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Workplace by Facebook partners evolve as demand grows

The Workplace by Facebook partner ecosystem has expanded to include more channel partners, as well as technology providers covering everything from analytics to security.

The Workplace by Facebook partner lineup is evolving, with channel allies entering the fold and other companies revamping their approaches to the social media company's communications and collaboration platform.

Facebook launched a partner program around Workplace in October 2016. The initial 13 service partners included a combination of public relations firms, digital consultancies and IT services companies. At least one of those companies has since dropped Workplace. SADA Systems, a business and technology consulting firm based in Los Angeles, is out of the Workplace by Facebook business and is now solely focused on Google Cloud, a SADA spokesman noted.

Overall, the ranks of Workplace by Facebook partners have grown. More than 30 service providers are listed on the company's partner website. Service providers include service partners and global systems integrators, which offer services such as use case development, deployment, training, change management and communications , according to Facebook.

The service provider category also includes channel partners that are authorized to resell the collaboration platform. That's one sector that seems to be picking up steam of late. MNJ Technologies, a technology and managed service provider based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., earlier this month joined Workplace by Facebook's channel partner ranks. MNJ is partnering with Facebook and Synnex Corp. to market and resell Workplace.

Ben Niernberg, senior vice president, MNJ Technologies Ben Niernberg

Ben Niernberg, senior vice president at MNJ, said the company looked at Workplace because it provides easy access to information, streamlines communication and provides a familiar user interface.

"It's difficult to build community and culture and difficult to find a way to communicate and collaborate," he said. "[Workplace] gives industry a way to do that in a way that is different from anyone else in the marketplace."

Synnex, itself, is a relatively recent Workplace by Facebook partner. In May, the company said it entered the U.S. distribution agreement to take Workplace to the channel. Synnex makes the platform available to channel partners through its Stellr cloud community. And in the United Kingdom, distributor Distology in January unveiled a Facebook alliance that lets its partners and resellers offer Workplace.

When asked whether Synnex, MNJ Technologies and Distology are the only Workplace channel partners, a Facebook spokeswoman said the company doesn't list all the partners with which it works. She relayed a statement from Geoff Perfect, global director of online and channel for Workplace by Facebook, regarding a question on partner recruitment:

"We're encouraged by the level of interest in Workplace by customers and partners alike and are always looking to find partners that deeply align with our goal of turning companies into communities, around the world," Perfect said.

Emerging categories

Carrie Basham Marshall, CEO and founder at Talk Social to MeCarrie Basham Marshall

Carrie Basham Marshall, CEO and founder at Talk Social to Me, a communication and collaboration strategy firm in Mill Valley, Calif., suggested the channel partner category may help Facebook expand its sales reach. The company, a Workplace partner, focuses on launching or rebuilding clients' internal social platforms and employee engagement efforts.

"Adding a reseller program was, I believe, a necessity in order to scale license growth, especially in the SMB market, without building out a massive global sales organization," she said. "Workplace requires a solution-selling approach that's better addressed by resellers with existing SMB customer relationships."

The channel's sales-boosting potential is particularly important in light of the enterprise market's longer sales cycles. Marshall said she learned while selling enterprise software at Socialcast, an enterprise social networking company acquired by VMware in 2011, that the sales cycle for enterprise social and collaboration software can range from nine to 18 months for a large customer.

"The yearslong sales cycle has been a challenging learning for Facebook, who's accustomed to rapid user growth," she said.

Workplace by Facebook: Partners in technology

While channel resellers may be gaining in importance, the Workplace by Facebook partner mix also includes technology partners that offer more than 50 Workplace integrations. Those integrations cover areas such as analytics, file sharing, sales and marketing, and security.

SWOOP Analytics, based in Sydney, is a Workplace by Facebook technology partner in the analytics space. The company's products aim to help customers measure the adoption and value of Workplace, Microsoft Teams and Yammer.

Cai Kjaer, CEO at SWOOP Analytics, said the company's customers -- typically medium to large organizations -- "come to us saying something along the lines of, 'We've invested in Workplace to improve collaboration, but the built-in analytics aren't telling us if we are getting there.'"

Organizations are really seeing the power of connecting their workforce to improve cross-organizational communication and collaboration.
Cai KjaerCEO at SWOOP Analytics

He said several organizations that have contacted his company have tried to "manually service the internal need for reporting, but have found it both challenging and very time-consuming." For those customers, using a specialized tool makes good business sense, he added.

SWOOP teams up with other Workplace by Facebook partners, but not for help with implementation. Customers can install SWOOP's self-service analytics platform on their own without assistance, Kjaer said. But the company's own benchmarking report found community management is one of several factors driving successful Workplace rollouts. This is where Kjaer said he believes partners can contribute.

Community management includes providing dedicated resources for guiding people, answering questions and governing the platform.

"We, therefore, partner with companies like ... Talk Social to Me who are experts in community management and also have a solid understanding of how to use SWOOP to help customers get the most of Workplace," he said.

In addition to the U.S.-based Talk Social To Me, SWOOP works with partners such as Enablo (Australia), Gopomelo (Singapore), Azuronaut (U.K.), Gen-D (U.K.) and ServiceRocket (U.S.).

Talk Social to Me partners with SWOOP, Aware

Talk Social to Me has revamped and built upon its technology partner program over the past two years.

Current partners include SWOOP Analytics and Aware, an enterprise collaboration risk management company that was formerly branded as Wiretap.

"We have a variety of joint customers with these two partners, and our adoption services nicely complement the data-driven insights that their tools provide," Marshall said.

While the partner roster has changed, the issues customers face remain a constant.

"We're seeing the same challenges today that we've seen since the early days of enterprise social: Companies are still rolling out internal platforms without the right preparation and understanding of the impact that it will have on the company."

Against that backdrop, Talk Social to Me focuses on three services that Marshall said span Workplace and other enterprise communications platforms:

  • Coaching for executives and their communications advisers or chiefs of staff. The goal here is to help executives understand how to communicate with the right message and tone on internal social channels.
  • Communicator and middle-manager coaching on using Workplace for targeted communications and team-based collaboration.
  • Workplace "academy" training. This service is for organizations looking to upskill end users "in how to be a good citizen and get the most out of Workplace," Marshall said.

Workplace demand

Kjaer said his company is encountering customer demand for Workplace by Facebook.

"Organizations are really seeing the power of connecting their workforce to improve cross-organizational communication and collaboration," he said. "Enabling that is becoming the norm, rather than the exception."

In addition, the rise of the digital workplace is freeing up budgets as customers harness technologies to improve organizational performance, Kjaer noted. Other factors include the familiarity of the Facebook platform and the nature of SaaS-based offerings like Workplace. A SaaS platform "is a lot easier to deal with, and it comes fully fledged with everything turned on out of the box," he said.

"In general, the demand for services has been strong," Marshall added. "The second half of 2019 will prove to be an interesting time, given the hype in the market for Workplace, as well as Teams and Slack."

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