I’ve written before about the potential of Salesforce.com’s recently-launched Chatter application to drive intracompany collaboration. Now the latest news from Salesforce, suggests that Chatter has already succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, being deployed by 60,000 of their 87,000 paying customers.
According to CEO Marc Benoiff, that means that Chatter is already the largest enterprise social network in place today - but it seems that they are only starting to scratch the surface of Chatter’s potential.
Yahoo! do... will you?
Recent Chatter deployments include Dell, Amazon.com, Bausch & Lomb, Bank of America, Deloitte, Harris, Kelly Services, Motorola, Nikon, Siemens and Vodafone while perhaps even more significantly, Yahoo – who are not a Salesforce.com CRM user - bought a subscription to use Chatter as a standalone enterprise collaboration platform.
Apparently Dell have eliminated all other their enterprise social networking solutions that they had been using within the organisation and are consolidating behind Chatter - and it’s helping Dell’s CEO, Michael Dell, become better aligned with the flow and substance what’s really going on within their organisation in a way that conventional management reporting can’t hope to tap into.
The power of free speech...
But it seems that there’s much more to come. Salesforce have just announced their intention to offer a free version of Chatter that will operate across their entire customer network - turning Chatter from an intra- to an inter-company collaboration tool and enabling customers to send email and viral Chatter invites to other customers.
You’ve got to wonder what Chatter might mean for existing business networking communities - and I’m thinking here particularly of LinkedIn. There’s nothing to suggest that Chatter provides an immediate threat - but I suspect that existing LinkedIn users might be well represented amongst the early power users of Chatter, being already familiar with the benefits of networking and collaboration.
Opening up the organisation...
The new generation of enterprise collaboration tools have the clear potential to engage the entire organisation in a way that conventional collaboration tools like Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint have manifestly failed to do. These new tools have the potential to bring people and issues together in real-time - making it faster and easier to solve problems, find solutions, share best practice and make things happen.
I speculated that existing users of other collaboration and networking tools like LinkedIn and Facebook might be amongst the most important advocates and early adopters of applications like chatter. But I suspect that organisational style will have something to do with adoption as well. Organisations that already see open collaboration as a source of competitive advantage will see Chatter and the like as a key way of supporting those initiatives.
Competing on agility...
These early organisational adopters will have the mindset and the ability to harness these technologies to facilitate democratic, open communication that breaks down any remaining isolated silos of information and expertise. They will be able to sustain a level of operational agility that will open up a widening gap over their competitors - and I expect their organisational Chatter to rise to a boisterous but manageable crescendo.
Which only leaves us to speculate about the fate of the organisations that get left behind - and whether they will recognise that implementing the facilitating technology by itself will fail to address the real issue. For them, without the right organisational attitudes towards collaboration, even implementing the likes of Chatter may never cause the conversation to rise above a muffled whisper.