With its just announced Salesforce Communities module, which allows companies to create social communities with business data and processes embedded at the core, Salesforce.com sees an end to the era of legacy portal software.
Using the new services, enterprises will be able to create communities for any customer experience, from mobile banking apps to video games to cars. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, General Electric, Pernod Ricard and the World Economic Forum are among the early adopters of the new technology.
"Today marks the end of the legacy portal software era," said Alex Dayon, president of applications and platform at Salesforce.com. "The next generation of enterprise apps are social with business data embedded at the core and accessible from any device. With Salesforce Communities, customer companies can connect with customers, partners and employees in entirely new ways and from anywhere."
Connecting in New Ways
With the popularity of crowd sourcing in social communities such as Yelp, the level of engagement on social networks like Facebook, and the increase in mobile and other connected devices, a new generation of customers and partners have new expectations for how they want to engage with a company, Salesforce said.
But until now, companies have not had access to that kind of collaborative, engaging experience in their business. Businesses have had to choose between legacy portals, which are strictly transactional, and social point solutions that are conversational, but disconnected from the business. Salesforce Communities aims to bridge the gap.
Powered by Salesforce Chatter, the Communities module aims to put social and mobile at the core of every community. Communities is built on the Salesforce.com platform, which makes it extensible and able to embed into any customer experience.
"Over time, communities will evolve with processes associated to the community becoming embedded in core business workflow processes," said Vanessa Thompson, research manager of enterprise collaboration and social solutions at IDC. "Salesforce Communities is able to build on the strong base of Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud to extend specific workflow and enable an ongoing conversation with customers, partners and suppliers."
A Competitive Market
Salesforce said companies that use Communities can increase sales efficiency among partners and distributors, deliver better customer service, bring brands and agencies together around in-the-moment ad campaigns, and create a community for any need that arises.
We asked Brad Shimmin, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, for his feedback on Communities. He told us traditional portal vendors in the B2C space have been slow to adopt modern collaborative concepts, including those inherent in consumer social networking sites.
"For Salesforce to focus more squarely on B2C communities using the technology from Chatter gives them a good disruptive entrance into a mature and stable market," Shimmin said. "It's going to take Salesforce some time to come up to speed. Even some of the non-traditional B2C collaborative vendors like Jive Software have made an investment in social analytics that are internal and external facing.
"Salesforce is going to have to compete against the old guard as well as the young guns. The ability to apply business intelligence to real-time vast amounts of data that's gathered from these consumer engagement solutions, whoever can capitalize on that the best is going to win."
Salesforce Communities is scheduled to be generally available by the summer. Pricing for Salesforce Communities will start at $500 per month.