Salesforce.com is getting into the Web 2.0 spirit with two new applications that aim to use some good old crowdsourcing to make content and ideas easier to find and share.
The SAAS (software as a service) specialist trotted out Salesforce Ideas and Salesforce Content as part of its Spring '08 software release, which also includes some upgrades to its Force.com suite.
(This upgrade didn't go without a hitch, as U.S. customers suffered an outage when a key server went down.)
Salesforce Ideas will let customer, partner or employee communities post, discuss and vote on ideas.
Features of the app include the My Ideas Inbox, which lets users list new comments that have been added to previously posted ideas or ideas commented on by the user. Users write a short paragraph explaining their ideas and assign it to a category so that it gets noticed within a community.
The app also uses a Recently Discussed button to help provide users quick access to the latest comments, and a Top Ideas section of relevant content, which has value that is determined by the community that votes for it to show support.
Included in all CRM editions save the Group Edition, Salesforce Ideas is currently available for customer, partner and employee communities.
Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann said the community crowdsourcing tools are a sign that Salesforce.com has recognized that, just as people leverage their personal networks to help them win customers, they're looking to leverage their virtual networks as well.
"As more and more users adopt technologies like LinkedIn and Facebook to track professional contacts, expect to see more of the technology integrated in enterprise applications," Wettemann told eWEEK Feb. 11.
For $35 per user, per month, Salesforce Content lets users share and manage documents, spreadsheets, multimedia clips, HTML files and more. Users post content online and define the group of people with whom they want to share their documents and display preferred sales-related content as Featured Content.
Similar to the approach popularized by Flickr and del.icio.us, the application also employs a tagging element that administrators use to recommend a set of tags for a workspace, or let users create their own tags.
The software, which uses the Koral Web content management assets Salesforce.com quietly tucked in last April, also lets users display and sort search results using pre-defined fields to navigate content more easily.
Wettemann said content management is a key area Salesforce.com needed to groom to help users move beyond basic pipeline management to more intelligent sales and service interactions.
That Salesforce.com is adapting participatory utilities to help sales people harness their content is no surprise. Sales professionals, as much as any knowledge worker, must share information regarding leads, clients and ways to do their jobs better.
Analysts from Forrester Research recently conducted a survey of more than 2,200 IT decision makers and found that one in three firms plans to at least pilot Web 2.0 technologies in 2008. Moreover, some of the most popular deployment options for Web 2.0 are SAAS deployments, according to the report released Feb. 8.