Dreamforce: Benioff's Facebook envy spawns the Collaboration Cloud

Dreamforce: Benioff's Facebook envy spawns the Collaboration Cloud

Marc Benioff knows more about what Ashton Kutcher does than what some of his customers are doing
Salesforce Chatter is intended to bring a new paradigm for enterprise collaboration

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff knows more about Ashton Kutcher than what his customers are getting up to. There has to be another way! And now there is: Salesforce Chatter - the Collaboration Cloud.

No-one would ever accuse Marc Benioff of ever knowingly underselling any announcement from Salesforce.com. So it's not surprising anyone at the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco when he walks out on stage to declare:  “We're going to open a door and walk through it to look at the future!” 

It was a typically bravura declaration – later beefed up further to become “a sacred time” - but one that might at first seemed disconnected with the delegate giveaway goodie on everyone's seat – a pair of plastic false teeth with the Salesforce.com  logo branded on it. But what do teeth do? They chatter. And so too does Salesforce.com courtesy of its 'big idea' for 2009: Salesforce Chatter. 
So what is Salesforce Chatter? Essentially it's enterprise collaboration meets social networking. The reasoning is that while social networks have provided consumers with a new way to gain insights into what's happening in the world, enterprise collaboration is almost non-existent because content, apps and people are disconnected and not part of the same conversation. 
“The power and movement in social computing over the past ten years has been spectacular,”  explained Benioff.  “It started with Ray Ozzie and Lotus Notes. I was blown away when I first saw that. Others followed like Novell with GroupWise and other technologies. The next big leap was the intranet when we had a private network within our companies where we could collaborate. But all of that was eclipsed by the next generation of the collaboration players. You have to stop in awe at the technology and technologists who have created Facebook and Twitter. Those two stand out by themselves as phenomena. Between them they are approaching half a billion users. We are in awe of that.”

Knowing Ashton Kutcher
Benioff said that Salesforce.com's vision was inspired by his own social computing use. “I have used Facebook and Twitter. I do amazing things on my Facebook page,” he said. “I've been trying to understand the magic of Facebook and Twitter. I have this tremendous community and I try to work with them. I'll be working on an ad and I'll put it on the Facebook page and I get comments. The content comes alive and goes beyond anything I could imagine. Everyone is participating in the network. What came to my attention was I'm pretty productive with this. I'm getting a whole lot of stuff done for a whole lot of nothing.”
But all this changes once he gets to the office. “At work I have great content, apps and people, but all dis-intermediated. I don't have the power of Facebook or Twitter in the enterprise,” he argued. “This elicits the fundamental question that is so simple. We have to ask why is there not a Facebook for the enterprise? Why do I know more about strangers on Facebook than I do about the employees in my own company? I understand more about what is happening to the community on Facebook. 
“I know when my friends go to the movies, but I don't know when my VP of sales has gone to visit a key customer or account. I know when I've been tagged in a photo on Facebook, but not when a key document I've been working with has been updated. Why is there not a Twitter for the enterprise? I knew more about Ashton Kutcher yesterday than I knew about what was happening in my customers. That's a bit weird. Something is wrong. Once again we've been eclipsed by the consumer. Back in 1996 at Oracle I was using Amazon for the first time and asking why can't all business applications be like this. It's happened again.”
Benioff urged his audience that it's time to throw off the paradigm of Lotus Notes that is now decades old. “We have done the integrations with Facebook and Twitter over the past few years, but it has irked us because we knew something has to change,” he said. “That's taken us to our biggest breakthrough ever – Salesforce Chatter. It's something very very simple – the magic of Facebook and Twitter brought to your enterprise, the magic of content, apps and people brought into the real time enterprise.”
Collaboration in the Cloud
This is the first step towards the Collaboration Cloud. Chatter is also an Enterprise Social Computing Platform which is intended to enable the 200,000 Force.com developers to build custom social apps with Salesforce Chatter. It includes pre-built social components that developers can add to new or existing native Force.com apps. 
Benioff argues that all 135,000 custom apps built on the Force.com platform can now be be made social. In addition, Salesforce.com has eaten its own dog food with its own core product offerings. SalesCloud 2 is already built on Chatter and ServiceCloud 2 has been rebuilt on Chatter. We have repositioned Customer Relationship Management to be Collaboration Relationship Management,” said Benioff. 
So is this the “sacred time” Benioff promised? "Salesforce Chatter is a true breakthrough, bringing social computing to the enterprise," said Bruce Richardson of research firm AMR. "Salesforce.com has created a Facebook for the enterprise by combining real-time, familiar social networking features like profiles and feeds, with the enterprise-tested, secure sharing model required by businesses that is the at the foundation of salesforce.com. This is going to change the way business thinks about collaboration."

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