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September 30, 2010


Where next for Salesforce Chatter? My two cents…

by AlanSBPerkins

Salesforce has released an internal collaboration context that beautifully leverages the power of the cloud. When I first saw chatter I was excited by the ability of people to subscribe to objects – more on that later. What surprised me was how many people rave about how good it is. Mostly, from what I can see, people seem to use it for person to person communication, and for this it has some interesting possibilities.

For example, sales teams are able to share tips or presentations they have done in some vertical industry so that other sales reps facing a challenge in that industry can learn from their experience. “Selling to an ENTJ? no problem here is my approach.”

When Marc Benioff recently made his comment about the question that drove him to start (Why aren’t more enterprise applications more like Amazon), and how now that question has evolved to Why aren’t more enterprise applications more like Facebook, I realised something important about all these new ways of collaborating – Ning, Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, WordPress and many others – they all deal with allowing people to publish a range of information in various facets of their lives, and it allows people to subscribe to those facets. Take Facebook as an example. People choose to post information about their social lives in the form of photos taken at parties, upcoming events, social news etc. People choose to participate in various games where they grow virtual pets or plants and collaborate. People choose to support various causes. As publishers, each of us choose to display all sorts of things in the hope that someone will find it interesting or valuable. As subscribers, we each choose to set up an antenna to learn what a particular person is saying, or what is happening relating to a particular favourite topic, perhaps a musician, perhaps a company.

This notion of publishing and subscribing is core to the notion of Chatter, but to see it as merely a closed-circuit means to publish and subscribe to information from human beings is to miss the mark somewhat because Chatter also allows business objects to participate in the freeflow of information. Human beings can choose to subscribe to certain objects.

So let’s say you are a sales manager managing a team of 5 field sales executives. You want to know how they are progressing on a number of important opportunities, perhaps a dozen in all. You can subscribe to those opportunities directly to find out if anything changes on the opportunities – a feed is provided to you and these opportunities will place information into your feed to let you know something has changed about them – perhaps the close date has changed, or the probability of closure. Perhaps the amount of the opportunity has been modified. This puts you very close to the action so you know what is going on.

This is all available today, and it is not limited to opportunities – what about an important, complex case your team is working on for a VIP customer? You can subscribe to the case to receive information about its status. Even custom objects can participate in this world.

This is all well and good but there are some really compelling things that Chatter requires to make it truly successful in my opinion: metadata based subscription and non-event subscription.

“Metawhat??”, I hear you say? Metadata is data that describes the shape of your data – let me give a few practical examples. Currently, Chatter requires you to subscribe to specific objects, for example Opportunity number 123456. You look at all your data and you choose which records will interest you. But how much more powerful would it be if you could automatically subscribe to objects based on preconfigured parameters? Here are some illustrative examples:

  • You want to automatically subscribe to every opportunity worth more than $50000 owned by someone who reports to you.
  • You want to automatically subscribe to every opportunity for a customer who has never purchased anything from you.
  • You want to automatically subscribe to any cases logged by any VIP customer with platinum support where the renewal contract is due within three months.
  • You want to automatically subscribe to opportunities where the amount is more than one standard deviation above last month’s average closed won price, is managed by one of your team members, and the customer is a new logo.

Another important offering that I feel would take Chatter to a whole new level is the addition of objects being able to chatter non events. Imagine being able to ask an urgent case for an important customer to let you know if it hasn’t been touched for six hours… Or an strategic opportunity has not been updated for more than two days.

These changes would make Salesforce Chatter very much more effective than it already is. Without them it is just another corporate collaboration tool.

In my next post I plan to talk about the next evolution of these concepts, something my company, Altium, is busy working towards – the Facebook of Devices, the Internet of Things, if you will. This is where we take the publisher subscriber model to an entire new level – devices intelligently collaborating with other devices.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 1 2010

    Hi Alan – you might want to take a look at the ChatterBox app from – it delivers exactly that “metadata” or rules based subscription capabilities you describe. See .

    • Oct 1 2010

      Thanks for the comment Kevin, much appreciated. This is a fantastic start and will go a long way to address some of the issues I mention, but from what I can see from the demonstrations, I don;t think it takes it far enough. I think a key capacity is the ability to subscribe based on aggregations of all sorts – sums, means, standard deviations, counts etc.

      I really like the fact that you can do time-based subscription, for example based on deals to close this quarter, overdue balances etc, where the time component is dynamic.

      Feel free to correct me if I have missed this functionality.

      The chattering on non-events is also crucial I feel.

  2. Oct 1 2010

    Of course, imitation is the highest from of flattery. We are also working toward this same type of goal, adding the integration as a service flair.


  3. Oct 1 2010

    Yes I like the idea of rules based on aggregations – very powerful and I’ll certainly feed that back to the Development team. I think with custom calculations on the target object or use of analytical snapshots to generate the summaries on custom objects some of what you describe is achievable now but I agree defining those queries in the rules engine itself would be really powerful.

  4. Oct 1 2010

    The Advantages of salesforce chatter and beyond….my two cents

    Efficiency and productivity gains of salesforce chatter are obvious and should give organizations plenty of reasons to start using it.
    What I find where the real opportunity is and what should be breaking news, is the , unexpected side-effects that comes with Chatter.
    Recently Marc Benioff mentioned at Cloudforce in London that after using chatter internally, it gave him a lot of new insights in his organization :
    “It’s given me a new view of what’s going on in the company,” said Benioff. “I can go through and see what employees are saying, what collaborations are happening, what product leaders are saying – I can get a whole view of what’s happening.”
    Benioff said he had identified a “secret network” of employees who were influential in driving the business.

    “In customer support, a lot of people escalate [work] but there are very few who close cases,” said Benioff. “It’s mostly bureaucrats and politicians who have climbed their way to the top of the organisation. [Chatter] has exposed a private network, and turns the company into a meritocracy. We’re changing the compensation systems to reflect the folks who are really making a difference.”

    This is exactly where the real opportunity is. In too many organizations, too many people (often managers ) are not really contributing, often even mainly busy managing their jobs. Loads of other people are doing their job on “automatic pilot” , not even caring about using their real capabilities anymore. ( payed according what Thornton May calls ABC compensation: attendance based…. )
    In our highly competitive world, it becomes crucial for organizations, recognizing and compensating the people that really make a difference. Very often it are people what I like to call “craftsman”, do-ers.
    Seth Godin made it clear in his book ”Linchpin” : successful organizations are paying for people who make a difference and are shedding everyone else.

    Chatter can help organisations doing this !

    This is where I see the real value of chatter is !!!
    ( Hope to be able to sell chatter one day-looking for a job as I quit mine , anyone at salesforce reading ?

    Peter Daneels -Belgium-

  5. Andreas Spanner
    Nov 10 2010

    Hi Alan,
    Thanks for your post.

    If I understand you correctly you are talking about customized business rules on a per user-subscription basis.

    What do you think about this?

    Happy to catch up for a quick coffee to get your thoughts on this.


    • Nov 10 2010

      Hi Andy,

      I read the article; it sounds promising. I am heavily focused on a major software release at the moment (hence no posts for five weeks!) But I will look forward to meeting you for coffee once things settle down a bit. I assume you are Sydney based?

      • Andreas Spanner
        Nov 10 2010

        Hi Alan,

        Yes, I am Sydney based.
        Your PA has my details.
        Looking forward to catching up a bit later then.

        Good luck with the software release!

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