Facebook Makes Its First Channel Play, Cloud Superstar SADA Among New Workplace Partners

Facebook, the consumer social networking behemoth with 1.09 billion users, is for the first time in its 12-year history turning to the channel.

The $18 billion company, which launched its new Workplace enterprise product Monday, has tapped about a dozen channel partners to sell the product including cloud services superstar SADA Systems, Los Angeles.

[Related:SADA Systems Heads To Microsoft Partner Conference With FY 2016 Revenue Growth Worthy Of Boasting]

SADA, one of the inaugural partners that helped Google become the dominant force for several years in the cloud-based productivity suite market, is now part of the Facebook Workplace Partner Program – a group of professional services organizations – chartered with selling the product around the globe.

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"This is just like [Google] Apps in 2007," said Tony Safoian, founder and CEO of SADA Systems, No. 87 on CRN's 2016 Fast Growth 150 list."They're learning from scratch, going to market with a limited set of partners. They don't have a resale model out of the gate, but they will soon."

With Workplace - a collaboration, messaging and social networking solution geared for the enterprise- Facebook is on its way to becoming a major enterprise player, said Safoian. In fact, he said, Workplace is less expensive and more capable than competitors like Salesforce's Chatter and Slack's namesake social networking product.

"This can become the preeminent social platform to the enterprise," said Safoian. "They're very dedicated to it. The demand is crazy. Everybody wants it. There's a huge gap in the market. Customers are really interested in something that's truly going to transform their culture."

Facebook is still learning the dynamics of the channel, but the consumer-centric company looks eager to develop a thriving implementation partner ecosystem, Safoian said.
Safoian is an expert in how consumer-tech powerhouses are turning their attention to the enterprise.

SADA, based in Los Angeles, was one of the first partners to sell Google Apps (recently rebranded G Suite), a cloud-based productivity suite that quickly rose from obscurity to dominating a sector of the Software-as-a-Service market.

SADA further demonstrated its knack for getting in on the ground floor of disruptive SaaS solutions when it became an inaugural partner for Microsoft Office 365.

The ability to put a business suit on social networking seems even more promising. "Never in the history of enterprise SaaS software there has been this much demand for something before it launched," Safoian said.

Tens of thousands of companies signed to participate in Facebook's beta program, which lasted almost two years under the working title Facebook at Work. Only a few were accepted.

While Facebook is not revealing initial customers for the product, typing in the names of Fortune 500 firms into the Workplace customer landing page yields abundant hits, including Nike, Starbucks, Comcast, General Motors, and Wells Fargo.

It's not clear what formal business relationships those companies have entered into with Facebook. But the number of global enterprises with URLs in that domain suggests wide interest for a newly released product across nearly every major industry.

Driving that demand is Facebook's secret sauce—its unique ability to track user habits and then distill insights about its users, often predicting what they want to see or do next.

"Nobody in the enterprise has cracked the social sentiment element of the platform," Safoian said. "But Facebook is excellent at it. They know what everybody is thinking and feeling."

C-level executives are procuring Workplace as a top-down initiative for real-time employee communications, Safoian said, recognizing the value in getting an accurate sense of how their employees are feeling and thinking.

Facebook is driving that wave of enterprise adoption by delivering a product with a superior mobile experience, Safoian said. "It’s a framework every user knows," he told CRN. "Who doesn't know how to use Facebook?"