Salesforce.com Chatter Free and Yammer's Basic editions offer free, in-the-cloud collaboration tools for organizations that want to use social networking tools in a private, secure setting.
Microblogging in the enterprise attempts to harness the power of Twitter and
Facebook-like activity streams of social networking in a private, secure
business setting. Quick hitting "what am I doing now" comments mingle with
files and followers in a fast flowing river of information. The emerging
question for IT managers is can social collaboration tools solve business
problems and provide access to your organization's resources while containing
The newly minted Chatter Free offering from Salesforce.com fits neatly with
that company's CRM and development platform
by making no-cost, social collaboration available for anyone with a corporate
e-mail account. The Yammer client was updated in late 2010 and integrates
social tools with corporate functions including organization charts and
leaderboard reports of popular topics and users.
Below, I review both enterprise social networking tools. Any organization
already using Salesforce.com services already has Chatter in the platform. There
is a $15 per-month, per-user Chatter Plus client to fully collaborate within
the Salesforce.com universe. Chatter Free is a nice extension of the social
collaboration for organizations that want the ability to collaborate and follow
people, documents and files but don't need the full, licensed sales or service
features found in the licensed editions of Salesforce.com. Chatter Free is also
available at Chatter.com for no-cost use by organizations that don't use other
I also look at veteran social collaboration maker Yammer, which was
significantly enhanced in version 2.0. The no-cost Yammer Basic can be used by
organizations that want to try out collaboration. Yammer Premium adds
additional administrative, integration and branding features for $5 per-month,
per-user. Yammer Basic provides a platform where users can create profiles,
share files and collaborate on events. The Yammer tools have a simple, clean
interface that makes it easy for users to navigate and find shared information
in the organization.
Chatter Free from Salesforce.com is a new entry in the social media market
to the extent that the service offering is now available without buying a
Salesforce.com license for one of the company's other product editions. Thus,
Chatter enters the enterprise social media fray with the experience gained from
deployments at Salesforce.com customer sites. Chatter became available on Dec.
7 and is available at no cost for users with a corporate e-mail account.
To begin using Chatter, users go to the product Website and complete a
simple registration process using their corporate e-mail address. A link
necessary to complete registration is sent to the corporate e-mail account thus
ensuring that only users who have a working corporate e-mail gain access to the
otherwise private social collaboration tools provided by Chatter.com.
During tests, I accessed Chatter through the Web interface and by downloading
the no-cost Chatter desktop application for Windows and on an iPad. Chatter
mobile is also supported on BlackBerry devices. I would like to see
Salesforce.com release a Chatter mobile client for Android phones, a noticeably
absent capability that is found in nearly every competitive platform. I would
also like Salesforce.com to anticipate that Windows Phone 7 will need a mobile
Chatter client as well.
As with nearly all no-cost competitors, there is a certain wild-west feeling
to the user onboarding process. Users sign up on their own by going to
Chatter.com or by responding to an invitation delivered through the corporate
e-mail system. I recommend that organizations that decide to implement Chatter
launch a formal adoption campaign that includes a "rules of the road" and
formal e-mail invitation campaign to get adoption off to a good start. Chatter
does come with a series of short instructional videos that will help users both
understand how to use the product while showing some good use cases for participating
in a social activity stream.
The default landing page is a Chatter-branded Web interface, which is where
I spent most of my testing time. I also downloaded the Chatter Desktop onto a
Windows 7 system. The Chatter Desktop resembles an IM client with an activity
stream running down a narrow window on the desktop. Tabs at the top of the
Chatter window let me see the whole Chatter stream, chats directed at me alone,
other co-workers who were signed up to use Chatter and groups. No other
application problems were reported on tests run from the iPad or various
Windows and Linux systems running the most current operating systems and
Chatter administration falls to moderators. The first user to register an
account using a corporate e-mail address becomes the Chatter moderator, a role
that can be easily shared or relinquished to another. Moderators can activate
or deactivate other Chatter users, promote or demote another Chatter user as a
moderator and delete posts and comments.
Chatting and working with other test users was quite easy. I was able to
share very large (more than 20 MB) files by uploading them to a secure online
repository. Chatting looks and feels the same as in Facebook. I could also
share links and images. Files that Chatter recognized, including images,
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, were displayed in a thumbnail in the
activity stream. Like the Chatter feature in Salesforce.com's paid editions, I
was able to "follow" documents and files just as I would a person so that I
could see developments or changes in a project.