Salesforce.com Extends Chatter Across the Cloud

NEW YORK — There's a pretty solid chance that you are operating at least one part of your business in the cloud, but the question is, is it the most relevant cloud? When the "no software" company Salesforce.com talks about cloud computing in 2010, it speaks of Cloud 2.0, a cloud environment that centers on collaboration and mobility, allowing enterprises to use software like they would Facebook and to, if desired, run operations solely from a mobile device. Salesforce.com Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff took the stage at the Sheraton Towers ballroom this morning to not only explain why his $1.4 billion company is obsessed with Cloud 2.0, but also introduce the new applications that the vendor has built upon it. 

Most notably, Salesforce.com announced that all 72,500 of its customers will be live with the Chatter application--at no additional charge--by the summertime, which will add social components to any and all sales or customer service Salesforce.com deployments. The company also announced that its Force.com development platform will be Chatter-enabled. Lastly, Salesforce.com launched AppExchange 2, a revamp of its marketplace that now includes ChatterExchange, a new category for social enterprise applications. China Martens, an enterprise software analyst with The 451 Group points out that Salesforce.com has somewhat repurposed Chatter from its debut at Dreamforce in November. "Despite Marc talking about it as an app, it seems to be more an enabling internal collaboration technology, both for CRM and Force.com," she says. In fact, Benioff deferred to Chatter on multiple occasions as a replacement for enterprise collaboration platforms, namely IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint.

Integrating Chatter into all Salesforce applications is a step in bringing customers onto Salesforce.com's Cloud 2. "We are moving from Cloud 1 to Cloud 2 and we need to move faster," Benioff said, addressing a room full of 1,300 attendees and another estimated 10,000 online viewers. To support his claim, Benioff pointed to a recent survey indicating that there are now more social networking users than email users. The top executive hinted at announcements the company was making regarding the sales and service clouds, Force.com, Salesforce.com AppExchange, and, of course, Salesforce Chatter, but first he drilled into the imperatives for Cloud 2 and how far the Web has come since Cloud 1 at the start of cloud computing. 

Cloud 1: In the early 2000's, cloud computing was evangelized as "low cost, fast, and easy to use." In 1999, Benioff claims to have asked the question, "Why is all enterprise software not like Amazon.com?" In the early days of the cloud, companies looked to Amazon, Google, and eBay as models. They began embracing cloud computing thanks to promises of:

  • Multitenant, shared systems;
  • Trusted reliability and performance;
  • Democratization of enterprise apps;
  • Metadata-driven customization;
  • Mash-ups;
  • Web service-based integration;
  • Development-as-a-service;
  • Multi-tenant development platform;
  • Application exchanges; and
  • Multi-device deployment.

Cloud 2: Computing for the next ten years, as Benioff put it, involves collaboration, new devices, and real-time exchanges. In 2010, Benioff said he now is asking, "Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook?" The world has changed with the rise of:

  • Facebook,
  • Feeds,
  • Touch screens,
  • Smartphones and tablets,
  • Location aware devices,
  • HTML 5, and
  • Mobile computing.

Pulling out his own iPhone, Benioff began running through a quick demonstration of how he can use the device to keep tabs on his company, employees, and friends. "It's not just what we are doing on the Internet is different, it's how we are doing it," Benioff told attendees. "We are moving into this new desktop-less world. I live it--I run my whole company from my iPhone."

Sales & Chatter:

Benioff then dove into the Sales Cloud--but didn't let go of the conversation around mobility. In fact, he brought two Salesforce.com executives on stage to demonstrate Sales Cloud 2, powered by Chatter, on the Apple iPad. "Salesforce Chatter is transforming sales," he said, adding that the 100 Sales Cloud customers who have access to Chatter through the beta program are coming back with rave reviews. Salesforce.com plans to roll out the Salesforce Chatter beta program to 500 additional companies. In the demonstration, Senior Vice President of Product Marketing Kraig Swensrud pointed out how on even on a mobile device, a salesperson can use the Chatter application to talk about sales deals among her sales organization. Salespeople can "dog pile" upon pieces of content and conversations, they can "follow" data, top customers, and deals (much like on Twitter), and also create Chatter Groups that attract members across a company or even outside of a company. One unique capability is in creating and delivering content. When a salesperson sends a prospect material on a product, for instance, the events are all streamed across the company. "When events across the Web happen, your company and sales reps can know about it." Swensrud said.

A company using Chatter in beta in its sales organization, Saatchi and Saatchi, took the stage, and said they, "Flipped the switch in five seconds," and that the collaboration "made Salesforce sticky, fun, and relevant." Martens points out that the Groups tab is a function that came out of early feedback from Chatter beta users. "Salesforce.com is very much still in a period of experimentation with Chatter and responsive to the needs of beta testers,"she says.

Service & Chatter: 

"It's time for a new vision for customer service and the call center," Benioff proclaimed. In his opinion, that new vision is in Salesforce.com's Service Cloud 2. Now with 9,000 companies on board, Service Cloud 2, Benioff said, empowers support agents and service organizations with collaboration and social media tools to resolve customer issues. In a demonstration involving Dell customer support, an agent was able to respond to a customer's problem via Twitter. The customer takes a photo of a product and uploads it to Twitter, that image is brought into the Service Cloud application, along with the twitterer's support issue. The agent searches for the answer in the knowledge base in which the system automatically recommends relevant answers; the agent can drill into the article and even provide an answer containing rich media such as a video. The service agent attaches that back to the case, and shoots it out to the customer -- through the customer's channel of choice. The Dell agent, for instance, is able to tweet the solution answer back out to the customer (all done within Service Cloud).

Salesforce is rolling out Chatter-powered Service Cloud 2 beta to 250 more customers. The solution spans a number of social media channels, enables real-time collaboration, and also makes use of location expertise (with IP address location) to get help if necessary from agents across the globe.

Force.com & Chatter:

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can now build their own Chatter applications because Chatter is now wrapped up in the Force.com development environment. Benioff called this the Custom Cloud 2, saying that anyone building an app now wants it to be social. However, those steps to making an application collaborative and mobile isn't all that easy. With the social layer, all third-party apps built on the Force.com platform are inherently social, he said. When Chatter becomes generally available (Benioff hinted at a summer release), all 150,000 of the custom apps built on the AppExchange can become social. 


Building off the success of Salesforce.com's app marketplace, AppExchange, Benioff introduced the "chatterized" version called AppExchange 2. This new version includes a category unique to enterprise social applications, known as ChatterExchange. Several industry analysts pointed out a bit of confusion in the need for a separate app store for social applications when Chatter is positioned by Salesforce.com to be the end-to-end social application for the enterprise. Martens has a different take:  "ChatterExchange is more about the educating of Salesforce.com's customer base than a permanent part of AppExchange," she says. "Having ChatterExchange for now is another way to flag what kind of features are possible and also to generally promote to users that there's a Chatter API and the ability to use elements of Chatter in their own apps. The move perhaps also demonstrates how AppExchange keeps changing in terms of its focus, which has previously proved problematic for some partners, for instance, the highlighting of native Force.com apps."

"With our new killer app, Chatter, we are confident you will replace your existing collaboration platforms--ones that never worked anyway," Benioff said in closing, "and will go forward and get welcomed into Cloud 2."    

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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