Salesforce.com has unveiled a new social enterprise platform designed to connect everyone from customers to employees to resellers.
Salesforce Communities is basically an offshoot of Chatter but with many more possibilities for public forums, such as a helpdesk, and private communities for collaboration between sales partners. The platform is 100 percent cloud-based, and Salesforce touts that it is deployable within minutes.
Doug Bewsher, senior vice president of marketing for Salesforce Chatter, explained via telephone on Monday that the inspiration for Communities was a "natural question" that stems from Chatter.
Essentially, he asked, how do we break beyond the barriers of an organization, and how do you you bring partners to collaborate on business processes in real-time?
Bewsher posited that we have two options right now. The first option is community forums with possibly millions of people crowd-sourcing questions at once, which doesn't have much business integration. The second option consists of legacy enterprise portals for checking up on bills and balances, but he argued this then lacks social interactions.
Thus, Salesforce Communities is designed to bridge the gap between social and business processes all in one place: customers, employees, partners -- virtually any stakeholder you want.
Of course, that then means these outside partners need access to the Salesforce communities -- even if they are not Salesforce customers.
In the case of public forums, this doesn't present much of a problem as a Salesforce Community can be set up as an FAQ page or forum that that could require self-registration or not.
In the case of private communities that involve much more sensitive information related to transactions and such, then then community managers can set up an invite-only model.
"People see only the information they are allowed to see, and nothing more," said Dave King, senior director of Chatter Product Marketing at Salesforce.com.
Describing transformative across sales, service and marketing, Bewsher added that premise here is to bring anyone into the community if they're vital to collaboration on a particular project.
Salesforce Communities is headed into limited pilot mode for select customers today with general availability expected to open up next year.
Furthermore, Bewsher confirmed that Salesforce Communities will be a big focus at Salesforce's annual expo Dreamforce 2012 in San Francisco this September.