For five years, lafur Hand tried get his company to utilize Microsoft’s Yammer.
As the marketing head of Eimskip, a 102 -year-old shipping and logistics company in Iceland, he was looking for a style to connect all 1,600 of his employees across 19 countries some of whom were on ships out at sea.
It was unsuccessful. “People simply didn’t see the reason, ” Hand told Mashable .
Hand discovered an alternative one day last year when golfing with the CFO of Icelandair. His golf partner had recently read on an overseas flight an article about Facebook generating its own enterprise software. Facebook lately had secured the Royal Bank of Scotland as a client, with 100,000 workers committed to join service by the end of 2016, he said.
“If the Royal Bank of Scotland can use Facebook at Work for their internal web and communication, I mean, why not us? ” Hand said. Six months later, Hand get Eimskip into the beta program and has since attracted 70 percent of his 1,500 employees to actively use the network.
On Monday, Facebook wants every company asking “why not us? ” when it officially launches Workplace, formerly known as Facebook at Work, and invites industries of any size into the program.
What it looks like
Workplace is Facebook’s big entry into software as a service that offers industries a network for communication, including a news feed of proclamations, events, group and private messaging, and live video. The software challengers Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and Slack, but unlike those services, it directly simulates a consumer product: Facebook.
Facebook’s bet is that companies and their employees will be able to easily adopt its network given the similarities and its consumer-friendly nature. Indeed, 95 percent of Facebook’s products are integrated into Workplace, product director Julien Codorniou told Mashable .
The front page features a news feed of posts made to groups and to the entire page and a column of trending posts, also curated by an algorithm. Personal and run profiles are kept separate. The site does not host any ad or features in-app games.
On Workplace, employees are notified of any updates if it directly relates to them, for example, if a colleague posts on a group they are in. Just like on Facebook, groups are a popular part of the service.
Hootsuite, a social media management software company, has been a part of the beta program since August 2015. Its “Customer Support” and “Product Development” groups are the most active as well as social groups like “After5 Vancouver, ” where employees at the company’s headquarters post about activities, Patience Yi, Hootsuite’s vice president of platform, told Mashable .
Social groups have also become popular at Eimskip, although the company had initially worried the service would become more of a distraction. “For the first week, people were just behaving how they behave on Facebook. They were posting paintings , non-work related issues. Facebook simply told us to relax and this would change, ” Hand said. It did.
Hand said his company insured value in other work groups called “First Response” and “Vessel Operations, ” which provide crucial connection for maintaining employees alert on sea and road conditions. These proclamations limit the number of emails and phone calls.
“Everybody gets the same datum, at the same hour, ” Hand said.
Workplace is available in a desktop version as well as two mobile apps: one for the core app and one for chat not unlike Facebook and Messenger‘s split. That mobile accessibility is crucial for companies like Eimskip that have employees out constantly out in the fields or out at sea.
All employees can also access live video feeds via a service similar to Facebook Live. For instance, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes hosts weekly video conferences on the network.
Other advantages of Workplace include auto-translation, just like on Facebook, so that foreign workers can understand each other’s posts.
Facebook also introduced multi-company groups, a highly-requested feature, as part of the official launching. That means employees from two different companies could communicate on one group, as long as each of their employers are on Facebook’s Workplace.
Another product that clients told Mashable they hope to see added soon is video conferencing that is able to connect at least 10 participants. The video feature currently only supports video calls where one person is speaking to multiple people.
Over the last 18 months, Facebook’s Workplace team, which is based in London but with employees across multiple offices, has signed on 1,000 companies. Facebook last announced 450 companies in March but has since been signing on one to two customers per day.
The most popular countries are India, Norway, US, UK and France, so far. Clients include global ad agency TBWA, public relations firm Edelman and nonprofit Oxfam.
Some companies, like Israel-based SimilarWeb, were approached by Facebook. The service has since become “our major internal communication and knowledge sharing tool, ” said Dan Valach, SimilarWeb’s senior vice president of HR. “We believe in spending hour there and learning and being a part of the company and part of the culture.”
Out of beta, the service will shortly have three tiers of pricing. Clients only pay for active users:$ 3 per month for the first 1,000 monthly active users;$ 2 for between 1,001 to 10, 000 and$ 1 for more than 10,000. The service is free for nonprofits and educational institutions.
While Facebook is a newcomer with software as a service, experts say the company has potential for rapid expansion. Not unlike ride-hailing giant Uber has an advantage in the self-driving vehicle race with its big network of drivers and riders, Facebook already has at least 1.71 billion people quite familiar with its service and many more at the least aware of its name.
“The great thing about Facebook is you already know how use the product. That’s a rare phenomena in enterprise software. I think they have a huge leg-up and advantage because of that, ” Aaron Levie, CEO of enterprise cloud service Box, told Mashable . His company has collaborated with Facebook since the early days of the initiative and has an integration with the service.
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, for his part, is not intimidated by the network. “The product sounds like it might be really useful at a really large company, ” Butterfield told The Next Web last year. “Obviously, if its a seven person company, theres not much point in creating a profile.”