Facebook taps its social ranking tech to improve employee satisfaction

Clint Boulton

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Facebook is applying some of the algorithms that facilitate connections between its 1.2 billion users to augment employee collaboration and reduce dreaded inbox clutter, underscoring one of many ways the company is tapping the tremendous volumes of data it collects to make business processes more efficient. The software, under development, is designed to help new workers connect with colleagues and work groups within the Facebook social network.

"A focus area for us right now is to achieve the optimal connectivity between employees and the information they need," says Tim Campos, CIO at Facebook. "People get overloaded and we can see that in employee feedback."

Campos discussed the new software in an interview with CIO.com after delivering a keynote speech about the importance of using data to unlock business value at the CIO 100 event here. At Facebook, the IT staff of 270 has been tasked with finding new ways to mine data to streamline business processes. This includes building custom software to automate sales processes, as well as using sensors to plan anything from conference room usage to tracking vacant spots in its parking lot. But the effort to make internal collaboration more efficient underscores how the team is applying technologies that support its core social graph to its own employees.

Communicating beyond Outlook
Facebook's 11,000 employees use Facebook.com and Microsoft Outlook as their primary modes of communication, Campos says. But new employees are underserved by data because they don't belong to many groups and aren't connected to many coworkers. The company is building software that recommends certain people or groups that employees should consider joining, based on their job type, work group and interests.

The application, for example, may suggest that a new engineer hired to work on performance engineering join a performance engineering group, or connect with employees who work in similar roles. Campos' team is essentially appropriating technologies from the company's broader social graph to rank information based on relevance and importance to individuals.

"What we're trying to do is bring the same concept there [of social relevancy ranking] but introducing enterprise data as opposed to consumer data," Campos says. "We're providing ranking and suggestions of things that you're not connected to. ... What are the things that are most important for you look at and what are the things you don't know about that you might want to?"

Conversely, longer-tenured employees tend to have too many contacts and belong to too many groups, some of which may not be relevant. The application could help such workers make their contacts and groups more manageable by recommending that they reduce unnecessary connections, such as those with which the employees haven't interacted with in a while. Facebook is also seeking to discourage activity that impinges productivity, such as after-hour interactions. One idea involves a "snooze button" that allows workers to block messages after hours.

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