Supercharged Collaboration with Partners, Vendors and Customers in Workplace by Facebook Multi Company Groups
By Carrie Basham Young, Talk to Me Social.
Last week, Workplace by Facebook rolled out the ability for companies to collaborate securely with non-employees inside designated “Multi Company Groups” (MCGs for short), even if the external collaborators don’t have a Workplace account of their own. Collaboration with business partners outside of one’s own company is critical. Vendors, customers, and partners are all part of our work ecosystem, but we tend to communicate with them via email, in person and over the phone. This makes it incredibly difficult to stay “in the flow” when everyone inside your company is using Workplace. Jumping between emails and apps, and not knowing where to find important information, is frustrating and time consuming. With the new multi company group experience, Workplace has created a productivity bullet train by allowing employees to keep more workflows and more communication in one digital location. This reduces context-switching and keeps managers in control of when and where work is getting done – work with external partners can now happen alongside internal communication on Workplace.
Work Faster and Better with Multi Company Groups
How does your company get started with Multi Company Groups? Here are our Top 10 favorite ways to use them effectively.
1. Client Project Management: At Talk Social to Me, we create a MCG with each of our Workplace customers and share project information exclusively inside this group. Our key customer contacts, typically between 2-5 Communications and IT leaders, join the project MCG dedicated to our shared engagement, and our TSTM Community Managers, project managers, and strategists collaborate with them on a daily basis. We post deliverables, ask for feedback, share weekly successes, and post next week’s agenda inside. Our clients can respond with a simple “like” to show that they’ve seen our work, and they can use comments to give feedback without ever needing to download an attachment. We rely on @mentions to alert key members to updates requiring their attention.
2. Client Relationship-Building: Workplace MCGs help us build deeper, authentic relationships with clients by giving us a personal, colloquial, engaging way of connecting. Being able to share reactions like “love” and “haha,” having real-time conversations with short bursts of dialogue (as opposed to formal emails that read like memos), and even using gifs inside comments let us develop rapport and personal connections to our clients as people, not just business associates.
3. Solo Practitioner Inclusion: Outside professionals can be trusted extensions of your company. If you outsource certain project functions to a lawyer, a publicist, or a graphic designer, for example, a MCG is a surefire way to collaborate with them on a per-project basis. Exchange redlines, drafts, and comments in a dedicated MCG to keep a complete project history and capture final deliverables in one place. Think about Workplace as a digital place to short-circuit the traditional methods of using email for collaboration, all while building stronger relationships with the people that you trust to support your team.
4. Gig Economy Management: Consultants may come and go, but the Gig Economy is here to say. Project consultants and external expertise may be required for a short period of time on a project, but how does a manager bring someone into the communication fold on a temporary basis? It’s all about control, and a project MCG is a place that you, as its Admin, can control who gets in or out. This allows you to ensure the privacy of your work and conversations, so you can collaborate with the assurance that your double top secret discussions are not overheard. Managers can bring consultants in and out of MCGs as needed to ensure proper collaboration and data privacy at the same time.
5. Community of Practice: The saying goes that “two heads are better than one,” but we believe that sometimes, hundreds of heads are better than two. A Workplace MCG can facilitate an online virtual community of practice for experts, academics, and leaders in an area of cooperation like humanitarian aid, healthcare, and regional resource and crisis mobilization. If your organization collaborates frequently with outside experts for the benefit of a particular group of people, why not bring them all together in an MCG for on-demand access to a virtual think-tank of ideas, questions and expertise? Not only can you catalyze support for your own organization’s initiatives, but you’ll also be creating an ongoing flow of information-sharing that benefits the community at large.
6. Exclusive Customer Community: If your business is large enough to warrant a community of customers that might benefit from connecting with each other, consider an MCG to bring them together online. You can facilitate dialogue and make introductions while giving customers the freedom to answer each other’s questions (and occasionally hold your feet to the fire!). Gather feedback on new products and/or processes, or perhaps even select product testers from this MCG. Talk through your decision-making process and be transparent. Exclusivity is also a great relationship strengthener! Use the MCG to give partners an exclusive first look at your newest offerings.
7. Deals, Deadlines, and Multi-Partner Collaboration: Sometimes a project requires your service providers and trusted advisors to collaborate with each other. If you’re looking to acquire a smaller firm, you may need lawyers and accountants to jointly review their financials. Publishing a catalogue or marketing mailer requires copywriters, photographers and graphic designers to design layouts together. Give your service providers an easier way of connecting to each other under your company’s digital umbrella. This ensures that all deliverables and conversations between your partners are captured in your system, for your records, and all under your watchful eye.
8. On-the-Job-Learning: Stop playing traffic-cop between your employees and partners or customers by giving them the chance to collaborate independently in a MCG. An MCG allows a new employee to safely take a stretch assignment with a customer, for example, or learn how to manage a vendor independently – but with a manager’s ability to intervene if needed. Jump in when you need to, or when you’re tagged for a response – managers have total visibility into each step of the project without the overhead of wading through hundreds of reply-all emails to keep tabs on everyone’s work. MCGs build trust between managers and their employees as work is completed “out loud” in a natural way.
9. Weekly Social Summaries: Creating a weekly status update for employees, partners and vendors in a Workplace is the digital equivalent of telling email to go jump in a lake. As a leader coordinating a project, you only have time to document milestones, next steps and questions in one place. Writing five separate emails to partition information to various parties just isn’t efficient. Managers can write up one weekly social summary in an MCG for all involved parties, assigning to-dos with @mentions and aggregating all comments and questions in one place. Project status emails will quickly find themselves swimming upstream.
10. Event Follow-Up: If you hosted an industry roundtable, a women’s leadership lunch, a prospective candidate Q&A, or any other networking-type event, open a Workplace MCG to keep the discussion going afterwards. You’ll have the opportunity to build dialogue and relationships with peers in a highly social manner, and maybe you’ll even find your next employee or partner to join your team.
A Special Note for Community Managers
We love Multi Company Groups and all that they offer. But before you unleash them to your entire organization, it’s important to add special MCG considerations to your policies and governance. If you are prohibited from sharing Secret or Confidential information in Workplace, make sure that you document the kinds of information that may and may not be shared with external members inside your MCGs. And, while MCGs can be easily justified as a replacement for email (because, in reality, it’s the same behavior – digitally sharing information with outsiders), it’s important to educate leadership on MCG security. No, external users cannot obtain access to public groups inside your company’s network. External members are completely locked down into the groups into which they were invited and can be removed at any time. A little bit of preparation up front with leadership will make the launch of MCGs at your organization a million times easier.
This article was originally published on Talk To Me Social’s blog.
Discover the power of the social collaboration platform, Workplace by Facebook, at the Workplace by Facebook for Internal Communications Conference, Nov. 13-15 in San Francisco.
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