We've seen the future of enterprise software, and it looks more like Facebook on the iPad than Yahoo on the PC."
Now, with my Jetsonesque world-view, I'd love to think that especially since I use Facebook a fair amount and have an iPad which I now officially love and there is evidence that companies that are innovators like salesforce and Apple are thinking about the enterprise in exactly that way. If you saw the announcement of iPhone 4.0 yesterday, business features such as a unified inbox to handle multiple mail accounts will be included as will folder management though I would hardly call these capabilities major enterprise readiness for the iPhone/iPad.
That's an aside, though, interesting as it may be. Facebook on the iPad is less important to me today (not in the future) than Chatter in the enterprise. Even though Chatter is still not released, and as constituted considered a private beta with 500 customers, it is gaining street buzz - and credibility.
Back when Chatter was announced at Dreamforce 2009, I was concerned about it a bit - seeing it's value as a layer of force.com rather than just a standalone app. That's still my concern. Nothing has changed there. I also was worried about the lack of filters for the one truly unique feature of Chatter - the ability to subscribe to any data object in the system - be it a salesforce.com directly created one or another system's - say SAP's supply chain. The lack of filters to me, meant that while you could subscribe to what you wanted, you had no way to get rid of the noise that would also be present - for example, if you subscribed to that supply chain feed to track inventory in a dynamic way on specific items you were selling, you'd have to get everything about the supply chain going on you don't want too.
Well, what makes that interestingly something less of a problem is the salesforce.com partner ecosystem who are developing custom applications for the ChatterExchange - salesforce's sub-exchange for only Chatter related cloud services that their ecosystem created. Two of them reflect the point and why I'm less concerned about the lack of filters (which I KNOW that salesforce is working diligently on anyway, right, dudes?). First, FinancialForce, the ever surprising FinancialForce, released Chatterbox - highly customizable and easily configurable Chatter streams associated with activities that you choose to access and subscribe to. Here's a video for you to get a sense of it.
What makes this interesting is that by having a substantial number of conditions that you can apply to the specific Chatter stream, you are filtering out what you don't want and receiving and responding to what you do want.
Note: FinancialForce is a company to reckon with in the salesforce.com ecosystem. Last week they announced integration with SAP - one of the few in that ecosystem who understands the need to do that.
Another one that shows the verve of the salesforce ecosystem is the ChatterExchange "version" of Studentforce.com. Here are three screenshots. The first is an eText screen of my book as a text without Chatter. The second, the same with chatter and the third a student profile page with Chatter - and a clear resemblance to what Marc Benioff is now calling Facebook for the Enterprise.
First thanks to Ed Schlesinger, creator of Studentforce which remains one of my favorite applications in the salesforce.com ecosystem. Even though the Chatter updates for the CRM at the Speed of Light stream are simple - they exist and that is something unto itself. It would give me a means of tracking all activity involving the book as it happens and a way to respond if need be. This is powerful for a business that's monitoring actions in real time. Super powerful.
Okay, this is the beginning of how Chatter's lack of native filters are being handled. The partners are doing it and showing in cases like Chatterboxes from FinancialForce and in the Studentforce example, that it can be done well. It also treats Chatter the way it should be - as a layer in force.com, not as a standalone anything. Exciting stuff. But again. Its only a start and how it all plays out remains to be seen - but thanks to the partners - there can be peace in the valley once more.