Facebook’s Workplace with Microsoft Office

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Now Facebook has joined the race for business money with Workplace by Facebook, a non-social network for your work colleagues.   How does it work with Microsoft Office?

Workplace by Facebook joins Office 365, Slack and others in providing a central location for people to communicate on work matters.  A team of people working together regularly or on a special project.  The people can be anywhere in the world.

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Workplace uses a separate login to standard Facebook.  There’s no link between Workplace and an organizations Facebook page for the public.    There’s also no link between someone’s personal Facebook account and any Workplace account they have.

It has all the standard features for a business-related product.   A ‘news’ feed of posts ordered by date and relevance.  Real-time messaging.  Video calling and conference calling.  Shared storage of documents, images and other files.  The ability to define groups of people for certain discussions or file sharing.

The primary advantage of Workplace is familiarity. It looks and acts very like Facebook, which should make it easy for people to use it.  One of the biggest headaches for organizations is training people to use a new service, especially when those people are wary of change and consider themselves ‘tech-phobes’.

What’s either missing or demoted in all these offerings is email.  Email is somewhat a dirty word in Silicon Valley who consider it inefficient and old-fashioned.

Facebook’s Workplace is already used by the company ‘in-house’ and the company certainly has the hardware and resources to support the service.  According to Facebook, there’s been 18 months of testing with 1,000 companies and over 100,000 groups.

It’s being aggressively priced starting at US$3 per user per month.  It works on desktop web browsers, tablets and smartphones.

With Microsoft Office

Workplace has no word-processing, spreadsheet or presentation software of its own.  You can use whatever office suite software or browser service you like (as long it’s compatible with what other people are using).

Documents can be saved to a Workplace or downloaded and viewed/edited on your software before being uploaded again to Workplace.  But it seems to lack the crucial real-time collaboration feature available in recent Office releases.

Real-time collaboration means there’s a lot less trouble managing different versions of a document.  Editing directly a single online document literally means everyone is on the ‘same page’.

If you use OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, multiple people can open the same document at the same time. Their edits are quickly pushed out to others.  See our guide to the document collaboration in Office. Dropbox, Box and others also support real-time document editing but only on some platforms – Office Online and Office for iOS.

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