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 …

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.