Salesforce Chatter Promises to Take Enterprise 2.0 to the Next Level

Salesforce.com today announced “a new secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform”, called Chatter. While it will not be available until an unspecified date in 2010, Chatter will likely raise the bar for Enterprise 2.0 software, because of the promised ability to embed its functionality into other enterprise applications.

Chatter includes many of the social components that are the core of existing Enterprise 2.0 software offerings: Profiles, Status Updates, Feeds, Groups (Communities), etc. What is different — and significant — about Chatter is that any of those components can be integrated inside any existing enterprise application, including Salesforce CRM and the 135,000 custom applications built on the Force.com platform. In short, Salesforce.com will not make users collaborate through the Chatter interface; they will be able to leverage Chatter’s social functionality in the context of work that they are doing inside a CRM, ERP, or other enterprise system.

The ability to deploy social functionality as a service within an existing (or new) enterprise application is a game changer. To-date, only one other E2.0 software vendor that I am aware of (MindTouch) has been able to make that claim. Salesforce.com is the first proprietary software provider with a very large set of enterprise customers and third-party developers to offer social functionality as building blocks (services) that can be consumed in other, independent applications.

The Enterprise 2.0 crowd has been focused on adoption in 2009 and has recently begun to realize that integration of social functionality into existing and new enterprise applications and platforms will be key to increasing adoption (see my previous posts on this topic: Thought of the Day: September 17, 2009 and The Impending Enterprise 2.0 Software Market Consolidation). Salesforce.com’s announcement of Chatter begins to make that vision a reality, and at scale.

Two other aspects of Chatter demand attention. First, at a time when established Enterprise 2.0 software vendors are touting their ability to integrate with Microsoft SharePoint (see my previous post, Integration of Social Software and Content Management Systems: The Big Picture), Salesforce.com has chosen to provide integration with Google Apps instead. Salesforce.com will use the Google Data APIs to enable data communication between Chatter and Google Apps. This is hardly a surprise, given that cloud computing is core to both companies.

The other striking aspect of Chatter is its embrace of popular consumer social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter. This occurs at a time when many organizations are blocking employee access to those tools for security, privacy, and productivity reasons. Salesforce.com already features bi-directional communication between its Force.com platform and Facebook, having launched the Force.com for Facebook developer toolkit a year ago. Now Salesforce.com is providing a similar developer toolkit for Twitter.

Chatter is an announced offering, not a shipping product. As such, it is already being compared to Google Wave in the collaboration market. However, Chatter is much more likely to make a significant impact in the E2.0 space, because Salesforce.com has always been focused on enterprise customers, while Google’s offerings started as consumer products and have only recently begun to slowly gain traction within enterprises. Google may bring Wave out of beta before Salesforce.com launches Chatter, but I expect that will make little difference as to which one sees better enterprise adoption in 2010. It is very likely that more organizations will understand Chatter’s value proposition of easily integrated social functionality.

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5 responses to “Salesforce Chatter Promises to Take Enterprise 2.0 to the Next Level

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Salesforce Chatter Promises to Take Enterprise 2.0 to the Next Level « Together, We Can! -- Topsy.com

  2. Thanks for the post Lee. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept that Chatter is presenting. Add to that, I’m also hearing all of the generic arguments that the IT/KM folks within a law firm will immediately start chanting…
    1. “The Cloud can’t be trusted… no matter what the vendor tells you.”
    2. “Attorneys just won’t use social media tools within the law firm… regardless of the fact that most of them have facebook and linkedin accounts.”
    3. How do you put a fence around this information so that it can be managed to prevent conflicts or break ethical walls?

    I think the Cloud argument will eventually go away once the ‘security’ questions are laid to rest (or when the big-dogs within the firm want a product like this and the only option to have it is in the cloud.) But, the getting people to use it, and the ethical issues will be a problem.

    I’m also wondering if this type of Social Collaboration SaaS will allow you to set up secure areas with your clients (replacing the Extranet function)?

    Like I said, I’m still wrapping my head around this and wondering how long it will take the legal industry to buy into this type of cloud collaboration idea.

  3. Greg: Thanks for reading and commenting. I think we’re all trying to understand what this announcement means at several levels. This post was my immediate reaction, based on what I perceived to be the novel and important aspects of the announcement.

    I would also expect the types of reactions that you chronicle from IT and KM folks within law firms, as well as in all regulated industries. Please let me attempt to address each one in the order you presented them.

    1. This argument reminds me of any number of conspiracy theories. There are few facts to support the view that cloud solutions are risky and not to be trusted, yet the opinion persists. As you said, the view is eroding gradually, but still needs to be addressed in the sales cycle of any cloud-based software offering. I believe that law firms will eventually (and begrudgingly?) accept off-premise application and data hosting for economic reasons, like everyone else.

    2. There will always be some people in any type of organization that will not use social software. We can’t expect 100% user adoption in any business. I would argue that lawyers use more social software than they realize, especially if you include retail sites like Amazon.com that embed many social elements (peer content reviews, content ranking, content tagging, inferred recommendations, etc.) in that category.

    3. Fencing in information is the complete opposite of the spirit of social software, which values open, transparent information flow. Lawyers must learn to apply the “reasonable standard” test they know so well to social interactions and let well-written corporate guidelines inform how they use social tools.

    I know the U.S. Department of Defense has used SaaS applications in highly secured fashion, so I see no reason why a private enterprise could not do the same with another business.

    I’m not sure these thoughts will help you, but I hope so.

    Larry

  4. I agree with the tweet from Mike Gotta yesterday: “For enterprises using either Jive/SP/Connections) plus Salesforce – social gets messy pretty quick (multiple profiles, tools…)”.

    Every applications (on the cloud or on site) is becoming social and the social graph / SKN is rapidly becoming the next Enterprise “Midgard / Holy Grail” that everybody wants to control (cf: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34043448@N08/4015646995/ ). And the employees will rapidly have to deal with dozens of microblogging or extended E2.0 services within their company.

    As mentioned by Oliver Marks on his recent blog post on “AOL/FB in the Enterprise” (http://blogs.zdnet.com/collaboration/) walled garden don’t age well. Let’s hope that the story of the IM industry (do you remember the AOL ICQ vs MSN Messenger vs Yahoo! Messenger battle?) will not happen again and that big players could agree on some standards (opensocial; activitystrea.ms or even the semweb with FOAF/SIOC) before generating yet another serie of non-interoperable content+social graph silos. In all the cases, on the long run, the open federated and interconnected web will always triumph. We are just loosing some “vendor lock-in” time before seeing it happen.

    Stephane

  5. Pingback: The Very Near Future of the Web Part 5 – Enterprise 2.0 | Sherry Heyl

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