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Salesforce.com's Chatter Combines Social and Mobile
The software-as-a-service pioneer promises general availability on mobile devices by the end of this year.
Posted Sep 15, 2010
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Two of the most common words in CRM today are social and mobile. A Google search for the phrase "social CRM" produces 13.1 million results; "mobile CRM" (which, to be fair, has had a head start) yields 76 million.

The popularity of these phrases is no accident — just ask any chief executive officer. Many industry analysts say that enabling workers to leverage the collaborative power of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Linkedin is emerging as mission-critical for any well-run business. The same goes for mobile devices: Organizations that empower their workers with devices that allow for real-time responsiveness will likely be one step ahead of those companies run strictly from the desktop.

Hoping to arm its users with the combined power of social and mobile, Salesforce.com recently announced the availability of Chatter Mobile, an application the company claims will deliver social, mobile, and real-time collaboration.  

"We see people changing how they're collaborating and sharing information on the Internet," says Al Falcione, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce.com. "That changes the expectations people have for applications today. They expect applications to be social and they expect to get these applications on a range of devices."

Chatter Mobile will be readily available for BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone, and the new iPod touch in late 2010. Devices running on Google's Android mobile operating system are currently scheduled to join that list in the first half of 2011.

Salesforce.com announced Chatter in November 2009, unveiled the software in April 2010, and made the offering generally available on June 22. The company now claims to have approximately 20,000 customers running the application.

[Editors' Note: The Chatter product was repeatedly cited by judges in CRM magazine's recent 2010 CRM Market Awards, in which Salesforce.com was named the winner of four categories (out of 10, overall): Enterprise Suite CRM, Midmarket Suite CRM, Small Business Suite CRM, and Sales Force Automation. The company's cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer Marc Benioff was recognized as a 2010 Influential Leader in the same August 2010 awards issue; and Salesforce.com user Beazer Homes USA was named a winner of one of four CRM Elite Awards.]

In a recent interview regarding Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's cofounder, chief executive officer, and chairman, one analyst noted a distinct pattern in the company's achievements. "[Benioff] always seems to find the next turn in the market right before it happens," said Esteban Kolsky, founder and principal of consultancy ThinkJar.

Ray Wang, partner at Altimeter Group, says Chatter Mobile represents the most recent example of Kolsky's so-called "next turn."

"Chatter Mobile is a great step," Wang says. "It's a natural extension of where Chatter belongs. When you think about salespeople out in the field, the mobile device is their biggest weapon. They use it to gather information, to make decisions, to communicate, and collaborate. It makes perfect sense for Chatter to be on a mobile device." Over time, he adds, as Salesforce.com adds more connections, Chatter could emerge as the single source of information that Salesforce.com users turn to first to acquire information and make decisions.

"Large players like OracleSAP, and Microsoft haven't made inroads into mobile apps," Falcione says. "They haven't figured that out yet. Salesforce.com wants to lead the way."

Regardless of the accuracy of Falcione's boast —and SAP's recent acquisition of mobile specialist Sybase casts more than a bit of doubt upon it — as users begin to adopt Chatter Mobile, and other similar products pop up, analysts say that CRM's interest in the combined power of social networks and mobile devices will only increase.

In other words, the CRM industry should expect to hear the words social and mobile even more often in the months to come.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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