HEAD IN THE CLOUDS: Facebook’s Portal & Workplace and Zendesk’s New Products to Grab More Enterprises

This week, I take a look at Facebook’s use of Portal to try to get more enterprises to adopt Workplace and Zendesk’s recent product announcements aimed at giving enterprises what they need.

Facebook Looks to Portal to Get More Workplace Enterprise Customers

During its Flow 2019 annual conference, Facebook announced that they are launching a new app allowing Workplace by Facebook users to make calls and conduct video chat through Facebook’s Portal product.  Karandeep Anand, Facebook’s head of Workplace and former Microsoft executive, recently said:

“This is really the next level of video calling. Just imagine being able to walk around a room or draw on a whiteboard and not have to worry about people missing anything.”

It was only a matter of time until Facebook would leverage Portal inside of enterprises to try to insert itself and its collaboration and productivity tool, Workplace by Facebook — at least that is seemingly the goal.  To put it mildly, it is a lofty goal given the fact that Microsoft Teams is very much entrenched in many of the enterprises they are targeting.  And if these enterprises have not yet rolled out Teams, Microsoft is certainly deep-rooted within the enterprise with significant influence and ability to eventually get Teams adopted.  It also does not help that Slack is at the same time aggressively looking for ways to get a foot in the door of these same potential enterprise customers.

Facebook is also going after deskless or frontline workers, as a way to break into more enterprises with the recent introduction of new Workplace features aimed directly at frontline employees, including a new option providing access to Workplace without a company email address.  Focusing on an enterprise’s frontline workforce is right out of Microsoft’s playbook with their Office 365 F1 offering.  In fact, a specific plan for frontline workers is forthcoming and priced at $1.50/person/month.  In a recent blog post, Anand wrote:

“Over the past year, we’ve been working on ways to serve people across the enterprise, including frontline workers, which make up 80% of the world’s workforce.  The features we’re announcing today build on this momentum, and we’re making it easier for these employees to do great work by helping them to connect to their organizations through mobile in a secure way.  We’re also excited to offer rich video features that enable all employees to be more connected and collaborative.”

Ever since the inception of Workplace by Facebook in 2016, Facebook has been very much focused on finding ways to grab paid customers.  In a short period of time, they have been relatively successful in their pursuits, landing large enterprise customers like Walmart, Starbucks, Campbell’s Soup, Petco, and Delta Airlines (to name a few).  It was also recently announced that Facebook now has 3 million paid Workplace users, up from 2 million in February.  Of course, the devil is in the details when you see numbers like this, especially when they come from the vendor themselves.  These users may be paying, but at what price?

The Workplace Advanced plan is $4/person/month and the Enterprise plan is $8/person/month.  There is also a Standard plan, but that is free.  You would have to imagine that for an enterprise to agree to adopt Workplace and for Facebook to win the business, the enterprise had to be offered a “special” discount — maybe not special enough to result in free, but something close to it.

The question is, will the ability to leverage Portal entice enterprises enough to become paid customers? I guess the other question (in the inverse) is whether enterprises that have already adopted Workplace will now be interested in leveraging Portal.  Time will tell but based on the conversations I am having, I know there are absolutely more enterprises interested in Workplace by Facebook today than there were this time last year. There is still much work to do for Facebook, but interest and a legitimate willingness to at least consider Workplace as a possible alternative to Microsoft Teams has picked up.

Zendesk Launches New Products to Get the Attention of Enterprises

Zendesk announced two new products during a recent user conference in San Francisco.  If rolled out effectively, both have the potential to help Zendesk land more enterprise customers or expand in those they have already landed.  Grabbing more enterprise customers is critical to Zendesk given the immediate spike in usage and revenue that comes with it.  Based on recently revealed stats:

  • Zendesk has roughly 14,500 enterprise customers
  • 40% of Zendesk’s current revenue comes from enterprises
  • $320M of Zendesk’s current run rate is driven from enterprises

The first product recently launched was API-based platform, Sunshine Conversations, which extends Sunshine, the CRM platform (built on AWS) that Zendesk released last November.  Per the announcement, Sunshine Conversations lets consumers make payments, browse products and book reservations in their preferred messaging system.  This is exactly the type of solution that has the potential to resonate with large enterprises.  Providing the flexibility to allow these enterprises to use their preferred messaging system is also a smart move.  When you are trying to convince a large enterprise to give you and your solution a shot, it is always a good idea to remove as much friction as possible.

The second Zendesk product making its recent debut is Gather, which was developed to offer Zendesk’s customers a better way to provide customer support through online forums on their websites.  Focusing on providing enterprises a way to improve the customer experience is also a smart move and area of focus, given the level of attention and importance placed on enhancing the customer experience by enterprises.  When describing the value Gather brings to customers, Shawna Wolverton, Zendesk’s Senior Vice President, said:

“Gather is a way to leverage customer and product experts to provide service representing a wide variety of viewpoints.  It’s a place for companies to capture, organize, and share feedback for teams across support, product, engineering, and more.  Using a community tool to listen to customers will improve relationships and ultimately their experiences.”

In order for Zendesk to better compete against large and established cloud vendors like Salesforce in their pursuit of grabbing more enterprise customers (at least one of the ways), they will need to continue to roll out new products like these that will map to the actual requirements of today’s enterprise.  Now it is on Zendesk’s sales teams to close the deal or at the very least, to get the initial meeting.

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