What is Salesforce Chatter?

Unveiled at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce 2009 user conference, Chatter is like Facebook for your business. This isn’t going to be available until 2010, so right now we can only base assumptions from the demo you see below. The premise is compelling – taking the positive aspects of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and applying them to your work world.

From the video alone, I can see value in a stream of status updates on products, marketing materials, or competitors. By being able to filter those into separate buckets, I could catch up on areas most interesting and relevant to me before an important customer call or meeting.

I also see value in fostering better communication (or the perception of that, at least) from the top down. If key executives provided insightful or informal updates on their status (or at least had their assistants do it), or provided praise to a specific team or individual in a public forum,  it could increase their perceived approachability.

At the same time, I don’t see a 360-degree feedback loop happening here, either. I could see a company executive asking for feedback on an idea that may not be so hot, but no one is going to give an honestly critical response, especially if their name and profile are tied to it. Flaming doesn’t really happen within a social network of friends, either, as everyone’s fairly civil to people they know. However, my concern is whether any constructive criticism could be handled in an arena where there are hierarchies amongst people in the network.

Some lingering questions remain, that can only be answered as we get our hands on the real product and start playing around with it:

  • Will your IT group be convinced to adopt this product? What if the policy currently blocks usage of social networks?
  • What implications are there for more regulated industries? Ok, so the financial services sector has some bigger issues to contend with right now, but in some instances, collaboration across groups is intentionally blocked or minimized to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • What best practices will we advocate to ensure consistent and reliable adoption by the people working on things that matter? Here in Silicon Valley, busy employees rarely have time to check on how others are doing, let alone update others on their work. Since I’ve usually been one of the busy bees, and have been fortunate enough to work on more interesting and visible projects, I think that those that need to know what I’m doing, already know.  Oops, yes that assumes that some people in a company may be working on things that are important to a company, but that might not be the most noteworthy activity to broadcast in a forum.

As with the successful adoption of other aspects of CRM, so much has to do with the nuances of a particular business’s own culture and processes, and making sure the product addresses agreed-upon goals in the right priority. I look forward to reading of those tips and hints as we get closer to showtime.

Visit Salesforce for more information on what features are in Salesforce Chatter.

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