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Three questions on the Facebook Workplace Partner Program

Facebook last week launched its Workplace Partner Program to back its newly released social and collaboration platform for the enterprise.

So far, we know the program  involves 13 service partners that Facebook says will guide customers “every step of the way to bring Workplace” to their organizations. CSC, Deloitte Digital and SADA Systems are among the IT services providers and professional services firms participating on the service partner side.

The Workplace Partner Program also includes a tier of “Identity Providers” that integrate with Workplace. Those partners are G Suite, Microsoft Azure Active Directory, Okta, OneLogin and Ping Identity.

But there are a few unknowns. Here are three channel-related questions that will likely come into focus in the coming weeks and months.

Who will lead the program?

Diane Krakora, CEO of PartnerPath, a channel consulting firm, believes Facebook will need to appoint a well-known channel executive to spearhead its partner program. She said the company has experience with marketing partners such as ad agencies, but could use some channel expertise as it cultivates relationships in the solution provider ecosystem. She said the executive leading the program should be someone known to the 13 partners to get them “engaged and spinning quickly.”

What services will partners provide?

Facebook’s prevalence in the consumer space means channel partners won’t need to do a lot of customer handholding or spend time troubleshooting highly complex technology deployments. Industry executives still see opportunities for assistance, however.

Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, a business software review platform, said Facebook is likely to need implementation partners, “not because the solution is difficult, but because, in many companies, collaboration tool implementations must be accompanied by a change management initiative to help build adoption.”

In addition to change management, partners can also help customers embed collaborative practices in business workflow, Fauscette added.

“Getting processes and workflow built around and tied to the collaborative tools is essential to drive adoption and continued value,” he said.

Krakora pointed out that partners may also play a role in content strategy. IT services firms could help clients address such questions as “How do you get the right content to the right people within the organization?” she said.

Identity provider partners, meanwhile, will play a role in helping companies secure access to their Workplace accounts. That task may prove an exercise in helping customers take advantage of products they already employ.

“Like many integration partners, we recognize that users would prefer to use tools that they are accustomed to using,” said Tim Gunderson, vice president of business development for OneLogin. “Our customers are familiar with using our single sign-on (SSO) solutions. Likewise, many of them already use Facebook to collaborate outside of the workplace.”

For customers planning Workplace rollouts, OneLogin can provide SSO based on SAML 2.0, eliminating the need for username and password creation, Gunderson noted. Other OneLogic offerings for Workplace deployments include external directory integration (Active Directory and LDAP, for example); user provisioning; and multi-factor authentication.

How many partners will be recruited?

Krakora believes Facebook will keep its partner roster relatively small as it targets large enterprises with its collaboration offering. She said the Workplace Partner Program may sign up a handful or two additional partners, but won’t recruit tens of thousands of partners that a vendor targeting small business might be tempted to do.