Facebook may be in hot water right now, but its developers aren’t taking any time off.
The company has announced several new capabilities for its Workplace application that will help it efficiently connect with other cloud apps used at work and enable users to easily share information, stay up to date, and simplify administrative processes with their teams.
The most notable is better integration with third party apps such as Marketo, SurveyMonkey, or Zoom. For example, users can now set up a bot to post daily summaries or results to a project group so everyone can keep up to date on marketing campaigns or new product launches without ever needing to lift a finger. Or they can set up a SurveyMonkey survey and use the integration to get an update every time someone completes it.
In addition, Workplace now supports the direct integration of news sources so users can get updates from Bloomberg, for example, in their Workplace groups or even subscribe to specific RSS feeds.
“These are the integrations that our Workplace customers have been crying out for all along so we’re delighted to introduce more than 60 of them,” Simon Cross, product manager at Facebook, tells ITWC. “With these new tools, you can stop wasting time seeking out information and spend time on work that matters. We’re also launching a directory that make it really easy for people who use Workplace to find and enable these integrations.”
Workplace administrators – the people that run Workspace at a company – can go to the directory and add whatever integration they think will be useful. For users, integrations will appear whenever they go to post something in their respective groups.
“In the composer box where you type your post, users will see links to these third-party services that are available. This allows them to navigate and search through all of the third-party services connected to Workplace in one place,” Cross says.
The company has also tackled the dreaded bureaucracy of work processes like submitting time off slips or managing a product plan by introducing a bot for payroll provider ADP, which allows employees to interact with it and request things like pay slips or PTO balance. Other workflow bot partnerships include AdobeSign, Kronos, Smartsheet, and Workday.
“A lot of processes and workflows we have to do are tedious and take much longer than they have to – think about booking annual leave, filing expenses, approving things, etc.; they all sap your time. But with these new integrations, you’ll be able to book vacation time with a bot on Workplace or have a bot ping you when you’ve been paid. All those manual processes just got dramatically easier and simpler,” Cross says.
Workplace was launched in 2016 and has continued to grow rapidly, according to Cross, counting companies like Tinder, The Match Group, and Virgin Atlantic as customers. The airline has an ‘instant load checker’ integration that uses natural language processing to check for upcoming flights and how many seats are available on each.
Sharing information has now become easier as well thanks to a more robust preview tool that allows users to get the gist of what others are sharing without opening the link or file.
The ability to link folders to groups has also been added to the app. For example, a DropBox folder of employee information can be shared and linked to a Workplace human resources group so it doesn’t need to be reshared every time something changes.
All of these integrations have been beta tested inside Facebook for “a while”, Cross says, and the company has also invited developers who are interested in building integrations to register online and become part of the Workplace developer community.
“Our vision here isn’t just to integrate with things for the sake of it; we believe companies want to choose the best products from various vendors that match their company’s needs while still having all of them work together,” Cross highlights. “In the same ways that Workplace connects people together, we want it to also connect to the other tools and services people are using to get things done. And if they have any ideas, we’re open to them.”
While all of these integrations are designed to improve workflow and enable collaboration, but Facebook hasn’t forgotten about security. All integrations have been subject to a third-party security audit. Users are able to review integrations installed on their account in settings as a way to ensure transparency.
“All of the integrations that we share in our directory have been through a thorough product review by us, the Workplace team, before we put them in the directory and make them available to customers. All of those integrations the developers have agreed to abide by all of our Workplace platform policies,” Cross explains. “But we know in today’s climate that that alone is not enough, so each integration has also been through an external independent security audit, and we will only make the integration available to customers once the developer passes that external, independent security audit.”
Facebook wants to make sure all users understand what happens when they add an integration, explaining that “Workplace Premium System Administrators have full control over the integrations enabled and made available to their Workplace communities from the Admin Panel. System admins also have an interface to manage all integrations, review data access permissions and remove them at any time.”