It's official. Salesforce.com has made Chatter.com publicly available to every company in the world. Any company can now create a free, private social network to collaborate and drive productivity across the enterprise.
Chatter.com offers a familiar social-networking experience because it leverages the social features made popular by Facebook and Twitter, like profiles, status updates, and real-time feeds. Chatter lets employees "follow" documents, people and groups. By breaking down department and organizational barriers, Salesforce hopes to make it easier for workers to connect with each other.
"Over the years, an endless onslaught of e-mails and meetings has built a barrier to creativity and productivity," said Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research. "That's why Chatter.com is so exciting: It drives employees to share knowledge and expertise, close more deals, and solve problems."
Salesforce offered a slew of tasks that Chatter facilitates, including connecting with experts, collaborating with remote employees, sharing large files, preparing for presentations, managing team projects, discussing confidential topics, getting answers, sharing important information with coworkers, solving customer issues, and brainstorming marketing ideas.
In a recent customer-satisfaction survey of more than 6,000 global Salesforce customers, executives reported that Chatter is making employees more productive, with 28 percent fewer meetings and 32 percent less e-mail. In addition, nearly 50 percent of the users surveyed said they could find information faster than ever before.
"We are always looking for tools to increase employee productivity and collaboration within our company. Chatter.com is an entirely new technology that we cannot wait to get our hands on," said Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, a vice president at Trumpet Technologies. "By connecting our employees across departments, Chatter.com will help us close more deals, serve our customers better, and increase productivity throughout the entire business."
The Whole Meal
Chatter may also help Salesforce close more deals. Offering Chatter for free is sort of a like a grocery store offering a loss leader. Retail outlets often sell a product below margin to get people in the door, then hope they buy other products with higher margins.
"There are certainly other, similar kinds of platforms out there that are analogous to what Salesforce is doing here. Box.net has something like this, and so does Yammer," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "But there's a strong case to be made for the value of enabling and encouraging collaborative communication between workers."
With Chatter, King said, Salesforce is offering a single platform companies can use, rather than having employees deploy multiple tools on their own. Salesforce is also providing a trusted brand.
"Salesforce is a known entity. It's got an established value for its services and a great brand," King said. "I imagine a lot of companies taking Chatter.com for a test run and deciding to go with it. It could provide a reliable stream of new customers to the company as well, as Chatter.com users check out the free stuff and stick around to pay for the rest of the meal."