At today's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco today, Salesforce announced the release of Chatter Free, a no-fee version that opens the social messaging platform to any employee - even those whose roles in the company don't require a Salesforce license.
It's a big move for Salesforce - not only because it extends the Facebook-like, Twitter-like feature in Salesforce to everyone within a company but also provides an opportunity to see how the service can be used outside of the typical departments, notably sales.
The company has boasted its growth numbers with Chatter since rolling it out to general availability earlier this year. In that time, more than 60,000 companies have deployed it.
At a smaller session Tuesday, a group of customers came together to talk about how Chatter has changed how work is being done. For example, Joe Drouin, CIO of Kelly Services, talked about how conversations are erupting among people working in different parts of the world. He said details of company events have been shared on Chatter by a blogger posting live information to the global employees, bringing them further into the loop and breaking down silos. And now, the company is rolling out the service to every employee - following in the footsteps of companies like Dell, which have already rolled out the service throughout the enterprise.
What was especially interesting was to hear the customers talk about the significance of Chatter when it comes to collaboration within the organization. Some spoke of launching Chatter as an experimental service and getting immediate feedback from employees who were worried that the experiment would end. Others suggested that an employee without access to Chatter is like having an employee without access to e-mail - unable to communicate and collaborate in real-time.
Speaking of email, the customers agreed that email isn't necessarily being replaced by Chatter but that some of the email has been displaced by the use of Chatter - and actually increased productivity. Sure, in some ways - sharing files, for example - companies are finding that Chatter is better than email.
It's not hard to imagine, after all. Think about how Facebook has impacted your own use of personal e-mail. I can't tell you the last time I attached photos to an email to share with my friends and family. But this week alone, I've probably uploaded 2-3 pictures to Facebook and engaged in conversations with people about those pictures, people that I might not have included in the email in the past.
And the same goes with photos that have been shared with me - without bogging down my email account capacity.