Underwhelmed by Salesforce.com’s Chatter = Vaporware 2.0


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This week Salesforce.com unveiled Chatter — “a new secure enterprise collaboration application and social development platform.”

This is a significant announcement that brings Enterprise 2.0 apps into the mainstream. Or will, when Chatter becomes available sometime in calendar year 2010. This strikes me as a freeze-the-market move designed to keep Salesforce.com customers from investing in enterprise social solutions from companies like Jive, Socialtext, Yammer, etc.

Chatter will include a decent assortment of common E2.0 features like profiles, status updates, and groups. [Yawn] Nothing particularly innovative based on the demo I saw.

But the power of tight integration comes into play when feeds are used to give status updates of applications and content changes. For example, a sales manager can be alerted when a important deal changes status. Another way for management to keep tabs on the sales reps, which is why they love SFA so much. But all sarcasm aside, this is an example of a true “social business” application that integrates Enterprise 2.0 functionality with SFA.

So why is this underwhelming? As usual, Marc Benioff hyped this announcement as the next big thing, but by all accounts it fell flat. I spent a few hours on the Expo floor and asked about a dozen people for their reaction to the Chatter announcement. “Underwhelmed” and “anti-climatic” where the two most common expressions. Not one person said the announcement was innovative or revolutionary.

It didn’t help that the opening day keynote session started a half hour late and ran a half hour long, turning a two hour session into three. Some attendees walked out, either bored or needing to relieve their bladders. Kind of embarrassing and not very customer-centric, one attendee told me.

I’m underwhelmed because this is demoware being announced at a time when the E2.0 market is white hot. And while tight CRM integration makes good sense, the proposed pricing of $50 per user per month doesn’t. For many companies, I think it will be more effective to integrate a leading best-of-breed Enterprise 2.0 solution. They’ll get more functionality at 10% of the cost.

No doubt Salesforce.com will continue to work on Chatter. I do like this announcement because it validates the Enterprise 2.0 market, and demonstrates (literally) how social computing technology can be married to CRM systems. But for now my take is that the Chatter announcement mainly serves to buy Salesforce.com time to release a real solution while protecting its install base.

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  1. I would suggest a different, less critical take on the early (and we agree, overly lengthy and hyped) introduction of Chatter.

    Rather than buying time, it it may also be a signal to the market, the vendor ecosystem, as well as to potential customers – enterprise and otherwise – that Salesforce is making a concerted investment in bringing Social Networking technologies into the business mainstream so that online, interconnnected collaboration between business entities isn’t just for high-end corporate ERP users anymore.

    At our blog (http://blog.btclogic.com) we discuss what we believe is the larger significance of Chatter in that it will enable what we call “real-time, cross-company workflows”, and thus revolutionize the speed and ease with which businesses – small or large – interact and transact with each other.

    If we are correct, we believe Chatter will indeed become Salesforce’s “biggest breakthrough ever”. HOwever, this kind of a dramatic transition will require consensus building and a significant amount of “pre-selling” before or while incurring the sizable expense of creating this novel functionality to ensure this innovation doesn’t miss market needs.

    So, rather than motivated by a need to buy Salesforce time, we believe the early announcement and hype was aimed at signaling to the market where they believe E2 will go to begin to generate a common movement in this direction, and also to collect important usage requirements input that will help guide the concurrent development between now and launch.


    Johannes Hoech
    Co-Founder BTC Logic

  2. Johannes, thanks for your comments and I largely agree.

    As I said in my post, I do see this announcement (a statement of direction, more accurately) as a signal that so-called Enterprise 2.0 technology is poised to enter the mainstream.

    I can only speculate about Salesforce.com’s strategy and motivations. Buying time may be one, and prepping the market could be another. Nothing wrong or sinister about either, but still, where is the real solution?

    Isn’t it interesting that it was only a few years ago Benioff was blasting Microsoft, Oracle and SAP for following trends and announcing products before they were ready for the market. Now Salesforce.com is doing exactly the same thing.

    If it’s vaporware for the “old guard,” it’s also vaporware for Salesforce.com. In fact, just one year ago Benioff mocked Microsoft Azure as “vaporware.”

    Judging by the tepid reaction from the people I talked to at Dreamforce, I’d say a lot more “pre-selling” is needed. These were by and large very savvy software executives, mostly Salesforce.com partners, that told me they were “underwhelmed” by this “biggest breakthrough ever.”

  3. Multi-tenancy was a breakthrough. Apex code was a breakthrough. Visual Force was a breakthrough. The App-Exchange was a breakthrough.

    Chatter? For $50 a user? The biggest breakthrough ever? I can’t think of a single salesforce.com customer of mine who would be aching to implement this.

    Sorry, but I think that they just didn’t have anything to bring to show and tell.


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