Facebook at Work: Why consumer tech moving to enterprise is good


By Gagandeep Sapra

It’s 7 AM, I am taking an Uber to get to work, while I sit down at the back of the car knowing that I have a 1-hour ride before I get to work, I browse through my emails, and at the top of them is Uber for Business - I ignore it. I get to office, and one of my colleagues is saying if we should look at Dropbox for teams, after all we have been storing a lot of our data on the cloud and it will add a few features, a little while later a news story pops up in front of me - Facebook for Work.

The list is endless. Our favourite brands are now getting busy running after the enterprise world, the lines are blurring - it is a new source of revenue for them, but will I have to start paying for it now?

Let’s go back a few years, Google had just become the king of Search, their name was everywhere, and they were calling on enterprises, to buy Search appliances - servers if you may, for their data centre that would allow them to offer search to their website visitors similar to what Google offered. Facebook was meeting corporates and telling them how they could help companies make decisions based on data and advertise to a targeted audience - the audience that was coming for free. Dropbox was one of the first ones on the block offering integration for teams, a better control. Evernote had a business offering, and Uber wanted to make it easy for the finance teams to keep a check on expenses as well as manage all the invoices from cars that were used by teams. The conversation seems to have always been there, but in the last few months - there are direct business models for enterprises.

Facebook at Work: Why consumer tech moving to enterprise is good

Uber for Business

While the IT geeks in an enterprise had direct orders to shut access to Facebook for the employees, leaving them to use their mobile devices to talk to friends, strict IT policies did not let you access cloud storage sites like Dropbox, with the worry that a company employee may end up uploading a file that should not go out of the office. So what’s happening now and how does it impact you?

The B2B, B2C, and the P2P World

The Dot Com Era brought all these buzz words, asking if you are a B2B (Business 2 Business) company or a B2C (Business 2 Consumer). But these lines are fast merging. In fact some management gurus have even started calling it a person to person (P2P) or a consumer to consumer (C2C), whether it is a CEO dealing with another CEO, a marketing guy dealing with a purchase guy, we are all humans, people, consumers - and chances are outside of this work relationship we may end up becoming friends, and connect in the virtual world too, after all the world is getting to be a connected place.

The world is a connected place?

Chances are that you already have an office WhatsApp Group or even Facebook group, for current team members or team members who may have left the organisation, a Facebook group for your friends who share a common interest, a Google Drive or Dropbox share for all those photos from the last team building holiday you had, to even some kind of worksheet of the cab rides you shared with a friend of yours. All this is happening all over the place - and it needs to be solved.

Why a separate version, can’t they just use what is available right now?

The world inside an enterprise is very different. It requires controls, integrations and can get as complex as getting all of it to login with a single username and password that you use to login to your work computer, to as easy as being able to add and remove people from corporate groups. Whether it is your favourite social media site, your favourite cab company or your cloud storage provider, they all need to come and integrate in the enterprise world - if for no other reason, to save you from creating multiple accounts and having to remember multiple accounts.

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Facebook at Work

I know of a number of people who have multiple identities on Facebook, Twitter even on Dropbox, one for their colleagues and bosses at work and one for their friends. Whether this is from a company policy point of view, or a privacy point of view, remembering password and username combinations, setting up shares again and again with people, and setting up filtering is not only time consuming, but now needs separate tools and worksheets to manage.

What about my privacy?

A big concern that comes up is, that if Facebook at Work is going to get introduced how do you keep your personal data away, or when Uber For Work is integrated, how do you avoid the bosses from seeing those late night jaunts to grab a drink showing up in the company reports.

This may not be a worry for everyone, but it is a worry that needs to be addressed. This is being done by multiple ways, from filters / circles, to making sure that you have separate networks. Google Plus [yes indeed], introduced us to something called Circles, and the same concept works here.

You have a circle of friends from work, and a circle of friends from home, you have a circle of acquaintances from work, and a circle of people you do not want to connect with. Integrations like this in Enterprise Versions, or for work versions allow you to keep your data private where you want it, and having the ability to still integrate in an enterprise world. Imagine leaving a job and joining a new company and still being able to use the same login, get the same filters, and become a part of the new company’s network as long as you are there, and then leaving that network when you move on.

Will I have to pay?

In the past, we have seen a number of tools that were free, and now are paid only, I am not sure how many of us will want to pay to use Facebook or Twitter, but this is something only time will tell. My favourite tool Logmein had a great free version that I could use to access my home PC, which is now paid only. Several other applications that I have been using, ever since the Internet came along are now paid only and enterprise only. Some companies will choose to go this way, while some companies may keep it free for the end consumer, but may want an enterprise to pay for enterprise features such as controls, data privacy, and access mechanisms - this is something we will only see in the future.

Hybrid social networks?

It is interesting to see how the world is moving to a hybrid place of technology, as a business user I have used Facebook to find more information about my prospective clients as well as my prospective employees. As a business user I have also had issues where I wanted to remove a team member because they were not in the same team. The change of our social tools to integrate into our business world is an exciting place to be.

Is this right or is this wrong, should we join them or should we keep them separate, is a debate that one can spend days and come to no conclusion. For now, I am happy that I can report an Uber expense directly by using Uber for Business, I can share data with team members on Dropbox and remove their access when they are no longer in a team at the stroke of a button, connect with them on Facebook without adding them as a friend or worrying about what circle to add them into.

Gagandeep Sapra, is a technology entrepreneur who is commonly known as the big geek.