70713v3-max-250x250 I’ve always been partly in awe and partly dubious about the way Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff gives… “aspirational” product announcements. On one level, it’s great to get people thinking and envisioning a future, while on another vaporware is just that – unobtainable and frustrating. Just look at his quote about Chatter:

Salesforce Chatter is the most exciting thing I’ve worked on in my career, delivering Chatter is a seminal moment and one that marks the arrival of Cloud 2.

That’s a whole lot of hyperbole in one statement!

When Chatter was first announced back at DreamForce in December it was one of those “ah well, but when will we see it” moments. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. After the December announcement, Chatter was launched to a private beta for 100 companies in February, and this beta trial ultimately expanded to more than 5,000.

Either way it’s now academic for today we have an answer, I was briefed by Kraig Swensurd, SVP Product Marketing who ran me through the information that Salesforce is announcing the general availability of Salesforce Chatter globally for its more than 77,300 customers. Importantly, Salesforce also announced today a new Chatter license for customers to extend the enterprise social network company-wide.

So – how will this release that essentially changes the entire way an organization works with Salesforce? As part of their GA announcement, Salesforce has also announced a new Chatter license to allow Chatter to be adopted all through an organization. With the Chatter-only license, line employees will have the ability to access the following functionality:

  • Profiles
  • Status Updates
  • Real-Time Feeds
  • Content and File-Sharing
  • Groups
  • Ideas
  • Read-only Access to Accounts and Contacts
  • Limited Access to the Force.com Enterprise Cloud Computing Platform

So, what’ll it cost? Chatter is free with all paying user licenses of Salesforce CRM and Force.com. For non Salesforce employees within organizations using Salesforce, Chatter-only licenses are available for $15 per user, per month. Benioff is hyper-positive about Chatter, even going so far as to give the kind of statistics that make software vendors jealous:

Based on the [experience of the beta trial users], 90 percent of participants surveyed indicated they would recommend Chatter to others. Specifically, these customers reported a 27 percent increase in collaboration and a 22 percent improvement in productivity with Chatter.

This is a serious claim, and Benioff will be aware that the success of Chatter is arguably more important than the original success of Salesforce itself. Salesforce was always about defining a new industry and changing the way software was delivered, Benioff’s rhetoric indicates that Chatter is about fundamentally changing the enterprise, and that’s a whole ‘nuther level of challenge.

To help in this adoption, Salesforce is looking to leverage the active Force.com development community suggesting that the 1300 Salesforce partners and 250000 Force.com developers can “now become part of the social enterprise vanguard”. Which is a little chicken and egg – Chatter needs the Force developers to come on board and extend what Chatter can do (look out for a post about one of these use cases coming soon), while those same developers need to see sufficient uptake to motivate them to commit to Chatter. Judging by the positive comments thus far, that may not prove a difficult obstacle to overcome. Already Salesforce is boasting of 60 applications listed on the ChatterExchange , and this is pre-general release. Interestingly Salesforce was talking up a number of ISVs who are building Chatter specific applications, outside of any relationship with the core Salesforce applications.

The signs are looking positive – Chatter has got the press excited but much more importantly, there are enough value generating use-cases and beta products in use today amongst downstream workers to justify some of Benioff’s hyperbole. In the briefing, Swensurd was quick to point out the productivity gains that beta customers have been seeing since they begun using Chatter. Whether Chatter will become the social platform of choice in an unknown – SuccessFactors acquired CubeTree to do it themselves, which the independents – Jive, Yammer et al are hoping that they’re platform agnostic approach will win.

Only time will tell who will win this battle – for know Salesforce is one up, at least for hype.





Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.


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