RightNow and Salesforce.com — trailblazers for integrated Social Business solutions


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Breaking news! On Friday, Feb. 19th at 11 a.m. ET, Tiger Woods will be making a statement for the first time since his car crash 3 months ago that set off revelations about his marital “transgressions.”

Oh wait, this is not the Golf Channel. Unfortunately, this media event will just be a statement — Tiger won’t be answering any questions. Doesn’t he get it? This is social age! Where’s the conversation, Tiger?

Well, the CRM industry can’t compete with a scandal, but SaaS pioneers RightNow and Salesforce.com both made significant “social business” technology announcements today. Not that you’d see “social” used much in either case.

You can read up on the announcement details in the press releases (see links below), but in broad strokes…

  • For RightNow, the key theme is deeper integration.

    In the Feb ’10 release, RightNow’s Cloud (social media) Monitor can pull input from external blogs and web sites via RSS feeds, plus gather insight from company-run communities. MySpace and Facebook coming later this year.

    For company-run communities, customers can now add value to the RightNow knowledgebase by commenting and rating answers, or by linking forum content to a CSS system. Nice example of unstructured content adding value to existing structured information.

    John Kembel, RightNow’s VP and Chief Social Guy, says there’s been strong uptake in interest in the past few months from big brands that want to make social an integral part of the customer experience. While customer support communities continue to be the leading application, he says that in about 90% of the cases that innovation (e.g. ideation) is the 2nd application of interest.

    This is one data point that supports my belief that customer-driven innovation is the next big wave, and it’s going to drive a lot of usage (and abuse) of ideation tools. But that’s a post for another day.

  • For Salesforce.com, the goal is to get Chatter ready for GA later this year.

    Salesforce.com announced a “private beta” of Chatter AKA the “Collaboration Cloud.” I dinged Salesforce.com last year for announcing Chatter as vaporware because Benioff has derided bigger vendors for pre-announce tactics in the past. But now Salesforce.com is becoming a big dog in its own right. The Benioff Bunch is probably discovering that some of the tactics practiced by Microsoft, Oracle and SAP actually do make sense.

    Like doing beta programs. Over the next 3 months or so, says VP of Corporate Strategy Bruce Francis, the company will work with 100 companies of various sizes to get feedback. Depending on what they learn, Chatter will be made generally available later in the year.

    So, the vapor is condensing into a real product, and what I’ve seen looks good. And as I said previously, what’s significant is not the collaborative features like status updates, groups, etc. — you can find these in many other solutions now. Rather, it’s the tight integration with Salesforce.com’s platform, and the ability to connect data resources and content into the collaborative framework.

No thanks to “Social CRM” or “Enterprise 2.0”

For all the talk about “Social CRM” and “Enterprise 2.0” in the past year, it’s interesting to note that neither vendor is using those terms.

Fine by me, because “Social CRM” is a muddled term that can mean everything from social networking for sales reps (Oracle) to customer communities (Lithium) to Twitter integration (everybody). Or the second coming of CRM as a business strategy (CRM 2.0).

And Enterprise 2.0 has become too much of an IT term, losing touch with the original vision of Andrew McAfee. For some, E2.0 is just another suite of collaborative tools to replace email.

So kudos to both RightNow and Salesforce.com for refusing to play along with the buzzwords, and instead focusing on providing integrated social business solutions. After leading the way in SaaS a decade ago, it’s cool to see both companies continue to innovate and integrate social computing more deeply into their solutions.

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