Is Chatter the Center of the Universe?

Last week at Dreamforce, Marc Benioff spent 2.5 hours of the opening keynote extolling the virtues of Chatter.  A life-size iPad showcased the ease of collaborating on sales deals and other work.  And, even more telling, a number of technology providers announced they were plugging into the Chatter way of life – including HR vendors Workday and Vana Workforce, as well as Infor (marketing), Concur (expenses), and Kenandy (supply chain).

The event sparks both a turning point and a bundle of questions …

Could chatter get any bigger?

Internal Social Networking – Reborn

Buzz aside, this event will mark a major shift in the perception of internal social networking going forward.  Benioff deemed the space “Social Enterprise” and identified “in-context social collaboration” as the business value differentiator. Truth be told, though, business leaders have accepted external social networks as a necessary business tool – for things like recruiting, prospecting, and customer service.  On the other hand, internal social networking continues to be met by raised eyebrows, headshakes, and outright skepticism.

Benioff makes a strong case that maybe the networks, to date, just haven’t been in the right place (in the middle of business activities) or connected to the right things (work products).  Though specific customer examples – such as NBC Universal’s use of chatter across all properties to collaborate on such things as marketing products – are still few, an impressive number of hands were raised in the keynote auditorium when asked “who’s using chatter?”

Who Isn’t Using Chatter?

Though a couple of HR vendors announced Chatter plug-ins, other social collaboration-oriented vendors were noticeably absent from such announcements.  Notably, Saba and SuccessFactors.  The question remains whether worker-centric applications such as these can connect to work and business activities while retaining the stream of work within their application set. Or, will they ultimately need to connect up with a business-centric social stream?  Where will the center of work gravity fall when everything shakes out?

What Will Larry Do?

With Oracle OpenWorld just weeks away, one wonders how Larry Ellison will respond to his protege and nemesis.  Though Ellison has a social platform in Webcenter Connect and ties to business application activities in Fusion Network at Work, will it come across as a “me too”?  It is hard to imagine Ellison extolling the virtues of a business application that could “enable customers and employees to rise up against corporate leadership” as Marc Benioff charged the 45,000 Dreamforce attendees, in what was certainly the most electrifying moment of the keynote. Still, it’s also hard to imagine Larry Ellison ceding the universe to Chatter.

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5 Responses to Is Chatter the Center of the Universe?

  1. Lynne Taylor says:

    Amy, I LOVE this blog post. I’ve already connected with you on the Vana Workforce app, but have to tell you that I wrote an article for the Worldwide ERC (the Workforce Mobility Association) monthly magazine MOBILITY that will be published in November. While I’m not sure my title will end up in final print, I submitted it with the heading “Does the Global Mobility Industry Have a Social Life?” In it, I talk about the concept of the social enterprise (and even mention the two SF/”Baby Peas” Chatter commercials that aired earlier this year during the Superbowl – they were so revolutionary no one had a clue how to deal with them in the media!) and why CEO’s and CIO’s seemed to be flocking to SF and DF to incorporate the concept and make it a practical reality in their organizations.

    I can tell you that the little SMB I work for has been using Chatter since implementing SF and a backend accounting solution built on the force.com platform since January of this year. The accounting team uses Chatter to collaborate around invoices, invoice adjustments and collection and billing issues, to name a few things. We easily attach invoice copies from vendors and wire or bank confirmations using Chatter feeds, and are able to push this information out to our relocation coordinators (who are not yet on SF) so that they can do their jobs more efficiently when they interface with customers, vendors and partners. I can’t wait to demo Vana because Chatter would have much more meaning (and I’d get much higher adoption of SF in general) if ALL our employees were engaging in Chatter around their HR issues or questions (which we seem to have a lot of for a small business!! :)

    Thanks for this great blog post Amy.

    I see Chatter enabling continual process flow and improvements in our company, and am so excited by the endless possibilities ahead for us as we build out our legacy custom relocation application on force.com – which is taking us months rather than the years it took to initially build it.

  2. Lynne Taylor says:

    One more post on this Amy. The Salesforce Chatter Interest Group has a post from Sameer Patel called DF2011: Collaboration Hardwired into Context. You and Sameer are “great minds that think alike” on this topic. I hope you don’t mind but I posted on his entry about you. Here it is: Great post Sameer! I’m new to the group but the SMB I work for rolled out Chatter earlier this year with its implementation of FinancialForce (it was kind of the “tail wagging the dog”) and the smaller subset of employees in the org that deal with accounting and finance are avid users of Chatter to collaborate around a multitude of accounting issues, reports and transactional instructions. I’m looking to demo a couple of HR apps now that will get the larger employee population using both SF and Chatter. It sounds like you have a kindred spirit in Amy Wilson and her takeaways from DF on Chatter and the social enterprise. Amy is HR centric, but like you, she is an incredible thought leader. I commented today about how our company is using Chatter in practical ways on Amy’s blog: http://wilsoninsight.com/blog/is-chatter-the-center-of-the-universe/

    So there you go. I could have probably done this more efficiently using cross-posting, sharing or something but I haven’t had coffee yet this morning!

  3. Amy Wilson says:

    Thanks Lynne for your amazing insight and specific experience. It’s so helpful to others to hear practical, useful examples such as yours.

    I am also a big fan of Sameer’s :)

  4. Jules says:

    How on earth can the Chatter mobile app be of any use for staff ‘in the field’ if it has no visual badge or sound alert for incoming messages? I dont get it…

  5. Sameer Patel says:

    Hi Lynne
    Thank you for the kind words. For some reason I didn’t receive a notification about your response or for that matter, that I was mentioned here. Just saw this via Twitter.

    The examples you cite are great. We’re generally in the trenches helping make collaboration work across organizations but its the contextual stuff that makes it all meaningful.

    And Im always happy to be associated w/ Amy :)

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