worklight-logoThere are a lot of companies trying to offer enterprise versions of popular consumer products — for example, “Twitter for business” startup Yammer, not to mention the countless “social networking for business” products. But a New York company called WorkLight is taking a different approach: instead of building a business product that’s like Facebook, it’s bringing business tools onto Facebook itself. And with the release of version 3.1 of its application platform, it’s starting to demonstrate the power of that idea.

Previously, Worklight’s platform allowed businesses to build applications that have the security that large enterprises expect, but that run on a consumer-focused website and service such as iGoogle, Facebook, iPhones, or blogs. (Applications built with WorkLight can be used for online banking, travel management, and basic collaboration tasks, such as purchase approvals, and more.) With version 3.1, you can take the “or” out of the equation — an application built on WorkLight can be published at once to all 17 of the consumer channels that WorkLight supports.

This makes more sense than most other “Enterprise 2.0” products, says founder and chief executive Shahar Kaminitz, because it’s not trying to convince employees or customers to sign up for a new service. Instead, Worklight allows companies to reach users wherever they already are. Not only does the new version extend the reach of a Worklight application, it also lowers the costs involved, since companies no longer have to spend the money to develop a Facebook app, then develop an iPhone app — they just build one app and deploy it (almost) anywhere.

WorkLight’s approach has already been paying off despite the current economic climate, Kaminitz adds, because it also allows companies to take advantage of existing services, rather than having to build their own tools from scratch or buy a standalone product.

“Instead of buying an enterprise collaboration suite that you’d make everyone use, why not make Facebook your collaboration tool?” Kaminitz says.

WorkLight now has “dozens” of large enterprise customers, he adds, including “five of the with the top 20 banks in the world.” The company has raised a total of $17.1 million in venture funding.