The future of business applications is upon us. It’s a world where your data comes alive, those who log into your applications are people, not just users, your team’s past work is leveraged into future solutions and even proactively fed to those who need it, and you truly collaborate with not just your direct coworkers, but people from across the company in a way never before possible. This world is Cloud 2 and it’s not imaginary; it’s the reality that 100+ companies, 3,800+ developers, and Salesforce themselves have been experiencing for the past two months. What makes this future possible is Chatter. It’s the game changer that is quickly becoming the best thing Salesforce has ever developed and will be available to all paid editions of Salesforce sometime this year.
What makes Chatter revolutionary though? Aren’t business apps working just fine the way they are today in small and large organizations alike? Isn’t email collaboration enough? Aren’t portals and knowledge management systems and content repositories and legacy, home-grown apps cutting it? The fundamental ingredient those systems lack is context. On their own, they accomplish something important, but they tend to live in their own disconnected worlds. Though integration appliances and services exist, most companies never get to the point of tying it all together. What those applications lack is connecting people together with their ever-changing data, in the midst of their spreadsheets, documents, and collateral, with one tool as a hub for business. That hub is Cloud 2 and whether you use Customer Relationship Management out-of-the-box from Salesforce or you want to create an application that’s the farthest thing from CRM, Cloud 2 is the platform for it all, and the star of the show is Chatter.
So for the quick purpose of definition, what is Chatter? Chatter is a social layer to business applications that fosters effortless collaboration to get your daily work done. It’s built on a secure, trusted, reliable framework that 72,500+ companies are already using today to run their business. Chatter does not require a server, or software, or even some additional licensing from Salesforce. When it’s ready for release, it will be provisioned immediately to all Salesforce customers for rollout when they’re ready.
A new breed of AppExchange
With the introduction of Cloud 2 comes AppExchange 2 and a new section, the ChatterExchange. Introduced today are 20 Chatter applications built by Salesforce partners like Appirio, Echosign, FinancialForce.com, Genius.com, ServiceMax, and more. These new apps leverage the power of Chatter’s social layer, using profiles, status updates, and real time feeds to extend their apps directly in front of business users, right in the context of their work. Add to that 15+ more Force.com Labs apps created by the developer community and this amounts to a fantastic start to a new realm of business collaboration. Not only will Chatter be utilized with core CRM functionality, but the ChatterExchange will extend it beyond what many of us even imagine today. Check out the screenshots and video below for some idea of these new ChatterExchange apps and watch the live Cloudforce 2 presentation on April 8 for live demos.
The emphasis on service
You may recall that in 2009, Salesforce put a big emphasis on the fastest growing segment of their business, Service and Support. With the release of Service Cloud 2, we saw how companies could now monitor their brand via Twitter within Salesforce, look to the wisdom of crowds with a solution like Answers, and build public and private knowledgebases that bring solutions to consumers where they tend to look first, the Internet.
Today, Salesforce is expanding the private beta of Chatter from 100 to 500 customers, of which 250 use Service Cloud 2. Early indications from the first beta customers have been overwhelmingly positive in regards to not only the ease of Chatter’s use, but also in improving overall communications and collaboration.
So what will Chatter do to push the Service Cloud envelope? Picture this. A service rep is having trouble reproducing a problem reported by their customer. In the past, escalating that case only notified the rep’s manager so they would help assign more resources to the issue. With Chatter, that escalation can automatically add the product manager, a technical lead, two subject matter experts, and the rep’s manager as followers of the case and notify them with what’s going on. They’re given a link directly back into the case and they begin resolving it with full visibility to what’s going on within that case via the Chatter feed. Soon the issue is resolved and instead of a slew of emails being typed and sent manually, outside of the context of that case, now everyone is kept in the loop with Chatter. It’s automated, it’s in context, it involved the right people.
I worked in support for an enterprise software company for nine years and I can only imagine how a tool like Chatter could have cut down on our call times, increased quality answers in our knowledgebase, gotten the right people involved with cases early on, eliminated email runaround, and bottom line, led to happier customers and a more profitable bottom line.
To learn more about Cloud 2, be sure to watch the Cloudforce 2 event live from New York City on April 8, at 10 AM EST. The event is free and will be offered as a recorded session later as well. If you write your thoughts about Cloud 2 on Twitter, be sure to use the hashtag #cloud2.