There are a range of reasons why Facebook is often being blocked inside organizations. In many cases it’s because it’s viewed as a time-waster. However in other cases the concern is more about information loss – competitors finding out who is working for your organization and potentially sensitive information.
Worklight has just released a Facebook application called Workbook, reports Dan Farber, which authenticates users with an organization’s identity systems, and enables closed communication within the Workbook application between Facebook users. In one step Facebook can become an enterprise application, including proprietary discussions.
The application is expected for general release in February. For now it is being trialled in three large institutions, including a global retail bank with 70,000 staff that had received loud complaints from staff when it banned Facebook, and an investment bank that tried to implement an in-house social network based on Sharepoint that its employees didn’t use. The intention is to use Facebook not just internally, but also with clients and fund managers. As I’ve written before, one of the key issues with banning Facebook is that it makes it harder to attract and retain young, talented workers.
This is turning out to be a very similar story to instant messaging in financial services. Financial market traders started using IM because it was useful, but banks were concerned about security and audit trails. Services then became available that provided secure, auditable IM. The same thing is happening with social networks.
So the excuses are running out. Employees want Facebook (or the latest social network), and it can in fact benefit the organization for them to use it. Concerns are being addressed, and it’s getting high time to enable useful tools inside the enterprise.