The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is getting a new type of functionality from social media giant Facebook, via a digital communications platform called Workplace.
The stated purpose of this resource is to help firms
and organizations to collaborate and communicate with each other.
Workplace includes features like dashboards with analytics and single sign-on setups. It also allows for setting up groups or prioritizing certain kinds of posts or messages. With Facebook Workplace, users can chat globally, videoconference or develop collaborative learning processes.
“Facebook has spent its first 12 years connecting people in their personal lives,” Jonathan Labin, head of Facebook MENA, said in a press statement. “With Workplace, we are now able to help users improve productivity through collaboration on a platform that they are already familiar with. We now want to help companies in the MENA region build connections between coworkers and transform how teams work together. Organizations are stronger -- and more productive -- when everyone comes together.”
As evidenced in an Oct. 11 press release on the new regional offering, Workplace has been adopted by large companies for many of their communication needs. Arabic language functionality is a plus. However, in the minds of some experts, it seems there is a difficult choice to be made about how to position companies for communications, and which tools will ultimately be the better options.
Robert Plant is a professor of business technology at Miami University's School of Business Administration.
Responding to questions about the Facebook Workplace offering Oct. 28, Plant said it is important to look at the use of communications platforms and other tools from a security angle.
“It's got to be controlled,” he said, stressing the importance of having leverage over data sets and making sure that business intelligence assets don't become vulnerable to unauthorized access. “Security is an issue that people don't get … it's nearly impossible to monitor everything: you're much better off controlling your own platform.”
With proprietary vendor solutions, Plant said, companies can build private clouds in which data sets are tightly controlled.
By contrast, he said, companies that would select the Facebook platform for enterprise communications will have to dig into Facebook's privacy notices and other obscure areas of the platform to figure out how data are going to be used and controlled.
“Who has access to it on the other side? Where is data going to be stored?” Plant said. “These are all important questions.”
In general, Plant warned against the default practice of using the cheapest or the easiest platform to convey trade secrets and communicate about sensitive business ideas, and suggested that investing in more secure platforms is a good idea.
“The last thing you want to do is combine the corporate world and the social media world,” Plant said.
Representatives of Facebook MENA contacted for this story declined to provide comments by press time.