Facebook tests enterprise product with a few companies

Facebook is finally getting into the office game. According to multiple reports, on Wednesday morning the company launched a pilot of its long-rumored Facebook at Work product, an application that aims to compete against the likes of Yammer and Slack.

[company]Facebook[/company] at Work does exactly what it sounds like. It doesn’t connect to your personal profile. Instead, companies sign up their employees, forming a closed social network with familiar functions like news feeds and profiles. Facebook at Work will have its own separate iOS and Android apps, which Facebook put in the app store today. Most people won’t be able to download it, though, since the company limited its trial run to select companies.

The application may be too little too late, given that enterprise social networking companies have existed for years. The popular Slack is the latest entrant and was able to make headway in the market because existing products were too buggy or didn’t offer enough group chat functionality. Facebook might also struggle to convince people it’s a serious product that belongs in an office and not just a socializing app for personal use.

Conversely, companies that don’t already use a communication application might sign up for Facebook at Work due to their familiarity with the Facebook brand.

A spokesperson told Re/code that there are no ads in Facebook at Work and the pilot group of companies is using the service for free, so it’s not clear how Facebook intends to make money off the product.

Averting disaster

‘Tis the season for taking stock on the year and what didn’t go well is often greater news than what did. So informationweek.com has a bead on the top 10 cloud fiascos of 2013, while cio.com lists the biggest IT disasters.

Also this week it was revealed that Avon has axed the global rollout of an SAP-based order management system. Avon could take a charge of up to $125M on the project that had been featured at SAP events as early as 2011, but apparently drove away the company’s sales agents in a Canadian pilot.

Just as the business gains have to be factored into the return on a successful implementation, so do the business costs need to be considered in a failed one. Back in the 1990s, a very large banking client from the UK stopped in on my firm’s advisory meeting after visiting with a vendor that had partnered with two big US banks for what was to be a massive, comprehensive, retail banking system.

Unfortunately the system was already a failure, but fortunately I had two US banking clients at our meeting whom I could steer him to for a more local perspective—one a CIO and the other a pair of systems development managers. Although the direct, quoted price tag for the system would have been $100 million, this head of systems development for the UK bank figured the total ultimate cost to the bank would have been $1 billion, and so he never tired of thanking me for ‘saving’ his bank $1 billion.

The top reported IT disasters of 2013 involved governments with direct costs of $1 billion or more. But organizations need to factor in the sometimes many-times-larger investment and opportunity costs of their failures. These failures can be rooted in selection or execution, but either way, all organizations can resolve to practice great care in averting IT disasters for 2014.