In just six months, Facebook at Work's user base increased from a handful of companies to about 300 organizations. The social network also earned itself a marquee customer for its workplace collaboration and communication product, which is currently available only as a limited pilot: Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).
RBS is not yet paying for the service, but the deal marks the largest Facebook at Work deployment to date. In July, the financial services firm launched a small pilot that included a few hundred employees. The company recently said it will deploy the tools to 30,000 of its workers by March, and it plans to roll out Facebook at Work to its entire workforce of 100,000 by the end of 2016.
RBS embraces Facebook at Work
Facebook at Work won't be publicly available until next year, but the company says some version of the service will be available for free. Organizations that want third-party integration with enterprise tools and other add-on services will likely have to pay for the advanced features.
[Related Feature: IT execs on Facebook at Work strengths and weaknesses]
Facebook's experience bringing consumers together should translate well into a social network for corporate workers, according to Kevin Hanley, director of design, RBS. "A big part of the reason we wanted to bring Facebook At Work to RBS is there's no need to spend time explaining to people why it is useful or how it works," he says. "It's very easy to pick up because many people use it already in their personal lives."
Hanley says RBS's IT leaders who are testing Facebook at Work say it so far meets all of their security and procedural demands. "Facebook at Work has all the same security and safeguards in place that we have for other communication tools that we use in the bank," he says, and adds that Facebook at Work meets the same regulatory compliance standards for banks, as well.
Employees share early benefits of Facebook at Work adoption
Based on RBS employees' early experiences with the service, Hanley says he is convinced the company will reap significant benefits from Facebook at Work. For example, an employee in the bank's mortgage division last week retrieved the answer to a customer's complicated technical question within minutes of engaging her colleagues on Facebook at Work. The same response would typically require a few hours of calls and emails, according to Hanley, but the Facebook at Work post delivered the solution in a fraction of the time.
[Related Feature: Is anyone using Facebook at Work?]
"Employees are collaborating on all kinds of different projects — from market and competitor research to testing ideas for new customer services," he says. "We've tried not to be too prescriptive, we want colleagues to get to grips with Facebook at Work in their own way and let it help them do their job in a way that suits them."
While RBS's commitment to Facebook at Work represents a new high-water mark for the platform's adoption rate, it also reinforces Facebook's ability to convince businesses in highly regulated industries to consider the platform as their next tool for collaboration and communication. Facebook at Work may not necessarily replace all of RBS's preferred communication tools, according to Hanley, but it could improve upon the ones that are already in use.
"We don't see Facebook at Work ever replacing any of our current communication tools," Hanley says. "But we do think that email use will start to dampen down with its introduction, as people use Facebook at Work as another of way of talking and working with each other."
Though some CIOs expressed concern about Facebook at Work security and regulatory compliance, relative few have had the opportunity to actually try the product. RBS's company-wide deployment could ultimately help Facebook prove that its social network for business is suitable for use by large enterprises, and downplay the idea that it's designed for smaller organizations.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.