Salesforce Chatter: what a clanger!

Running Cover-it-Live has produced some interesting commentary about this morning's announcement of Salesforce.com Chatter.

Running Cover-it-Live has produced some interesting commentary about this morning's announcement of Salesforce.com Chatter. Best summed up by Nenshad Bardoliwalla:

The length of this keynote has turned "Chatter" into "Splatter" IMHO

A three and a quarter hour keynote marathon, laced with the kind of hyperbole we've come to expect from the IT industry's PT Barnum, Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce.com had dulled even the most ardent Salesforce fan. By the time he got around to introducing Chatter, the once enthusiastic audience were mostly silent. Why the 10,000 faithful in the main room needed a near two hour re-run through SaaS history is beyond me, except to serve as an entree for Benioff to take a dig at Sharepoint. 19,000 registered attendees speaks volumes for how the SaaS industry is where the action is at. Compare that with comparatively meager audiences at similar SAP and Oracle events where getting 60-70% of last years' attendance is considered a positive result.

So we finally got to Chatter, something Benioff introduced as a 'breakthrough' and 'Facebook for the enterprise' as though it is something new. It isn't. Last year, a bunch of us demo'ed ESME at three SAP TechEd's reaching some 12,000 developers. At the time it was an early stage service example designed to be Twitter for enterprise but tuned for the SAP Netweaver environment where content and context meets business process. Then there is Yammer, although that is more stand alone. What I saw this morning was little different on the surface to ESME but with one massive exception. Packaging.

Saesforce.com has done a phenomenal job in packaging up a service that puts context into the real time stream of unstructured data, concentrating on Twitter as a metaphor for its primary iteration. As such it looks slick, polished and delivered with impeccable timing. However, as Mike Krigsman asked during the Q&A, what will Salesforce.com do about the inevitable noise factor generated by Twitter and similar services. The company says it is working on refining that element but having seen something similar coming from Epicor in recent weeks put into a mobile scenario, the answer should already be self evident: filtering and group allocation.

Like others, I have concerns over the choice of product name. Sameer Patel gets it right when he says:

Chatter is as bad a term as Social. Execs will love that

...and made worse when Benioff brought to the stage 'Chattty' a variation on 'SaaSy' the 'no software' badge. This is where I suspect Salesforce.com will run up against a brick wall. The notion of contextualizing random unstructured data coming from the live stream is where I've long felt real collaborative value lays. Deflecting attention to the product name is inevitable. It will resurrect the old problems companies have of reconciling the prospect of wasted time on social networks with real work.

Salesforce.com may well be the poster child for hip and cool apps that bring the consumer experience to the enterprise but it will likely find CXO's baulk at the idea of Chatter as a useful addition to their Salesforce.com environment. Only time will tell whether Salesforce.com marketers have judged this correctly.

UPDATE: the Twitterati have voted:

Furrier RT @dahowlett: RT @kitson @rwang0 RT @siddmishra 'Collaboration cloud' - much better! RT @rwang0: Why not Social Cloud instead of Chatter?