Facebook as a quick and dirty corporate collaboration tool. It Depends.

On the face of it, Facebook groups would seem like one of those cheap, quick, and effective ways to build quick cross-enterprise communities. Set up a group, invite attendees, guide the non-users in how to establish an account, and then control membership.

The alternatives would be a paid account like 37Signal’s most excellent Basecamp, but that is less quick and less dirty than a Facebook group, which to my eyes has a lot in common with the Web 1.0 world of Yahoo Groups. One could also think about any number of wiki solutions, but let’s say the requirements come down to an virtual team room for a collection of four to 400, heck 4,000 users all united in some cause that requires a fast, familiar, and cheap platform.

Facebook would meet that bill except for one vital detail: not everybody can use it.

It’s blocked, along with some other social networks, by many corporate network admins. Right there game over. I was pretty surprised to be in a meeting today, to hear Facebook proposed, and then watch it get shot down in less than one minute as first one, then two, then three seriously senior IT people said their organization’s blocked Facebook. I would argue that no big deal, the platform was, after all, designed for college kids to check each other before attempting a hookup. Having old farts and suits invade it as an enterprise collaboration system was not its intention.

So, the old issue of cross-organizational collaboration is still with us. How would you solve it? Rules are: open platform, open APIs, no fee, no onerous set-up. Needs a file sharing/library including rich media hosting. Must be secure.


Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Facebook as a quick and dirty corporate collaboration tool. It Depends.”

  1. Basecamp – seems good, but at least on my installation, seachability is an issue. Of course, I look at anything web and see gaping holes…

  2. “How would you solve it?”

    With cross-organizational collaboration the chicken-egg challenge of identity occurs. Do you add another set of user IDs and passwords or do you integrate and sync entities using LDAP so each user uses their work credentials? Also you need to have the ability to use granular permissions that reflect business groups and roles.

    I’ve not seen many vendors provide an out-of-the-box solution to this though the tools are well known to make it possible – with the right know-how on board I’d consider using Drupal with LDAP and some scripts to sync Drupal permission objects across participating organisation LDAP servers. Joomla is another option. A mash of many ‘wares is more than likely – as long as authentication, trust and permissions can be applied based on LDAP data.

    If you’re on Windows then you’d get away with the same approach using Sharepoint.

    My approach is still onerous perhaps in your terms though I’m not sure – establishing a venture with a partner also takes time and it might be worth acknowledging that to create digital links between organisations is never a challenge of technology but of people.

    You’d need to host this in the cloud in order to avoid bandwidth issues with multiple organisations’ users hitting video content down one pipe so the ‘no fee’ idea is ambitious unless the concept of meta-directories alluded to above is implemented.

  3. Have you looked at Google Sites? http://www.google.com/sites/

    I think Google Sites it is a free app and we are using it for our own organization for software development group as there are different individuals working from differnet locations.

  4. Be careful of some of the wiki platforms – especially those that have “wiki” in their domain. They are ofetn blocked in mainland China which vexes us. I just got a peek at Jive Software’s Clear Channel as a collaborative platform. More complex than basecamp but nice drag and drop mentality. I am going to check it out.

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