How the Skype Facebook Deal Changes Work Forever

Last weeks' announcement that Skype and Facebook are combining forces was big news in the tech press. What wasn't so obvious, though, is what this means to managers and their teams out in the real world. The way we work will never be the same.

Since Facebook is viewed as mostly for personal use, it might seem that this matters only to the young and socially connected (and their snoopy parents). Actually there are social and financial implications of combining social media and easy video conferencing for individual workers, managers and companies that have reached a tipping point.

For workers- Those workers who still resist using webconferencing and other tools are running out of excuses. When you only had access to chat and email, they probably felt more than sufficient. Consumers, though, are gaining access to all kinds of technology for their personal use. Once they see how cool and easy video chats are, they'll wonder why they don't see it in the office. Additionally, the fact that all those disparate functions--chat, video, social media, conference calling can be done on mobile devices like smart phones and iPads means that they'll be less patient with schlepping old (but secure) company-issued laptops around.

The genie is out of the bottle. Once people have developed a taste for a particular technology they will use it whenever possible. Expect a huge increase in unauthorized video viewing and people working off-network because things are just more convenient. Older or less tech-savvy workers will need to be brought up to speed. If you're the kind of person who succumbs easily to the siren sound of checking your Facebook status at work when you think no one's looking, well it's not getting any easier to resist.

Most importantly, the ability to do such complicated work from almost anywhere means people will be able to do complicated work almost anywhere. More people will be able to work from home, from remote locations and generally be in the office less. This will change the kind of jobs people look for and which employers they target. After all, if you can project your job search beyond the traditional 30-minute commute the odds of scoring that great job are much higher, and your tolerance for bad jobs and bosses will decrease.

For managers- Getting people to adhere to security rules has never been easy. It's about to get worse. Your team's expectations of you as a communicator are about to get even more demanding. If you love to manage by email, you'll find it's not nearly enough for them now. You'll be expected to both explain why they can't use things that make sense as well as advocate for them to your boss.

What about your team communication plan? Does it include appropriate use of video? Does it outline which devices to use? Does your team have clearly stated ruleswhen to leave people alone (even when they forget to update their status so it looks like they're online at nine on a Saturday night)?

For organizations- The last thing system administrators need is anything that sucks up more bandwidth, and video does just that. While security is important, a major disconnect between what people can do to get their work done and the thousand easy ways to accomplish tasks in their personal lives is going to be harder and harder to justify.

One thing that the joining of Skype and Facebook means is that the age of the cool, stand-alone app is just about over. Just like the Dimdim-Salesforce.com merger last year showed, companies and individuals are choosing bundled services for both convenience and cost. It's easy to ignore technology that does cool stuff but doesn't work with the legacy systems you have in place or is built on another platform. When tools do exactly what you need, can scale to enterprise side and are cheap (or even free), they're harder to ignore.

The fact that Microsoft is buying Skype for 8 billion dollars at this time means we'll see further integration of web conferencing,video, VOIP (Voice over Internet) with existing Microsoft applications like Outlook and Sharepoint. There also is an obvious Microsoft/Facebook alliance that is going up against Google just as they prepare to launch their social media tool, Google+. Perhaps in an attempt to sew up the enterprise market.

Video conferencing was once the stuff of science fiction and is now available free in our homes and even in our pockets. While no one can state for sure what the ultimate result will be, it's obvious that a lot of the changes you've felt coming on are here. Buckle up.

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photo by flickr user Arcius CC 2.0