The enterprise is becoming the new battleground for network software vendors and investors. For years now, consumers have been accessible via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat. This enables companies to tap into a huge base of potential customers and feeds the individual tendency to connect around a common theme.
And we are witnessing a swing in the market, as investors and entrepreneurs now think the enterprise is where the opportunity and money is with social media. And they are right, because the enterprise today is still a graveyard of old desktop and server-side software that is increasingly at odds with an audience that has been using cloud platforms that were built five or 10 years ago.
One cannot question Facebook's financial means when it comes to building a workplace version of its ubiquitous social media platform. Despite many detractors, it has become a real business with real revenue. So far so good. But what about its ethos, or its business DNA?
As a social network, Facebook is built on the idea that people want to share information with each other. It is a voluntary network. One can do what he or she wants on Facebook, to a degree, with whomever they wish. That is not very "enterprise".
An enterprise is built on predefined rules about outcomes, quantities, margins and repeatability. Workers are given roles and responsibilities, and the ability to perform these to the best of their ability may drive their personal success.
Facebook for Work is almost inevitable, however, with the likes of Slack, Asana and DropBox all banging on about enterprise value, and Google and Microsoft throwing their weight around, too. But do you remember Yammer, "The Enterprise Social Network"?
Microsoft bought it for $1.2bn (£766m) with revenues of about $20m, because it had 100 million users. And some schmuck at Microsoft thought that a $10-per-customer acquisition cost was cheap, when actually it was rubbish. This is because a user account is not worth anything unless the user is using it and deriving value from it.
This is the billion-dollar issue with enterprise software: it has to drive value. This is particularly true of SaaS vendors, where the service they claim to provide is judged by the ongoing value it generates. No value? Switch it off or stop using it.
That's what happened to Yammer. And that is what could happen to any Facebook for Work initiative unless it can work out what the value proposition is for business users.
Tristan Rogers is chief executive of Concrete Group
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