Salesforce.com Seeks to Make Chatter an All-Purpose Collaboration Tool
SAN JOSE, Calif.-Salesforce.com wants to take its new Chatter social collaboration platform that it officially released on June 22 far beyond the realm of the corporate sales and marketing department and put it in the hands of every business user with a need to collaborate.
As of June 22, more than 6,000 customers had switched on Chatter as part of their suite of Salesforce.com customer relationship management, customer service and collaboration applications, Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff said. Chatter is now available to all current Salesforce.com users at no additional charge.
The next goal for Salesforce.com is to get as many users as possible inside the company's 77,300 customers to start using Chatter as their general-purpose collaboration platform.
Chatter has a Facebook-like interface that allows employees to link up and collaborate on any project or problem of mutual interest through the exchange of messages, files, documents or Web links. It was initially developed as an add-on application to help sales teams track leads and sales opportunities all the way to signed sales agreements.
But there is nothing to prevent enterprises from using Chatter as a business collaboration platform across an entire organization. To that end, Salesforce.com is offering Chatter-only user licenses for existing customers of the Salesforce.com Professional Edition, Enterprise Edition or the Unlimited Edition for $15 per user per month.
This would allow companies to deploy Chatter for all its employees without also committing to buying the entire Salesforce.com suite. It would also allow Salesforce.com to market Chatter as a business-ready social collaboration alternative for companies that are currently using Facebook or other social networking tools, either officially or on an ad hoc basis as business collaboration tools.
Salesforce.com also demonstrated Chatter running natively on the Apple iPad, and Benioff said his company will ensure that Chatter will run without a hitch on every major mobile device that is widely deployed in enterprises, whether it is the BlackBerry, Android phones and other tablet devices.
During the Chatter launch held at the San Jose Convention here, Benioff brought Apple executive Michael Tchao, a self-described Apple "retread" who helped develop the original Apple Newton tablets and returned to help develop the iPad.
Apple, he said, is proud of its achievement of selling 3 million iPads in the first 80 days of its availability. He noted that the company had sold 3 million iPhones in the first 74 days of availability.
Salesforce.com also announced that it now has 60 Chatter-enabled applications on its AppExchange 2 application market. These applications include the CA Agile Vision Team Editions from CA Technologies, which is a planning tool for the "agile" application development process aimed at helping development teams produce new applications faster and more efficiently.
Other Chatter applications include FinancialForce Accounting and Chatterbox. Financial Force accounting is a cloud accounting application that allows the financial departments of organizations that use Salesforce.com's CRM platform to simplify the process of preparing invoices, collecting payments and servicing customers on sales generated from the CRM application.
Chatterbox is a rules-based system that monitors predefined business data and alerts users about impending business situations or events that require some intervention. It might be like a fall or rise in product inventory. Or it could be an alert that a company is falling back on sales quotas.
A number of major Salesforce.com customers were on hand to talk about how they are implementing Chatter. Among the most prominent was Dell, one of Salesforce.com's largest customers. Dell plans to widely implement Chatter throughout the organization and expects to extend its use to the company's various business partners, said John Miles, vice president of IT with Dell's Sales and Marketing Group.
Dell, which has been using Chatter since the start of the beta evaluation program in February, has about 30,000 active Chatter users who are part of Dell's sales organization. Anywhere from 18,000 to 19,000 of these users usually log in on any given day, Miles said.
The company would like to eventually extend the collaboration capabilities of Chatter to more than 100,000 Dell users around the globe, he said.
"One of the key aspects of this is that we operate in over 180 countries around the globe. There are only a few companies of our size that have that degree of geographical dispersion," Miles said. Cloud-based applications like Salesforce.com and Chatter give Dell the opportunity to widely deploy Web-based collaboration applications using Salesforce.com's global data center infrastructure.
"We already have a global license for all of Salesforce.com's products, including Chatter," Miles said. So it is only a matter of implementing the on-demand application to additional employees as needed.
Dell is also has its eye on "taking Chatter from an internal use to an external use so we can collaborate with all of our partners," Miles said. Dell's many VARs and alliance partners would be able to collaborate on product development and sales ideas as well as on customer service and problem resolution issues, he said.