Salesforce.com Rolls Out Chatter 2

SAN FRANCISCO — Even when he wasn't busy poking fun at Oracle and its version of cloud computing, Salesforce.com Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff had a busy Wednesday. Granted a speaking slot at the behemoth Oracle OpenWorld conference, Benioff and the Salesforce.com crew set up shop at a small theater near the Moscone complex here to educate attendees on Salesforce.com's offerings and to introduce Salesforce Chatter 2, the new edition of the company's "Facebook for the enterprise" collaboration platform. 

[Editors' Note: CRM's compendium of relevant links and coverage from Oracle OpenWorld 2010 can be found here.]

Salesforce.com announced Chatter at its Dreamforce 2009 event in November 2009unveiled 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.

"Chatter has been our most successful product release ever," said Kraig Swensrud, Salesforce.com's vice president of product marketing. The biggest advantage expressed by Chatter users, Swensrud said, had been a remarkable reduction in email.

Dedicated to enhancing enterprise productivity and collaboration, Chatter 2 includes new features such as filters and recommendations. According to Benioff, companies report a 25 percent improvement in collaboration and 19 percent improvement in finding information more quickly.

[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 CRMMidmarket Suite CRMSmall Business Suite CRM, and Sales Force Automation. 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.]

Chatter 2 highlights include:

Filters: Chatter Filters enable employees to view relevant content without any unrelated noise. Paul Greenberg, CRM thought leader, consultant and founder of The 56 Group, says that filters are key to social network–type applications — especially within the enteprise.  

Topics: Much like Twitter, Chatter users can make use of "hashtags" — the # symbol — to denote certain topics or categories. Clicking on a hashtag reveals content about that particular topic.

Recommendations: A recommendation engine now offers employees suggestions about people and content to follow on Chatter.

Desktop: Benioff said files are to business people as photos are to Facebook users — the killer app. Salesforce.com used Adobe AIR technology to build a desktop client that allows users to drag-and-drop large files or presentations directly into Chatter. This cuts down on emails, storage, and time spent waiting on file transfers. "With Chatter," Benioff said, "people can share files with coworkers as easily as [they share] photos."

Email: Users can configure their email settings and how email is related to Chatter. They can also subscribe to an email digest to receive upates from Chatter posts or Group feeds.

Mobile: Salesforce.com announced that Chatter now works on every major mobile device. The product was demonstrated on the Dell Streak smartphone and the Apple iPad tablet, the latter of which revealed the Chatter application's deft use of touch-screen technology. Benioff made special note of consumers' changing view of and interaction with data. "Data is alive and active," he said. "I am now touching computers to get data."

Swensrud later demonstrated how employees can access attachments or PowerPoint slides that appear in the Chatter stream by simply pinching the document with their fingertips.

Benioff thoroughly entertained attendees with his Oracle jabs and cloud-computing quips, but Dell, another Salesforce.com partner, received a warmer welcome at the event. CEO and Founder Michael Dell joined Benioff onstage, telling the crowd that Dell has been using Salesforce Chatter for three months. John Miles, Dell's vice president of information organization, also appeared onstage, where he noted that Dell now has more than 20,000 users on the Chatter platform. Miles, an industry veteran, remarked that he had rarely seen large-scale implementations rolled out at that rate. Dell, although still an early user of Chatter, is increasingly moving beyond discussion threads making use of Chatter Groups — a feature introduced in July.  

In a subsequent interview with CRM magazine, an executive at field service solution provider ServiceMax, a Chatter user and ChatterExchange partner, explained how Chatter enables its employees and end users to gain real-time visibility to customer issues. "We're rethinking field service by helping managers and technicians tap into the 'tribal knowledge' that exists in their customer support teams more effectively than ever before," said Athani Krishnaprasad, ServiceMax's vice president of products. 

Krishnaprasad also underscored the potential benefits for ServiceMax stakeholders. "We're able to integrate collaboration capabilities into mobile tools like the iPad app, where field technicians work together while on the job in the field to quickly resolve customer issues," he says. "There's also an emergence of innovations that are providing another layer of real-time intelligence. For instance, we have remote device-monitoring solutions that effectively allow machines to 'talk' and notify technicians when they need repair. The implications of real-time communications with Cloud 2 for CRM and field service are big — and it's going to change the way companies work and do business."

Nearing the end of the OpenWorld event, Benioff answered his own rhetorical question — "Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook?" — by arguing that Chatter 2 is where Facebook meets the enterprise.

And, he added, with a final dig at his hosts, Chatter 2 works with Oracle. 

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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