Amid all the hoopla around Google Buzz, Salesforce is making some buzz themselves in the Enterprise space with the announcement of a Chatter private beta to 100 customers today.
When Salesforce began looking for customers to start kicking the tires on Chatter, the response was overwhelming. More than 2,500 companies enthusiastically volunteered for the beta. From that, 100 were chosen across many industries including financial services, manufacturing, high tech, and professional services.
So what really is Chatter? Well, if you’re one of the 400 million people who have joined Facebook already, you already have a little familiarity with what it’s about. Chatter is streams of information, files, comments, photos, snippets, videos, data, and intelligence, fed to you directly in context of where you already work. Chatter takes the work out of finding this information and instead puts it in front of you, knowing what you need to know about and letting you customize and filter your feeds to be most relevant.
Chatter is the culmination of numerous business functions that we can all benefit from. It’s part content management system, part team report card, part data field history viewer, part chat client, part message board, part workflow notifier, and part get-to-know-the-people-you-work-with social network. It makes data come alive, whether that’s letting you know an important deal just closed, a new product catalog was published, a competitor just had a bad earnings call, your co-worker needs help with their presentation, or one of your customers is late in paying an invoice to you. Chatter brings all that together in one place so you can make better decisions, help others on your team, and easily publish news with just a few clicks
Much of the information you’ll get in Chatter is timely and important, so Salesforce needed to find a way to provide you that information even when you don’t have your browser open with Salesforce. That’s why along with Chatter, they’re introducing a new Chatter client for the desktop that is built on Adobe Air. Much the same way TweetDeck provides you background popups with relevant tweets you decide you want to know about, Chatter will provide you that immediate feedback on your computer, regardless of what application you’re running and what’s in the foreground. Since this Chatter client runs on Adobe Air, it works on both Mac and PC using the same code.
When you’re away from the desktop, you don’t have to miss out on Chatter there either. Chatter will include dedicated iPhone and BlackBerry apps right out of the chute. No more hauling out the laptop to see what your team has been doing to move deals forward. Information is served to you in real time. No waiting for an email that a deal closed, just follow it on Chatter and you’ll know.
Among the biggest benefits of Chatter is the fact that it’s built on a solid, secure infrastructure that you don’t need to worry about. Just know it’s there, it’s secure, it’s scalable, and it’s out of sight. You won’t pay for a server upgrade, you won’t patch a database, you won’t buy a firewall, you won’t add a hard drive, you won’t have to do load balancing, you won’t have to tweak a kernel, you just go about your work and leave the rest to Salesforce. And because Chatter is just an extension of the applications you’ve already setup, all the data security that’s already in place just works, out of the box for Chatter.
It’s almost like Chatter is putting a human side on CRM. Today, we converse in the halls, in meetings, on the phone, and through email, but we don’t exchange more than limited amounts of data about ourselves, the projects we’re working on, the deals we’re closing, or the scoop we learned. We occasionally share information using Salesforce itself, but we rarely see the data come to life. Chatter brings the insights to you. Even the fact that all users of Salesforce will have a profile page which can contain a photo, bio, stream of what they’re doing, the groups they are members of, the documents they update, and the people who they follow tells immensely more than just passing in the hall or during a meeting.
As Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce pointed out back in November, with Facebook, I can know what movie my friends have been gone to, but I don’t have just as easy access to what deals that same person is moving forward in my pipeline. It doesn’t have to be that way. Chatter will offer prescribed and subscribed content to keep you in-the-know about anything in Salesforce.
I can see it now. Chatter streams will eventually become the topic of conversation throughout the halls of companies around the globe. Have you noticed how often Facebook and Twitter are mentioned in the news, television shows, and even in the lunch room? When people begin seeing the value of sharing, collaborating, informing, assisting, building, and broadcasting, in context, it will change the way we work.
The private beta is a great sign of progress and getting Chatter ready for prime-time. Remember, Salesforce unveiled the concept of Chatter only three months ago at Dreamforce 09. It’s anticipated that Chatter will be available for all Salesforce customers during 2010. While it’s an aggressive timeline to go from 100 customers on Chatter to nearly 70,000 by the end of 2010, that go-live will be a pivotal moment in enterprise computing. It will set the standard by which other collaboration tools will be judged. And while it will be a new concept for it’s users, it’s also going to feel like something they already know. There won’t have to be a day-long class to teach users how to use Chatter. It will come quite naturally, and when it does, watch what will happen in companies; as their data comes alive, reps are enabled, managers are informed, and the company hub becomes Salesforce and Chatter.
To learn more about Chatter, attend the live Chatter event today (February 17) at 12 PM PST.