Workplace by Facebook integrations broaden app's appeal

Facebook added dozens of business tools to a newly created app directory in its platform for businesses. The Workplace by Facebook integrations should broaden the product's appeal.

Workplace by Facebook has added dozens of business apps to a newly created directory of third-party integrations, a move that should broaden the appeal of the social media company's enterprise product.

Facebook unveiled roughly 50 new Workplace by Facebook integrations this week at the F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The platform now supports more than 60 third-party apps, slightly fewer than the number of integrations in Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams.

Workplace is now compatible with many of the most widely used software-as-a-service tools such as Jira, SharePoint, Adobe, HubSpot and SurveyMonkey. Previously, the platform's only integrations were with cloud storage apps like Box, Dropbox and Google Drive.

"Our customers have just been really, really desperate for these integrations," said Simon Cross, product manager of Workplace by Facebook. "They have been asking us for these for a long time."

Our customers have just been really, really desperate for these integrations.
Simon Crossproduct manager, Workplace by Facebook

Cross highlighted the ability to search for files in all of the third-party apps at once from within Workplace. Users can also set up automatic alerts: A marketing team, for example, could have SurveyMonkey post the results of an ongoing research campaign into a Workplace group once every hour or every day.

Some of the Workplace by Facebook integrations -- including those with Kronos, Smartsheet, Workday and ADP -- come with chatbots that could help users spend less time on administrative tasks such as requesting time off.

"The more integrations, the more a company can have all of its tools that it needs within one collaborative platform," said Wayne Kurtzman, an analyst at IDC. "That's one of the big benefits of Slack; they connect with over 1,000 different platforms."

Workplace is deployed in more than 30,000 organizations worldwide. The platform is separate from Facebook's consumer network but mimics most of its features: a news feed, personal profiles, groups, and tools for instant messaging and live broadcasting.

Since its launch in 2016, Workplace by Facebook has appealed to large enterprises as a hub for corporate communications and community-building efforts. Walmart and Starbucks are among Workplace's biggest customers.

The additional integrations announced this week should help Workplace better compete in the team collaboration app market against platforms like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams, Slack and Atlassian Stride. Businesses value how such products streamline communications and workflows into a single interface.

Facebook stresses privacy protections of Workplace platform

Facebook has come under scrutiny in recent months for its approach to data privacy. The company had to inform millions of its users last month that a third-party app may have provided personal information from their Facebook profiles to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Businesses will undoubtedly have questions for Facebook about the data privacy features of its enterprise product, particularly with the release of the new Workplace by Facebook integrations. But the social media company should be able to assuage those concerns if potential customers are willing to listen, analysts said.

"I think the questions will come up," said Alan Lepofsky, a principal analyst at Constellation Research Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. "But I think Facebook will easily be able to explain that Workplace is very different than their consumer model of Facebook at home."

Workplace by Facebook operates under a different business model than the consumer version of Facebook -- that is, there are no advertisements. Customers also have total control over the data of their employees and can manage what third-party integrations are allowed in their workplace.

Both an internal product team and an independent security contractor review all Workplace by Facebook integrations before their release, Cross said. Facebook screens developers through a registration process before allowing them to build apps for Workplace in the place, he said.

But the bad consumer press will likely still cause headaches for the Workplace sales team. Facebook already decided to change the name of its enterprise platform, presumably to help differentiate it from the consumer product. (It was originally known as Facebook at Work.)

"If customers do their digging, they will realize that it isn't a concern," said Zeus Kerravala, the founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass., about data privacy issues. "But certainly it is likely to maybe spook the less educated technical buyer."

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