulting in an industry-wide slow shift away from the concept of managed communities and toward the concept of ad-hoc, self-driven collaboration as a new normal employee behavior”

I disagree with Young’s interpretation of Facebook’s goal for Facebook at Work though. I think Facebook seeks to de-emphasize or eliminate community managers, but not community management. It appears that Facebook at Work has been designed for distributed, bottom-up community coordination, rather than top-down, imposed management. (I sincerely hope that Facebook at Work does not intend to have communities ruled by algorithms that decide which topics and interactions are given preference in an employee’s activity stream.) While this will be unappealing to existing community managers, Facebook’s vision for more self-governed collaboration is consistent with the larger trends that are distributing and democratizing work coordination in increasingly flat, networked organizational structures.

Enterprise Social Will Change Sooner Rather Than Later

Young is right that Facebook at Work will upset the status quo in enterprise social and community management, but I think her timeline is too long. This change is likely to happen in 3 years or less, rather than the 5-10 years she predicts.
It will be faster because Facebook can learn from other vendors in adjacent enterprise software market segments, most notably Box and Dropbox in the Enterprise File Sync and Sharing space. Like Facebook, both of those companies began as consumer-oriented services that emphasized user experience over other considerations, including breadth and depth of functionality. Box has since built an offering that meets many of the security, privacy, administration and integration requirements of business customers.
Dropbox has also undertaken that journey, although it did not begin it until well after Box started. That is an advantage in some ways. Dropbox is moving down the learning curve quickly because it has watched Box and learned from its strategic decisions taken and tactical moves made to effect the consumer-to-enterprise shift.
Facebook will do the same, gaining insight from both Box and Dropbox. This will allow Facebook at Work to become enterprise-ready in a fraction of the time that most expect. Watch for Facebook to gradually expand beta access to Facebook at Work over the coming months, then make a version that meets most enterprise requirements generally available by the end of 2016.

Embedded Experiences Are Coming to the Browser

One of the most interesting and valuable developments in enterprise social software (ESS) over the last few years has been the introduction of embedded experiences. Simply put, these are event-driven notifications, usually from other enterprise applications and systems, that surface within the activity stream of an ESS application. Embedded experiences go beyond merely notifying of something important; they also allow one or more actions to be taken to move a business process to the next step.
chatter notification vacation approval
 
Embedded experiences are great, but they have been written in proprietary code tied to a specific ESS vendor’s offering. It has not been possible to reuse actionable notifications across vendors’ solutions.
Google has announced a new feature in the latest beta version of its Chrome browser that will provide an open standard alternative for the delivery of extended experiences. Chrome 48 Beta enables developers to quickly create notifications with buttons that let users complete tasks. Those notification can be pushed from browser-based applications and webpages, as well as from Chrome OS applications and extensions to the Chrome browser.
Google and Mozilla employees have contributed to the development of the fledgling Notifications API standard under the auspices of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) community. This specification is what has been implemented in Google’s Chrome 48 Beta.
A Notification Generator built to define HTML-based embedded experiences has been created by Peter Beverloo. The generator shows how easy it is to define an embedded experience that can appear in any HTML5-compliant web browser.

Notification GeneratorSource: http://tests.peter.sh/notification-generator/#actions=1;;requireInteraction=true

As previously noted, embedded experiences have been proprietary to individual vendor’s applications and platforms. Google’s beta implementation of the WHATWG’s Notifications API specification is a first important step toward embedded experiences that will work across operating systems and applications. When the feature is properly vetted and becomes part of the stable release of Chrome (and, we assume, Mozilla’s Firefox browser), open, actionable notifications will be reality.
This is important because it will make the development and use of embedded experiences far more practical and widespread. Enterprise software vendors who choose to implement the WHATWG’s Notifications API specification will empower their customers to more easily create interoperability with other vendors’ browser-based tools. Actionable data embedded in notifications will be able to be passed between systems, business process execution will be accelerated, and personal productivity will be increased.
This news further intensifies the browser-based versus operating system-dependent application debate, especially with regards to mobile computing. The current preference for native applications on mobile devices will be challenge to the uptake of the Notifications API specification, given its dependence on the Web browser. Development of more of these types of Web standards is precisely what is needed to swing the pendulum back toward browser-based applications.

What happens when social surveillance goes mainstream?

The UK government considers a law that would allow for surveillance of online activity, U.S. universities admit they track what their athletes are saying on Twitter, and employers are asking for Facebook passwords. At this point, advertisers tracking us online is the least of our problems.

Can You Be Personal and Professional in Social Media?

There have been plenty of blog posts and discussions recently about how you need to be “personal” across the various social media web sites, even when communicating on behalf of your company or brand. Social media is about conversations, and people have conversations with other people, not faceless corporations. So you want to come across as a person talking with people, not at them, unlike the traditional one-way marketing broadcasts of yesteryear.

In this post, I am going to focus specifically on how to balance the personal with the professional, but you should also read Aliza’s post about revisiting her 10 golden rules of social media for more best practices. Read More about Can You Be Personal and Professional in Social Media?

Woof Woof Goes the Webcam

My 8-month-old border collie mix, Crash, has spent a lot of his life at the GigaOM offices. He was on the blog before he even had a name, and he’s been part of more product demonstrations from visiting video companies than I can even remember. (Having a live, wriggling subject is an awesome way to make sure demos aren’t canned!)
But sometimes we just need a little peace around the office, or I need to attend a conference. So I checked out a local doggie daycare to take Crash to once every couple weeks. I found it on Yelp, of course, and it offers discounts for employees of Google and Genentech — very Silicon Valley.
What’s more, the folks at Planet Pooch have a “webcam” — that is, a Java-powered still image they refresh every three seconds from each of the rooms where dogs play during the day. (If you’re wondering, yes, I am paying too much for this service.) How cool! We all got to tune in yesterday and see Crash having fun without us. Sometimes, it’s the simplest implementations of technology that are the most satisfying.

Bento: A Personal Database from FileMaker

Bento Icon

The makers of FileMaker have released a preview of a new application called Bento. It’s labeled as “personal database software” for managing all aspects of your life from contacts and events to inventory and expenses.

It’s currently a pre-release trial version, meaning your trial will eventually expire, forcing you to purchase Bento if you intend to keep your data. The trial looks to last around 90 days at this point which I assume will coincide with an official launch of the product.
Bento
I have to say that Bento looks quite promising thus far. FileMaker is specifically targeting the “personal use” users, as opposed to businesses, with dozens of pre-made templates and simplistic interface. It seems they’ve taken their wildly popular FileMaker software and cut the fluff down so that the average user can get up and running quickly…which I have to say is quite appealing.
Bento divides data into “Libraries”. You can choose from a set of 23 different pre-built libraries that cover just about ever category imaginable of data that could be put in a database. Everything from an Exercise Log to Vehicle Maintenance to Home Inventory is available to jump right in to.
Bento
All of the libraries can be customized to fit your needs. My only complaint with this is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the default visual design of the templates though I assume this may be available in a future release.
Bento is definitely geared toward personal use but given its ability to be heavily customize, I would imagine that a slew of small businesses will be able to make use of this software. It can import any CSV-formated text file, which is great for those people who have been using something like an Excel spreadsheet for this type of data.
No word yet on pricing or an official launch date, but with a 3 month trial period, I highly suggest giving it a try.