At its’ annual Dreamforce conference, Salesforce.com announced a version of Chatter, its collaboration application as a free utility. There’s lots of opining on Twitter and the blogs about how enterprise 2.0 start ups are going to be in serious trouble as Chatter steam rolls into their markets. There’s no question that Chatter is going to have a ridiculously big impact and they have a killer go to market strategy. But before we start writing obituary notes forcollaboration startups, lets really understand the world outside of Salesforce.coms existing customer base, the nascent state of social technology innovation today and the fact that – gasp – CIOs might just have a range of opinions on what’s optimal for their organizations.
I’ll do a separate wrap up post on Dreamforce but here’s some thoughts on this
peculiar particular discussion….
Chatter Sales Model
For starters, Free Chatter is for organizations that have salesforce.com accounts and from a go to market perspective, I’d take a somewhat similar route if I ran the business. The existing Salesforce.com account holders offer a very qualified pool of prospects for Chatter given its native out of the box integration with other salesforce.com and app exchange modules. As important, straight up fremium models to everyone can quickly create a cesspool of unqualified leads that are really expensive to convert to paying customers and require a very different sales model from what salesforce.com is used to. Execute closer to where the puck is – that’s what
anyone who is injected with Oracle serum Benioff does. Simple.
That said, Salesforce has roughly 90,000 customers that include a ton of small businesses and large enterprises. That’s a drop in the bucket in terms of TAM (totally addressable market) leaving lots of room for other vendors that are either not salesforce.com customers today or those that have seeded enterprise social computing and collaborative initiatives in pockets, other than sales, support and marketing.
Empty Social Spaces In Functional Process
The center of gravity of the salesforce relationship is in sales, support and marketing for the most part and their current integration points for Chatter reflects this. Sure, Free Chatter can work for all employees but in terms of meaningful process execution across enterprise functions, Chatter is still very closely tied to the CRM object model (opportunities, leads, customer and the like). What about product, bug, SKU, supplier component and other objects that the rest of the organization cares about? Free Chatter integration not really an option here from what I heard. So there’s plenty of open spaces where collaboration needs to still come to the rescue.
I’ve been calling from process alignment for over a year now and with respect, cautioned against what I’ve called “rudderless social”. And a set of enterprise 2.0 vendors have swiftly moved towards a model where they embed collaboration and social into process context across ERP enabled processes, beyond CRM. Klint Finley and Alex Williams at ReadWriteWeb have done a good job following this advancement.
Gaping Technology Leadership Holes
The social software space has spent the last 3 years on the consumerization of IT, and emulating and re-thinking elements of Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia metaphors that are relevant to the enterprise context. There’s some value to this but its also a) distracting from the task of process improvement to impact operational and financial metrics, b) a fast path to commoditization, and c) been a catapult to entering price wars.
Chatter offers some very good process context this year with Cloud 2 but for the most part, winning via real IP creation still remains anyone’s game. Identity management is grasping for a overhaul, analytics have yet to embrace social data to facilitate decisions and finding the right people, conversations and process intelligence
in real time at the right time is still no where near acceptable. Social done right can remove noise but social done wrong can horribly increase the volume of useless banter for individual usage scenarios. And so there’s plenty of room to define the future of work. In some ways start ups that are not anchored to the sea bed with the challenge of cannibalizing existing lines of revenue and can move more swiftly in these areas.
CIOs are from Mars AND Venus
One one hand, on the buy side, the needs of organizations outside of Hi-Tech silicon valley adopters are very very different and the need of a range of solutions will always have a place. I’ll cover this separately but on the the sell side, the lines are being re-drawn in the social software place as mature software organizations enter the field. And no, its not about the largely religious, sell-side messaging between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business. Its got to do with how CIOs work social and collaboration into their enterprise stack and re-assess the different forces that brings these capabilities – Collaboration, UC, Content Management, Engagement, and ERP/CRM. Some will want to make the deep change in their collaborative fabric with the likes of Cisco Quad and Moxie Software. Others won’t want to ruffle too many features and will choose to go with simple, easy to procure engagement layering on top of collaborative stacks such as Microsoft SharePoint. Chatter is closer to the latter but its certainly not the only game in town. The Yammers and Socialcasts make it just as easy to procure, are also in the cloud, and arguably with a Switzerland model – equally impactful to all business processes.
As I leave Dreamforce and settle in at GigaOMs Net:Work conference (live feed here) right now, these and other opportunities start to become clear for the rest of the software market. And based on our work every day with some of the leading organizations in the world that are looking to use collaboration to improve employee, partner and customer performance, I’ll re-iterate what I’ve said before: Chatter is going to be big and in a year it’s made commendable in-roads already, masterfully leveraging its distribution reach. I loved some of the process thinking announced here at Dreamforce and how app exchange partners that I spoke with are leveraging Chatter to enrichen their process applications. And I’ve always thought coming at social computing from a sales, support and marketing angle is extremely palatable to certain types of orgs as its close to revenue and customer satisfaction.
This release re-enforces all these elements. But no, that doesn’t mean it botches all other options and current and future innovation opportunities that the market hasn’t seen and will come to expect in the years to come.