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Salesforce.com Brings Social to the Enterprise
Dreamforce '09: The software-as-a-service pioneer unveils what it calls its fourth cloud -- the Collaboration Cloud -- as well as a product called Chatter.
Posted Nov 27, 2009
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SAN FRANCISCO — If there's anything Marc Benioff, the chairman and chief executive officer of Salesforce.com, wanted the 19,000 attendees at this year's Dreamforce event to know was that everything the company's done up to now has been driven by the demands of "you." And there's enough evidence out there to know with certainty that what people want now is to be socially connected. So, in addition to second edition releases of Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Custom Cloud, Salesforce.com released Chatter, its Collaboration Cloud application that aims to bring the "genius" behind Twitter and Facebook to the enterprise.

Benioff kicked off the keynote by addressing the accomplishments of Salesforce.com users, inviting the mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom on stage, who espoused the success of the city's Project Homeless Connect, and Jay Banfield, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area division of Year Up, who said, "We wouldn't be here without [Salesforce.com]."

Senior vice president of product marketing Kraig Swensrud then followed with an overview of Service Cloud 2--the birth child of the company's 2007 acquisition of customer knowledge base solution Instranet. Benioff expressed particular excitement around the solution's new five-minute upgrade that allows companies to default to a read-only back up server when the main server is down for maintenance.

Next, George Hu, executive vice president of marketing and alliances, unveiled a line of enhancements to the company's most widely adopted solution Sales Cloud 2. The solution now includes enterprise versions of popular consumer products for the business, such as Cloud Scheduler, inspired by eVite, and Genius, inspired by iTunes Genius, which searches for product information, sales data, marketing collateral, that went into a closing a similar deal.

If that wasn't enough, Benioff finally got to what he called, "our biggest breakthrough ever." "What Facebook and Twitter have achieved," said Benioff, "are lifetime achievements that all of us would love to have in software industry." Not an unworthy statement coming from a man who 10 years go himself was just a startup that revolutionized the software space. With over 300 million active users on Facebook and over 50 million on Twitter, Benioff shared his bafflement at how these solutions have managed to connect individuals in a way that enterprises have never been able to do: connect content (SharePoint, file sharing, Intranets, Lotus Notes, WebEx), applications (Salesforce, Oracle, SAP), and people (Microsoft Outlook, email, instant messaging). "I know more about what Ashton Kutcher is doing than I do about my top customers...and my key executives," he said. "Something is wrong because once again we've been eclipsed by the consumer."

Chatter boasts a long list of capabilities that aims to bring what consumers are so familiar with in their personal life to the enterprise:

  • Profiles: Allows you not only to identify each employee, but also to capture the activities and connections of each.
  • Status updates: Keeps interested parties updated on individual activities.
  • News feeds: Collects real-time updates from individuals, content, and applications. (As Salesforce.com cofounder Parker Harris demonstrated Chatter's functionality on stage, Benioff exclaimed rhetorically, "The app is talking to me?") This also means that you don't necessarily have to be following an individual to get her updates on an account you're both involved in.
  • Work groups: Allows groups to discuss and collaborate on projects or objectives.
  • Social applications: Enable the company to interact directly with customers through Chatter's feed. (E.g., when a customer poses a question -- publicly via Twitter but not directly addressed to the company -- a customer service agent can access the company knowledge base, pull up the answer, and respond through the same channel.)
  • Social content: Stay informed when documents, spreadsheets, and presentations are updated.
  • Twitter integration: Filter the most relevant feeds from Twitter into Chatter. Benioff invited onstage Twitter's Director of Products Jason Goldman, who described similar objectives for Twitter. As with Chatter, Goldman said, the future of Twitter "is to take all this content out there, surface [it], and use that information in real time.

"We're redefining customer relationship management to collaboration relationship management," Benioff said.

In a post-keynote interview, Swensrud delineated the four key factors that ultimately establish the foundation for Chatter's "model for success":

  • Security: Collaboration happens inside the company and does not leave the organization to destinations such as Twitter or Facebook;
  • Sharing model: All pre-defined sharing models on Force.com apply to Chatter, allowing only certain employees access to specific information.
  • Trust: Uptime, service level agreements (SLA), where data is being hosted, whose cloud it's on.
  • Business data: Effective use of the business data that lies within the Salesforce.com system.

The name "Chatter," Swensrud explains, with the subhead "Collaboration Cloud," is an attempt at associating the brand with catchy names like Twitter and Facebook that have become emblematic of how people learn and collaborate outside of work. "We're not the same stodgy old software," he says, adding simply, "We're not software."

In an analyst meeting this afternoon, Benioff told press and analysts in attendance that, "the number one reason we lose customers is because customers don't put data in." Therefore, once those customers realize the wealth of data available because of solutions like Chatter, he says, more data will be available and user adoption will increase. "Technology is not supposed to be the show stopper," says Jim Steele, chief customer officer and president of worldwide sales. The objective of Chatter, he tells CRM magazine in an interview is to marry real-time nature of social networking with CRM in order to create a powerful change agent in the business.

All applications built natively on the Force.com platform will automatically include Chatter. The solution is set to launch in the second quarter of 2010 and will be available for free in all paid editions of Salesforce CRM and Force.com. In addition, a new Chatter Edition, which includes Chatter, Content, and Force.com, will be available at $50 per user per month. Ray Wang, partner at Altimeter Group, called the solution "overrated. A year too late, but needed." His colleague, does credit the solution's ability to "engage new stakeholders" and "support pervasive and natural collaboration." Moreover, she says, "The fact that there will be a basic social platform for free is a blow not only to microblogging players like Yammer," writes Charlene Li, founder of social media consultancy Altimeter Group in a blog post about the release, "but also should concern collaboration players like 37 Signal's Basecamp, Jive, and yes, even SharePoint," a product that took quite the beating in this morning's keynote ("Friends don't let friends use SharePoint," said cofounder Parker Harris.)

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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