Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What is This Chatter About a Social Salesforce?

Microsoft have finally launched their international online CRM offering. Here is the Australian press release with information on the international roll-out:

Interestingly, a LinkedIn survey has just been completed that suggests the CRM market is a duopoly:{"section":"results","poll_id":112755}&trk=twitter-polls-vote

Basically, three quarters of the market is already dominated by Dynamics CRM and Salesforce and that is before the international cloud release of Dynamics CRM has had time to get started. This suggestion of a two-horse race is reflected in my own experience where I most often come up against Salesforce when trying to win business. Other CRMs do raise their head but more often than not Salesforce is vying for the business.

So what is Salesforce’s response to Microsoft offering an equivalent cloud product?

"Microsoft still bases its CRM on desktops, proprietary systems and Outlook. That's a snapshot of history — not a social app for today's mobile, open world,"

This is mentioned by CRN (,microsoft-partners-confident-about-salesforce-customer-switch.aspx), ZDNet (, and ITWire (

iTWire suggests it was a spokesperson from the Australian office of Salesforce but how representative this statement was of the company’s thoughts is unclear.

In my opinion the substance of the quote is rubbish. I would be shocked if the majority of Salesforce customers do not use a desktop machine of some kind to access Salesforce’s proprietary software. I would even venture to suggest some are paying for and using Salesforce’s Outlook connector. Similarly Dynamics CRM comes with a basic mobile version built in and there are plenty of third-party mobile clients if the free one falls short.

Interestingly, in a recent presales meeting, where the client had previously met with Salesforce, they talked about how Salesforce appeared to allow a conversation with a customer and referenced Salesforce’s Chatter. Salesforce’s sales team are known for putting on a slick show in presales meetings so I thought I would dig deeper to see if there was any meat in the Salesforce social sandwich.

So What Does it Mean to Be Social Anyway?

My thoughts on this matter have been strongly influenced by the Cluetrain Manifesto. Here is a blog I wrote almost a year ago about what it says about authentic conversations, the not-so-new business of being social and how CRM systems can step up.

Outlook 2010 is certainly socially aware allowing a user to enter their LinkedIn and Facebook information and see similar details about the people they send and receive emails from. Similarly, Live Messenger 2011 now links through to the same and automatically updates statuses across the social platforms as you tweet. They are aware of social applications but I am not sure this is generating authentic conversations with customers. So what about Dynamics CRM?

The above blog article links to the CRM Social accelerator:

and a great five minute overview of how the accelerator lets CRM users ‘tap the conversation’

The bad news is the update by twitter of their authentication method last year broke the accelerator. My understanding is an updated version will be coming out soon for the latest version of Dynamics CRM, which is good to hear. For those that cannot wait the accelerator is free and open source so feel free to hack, as required.

At this level Salesforce offers a similar ability.

Whether it has to do with Salesforce being cloud-native or the fact that Twitter and Facebook have great APIs for developers to hook into really does not matter. The fact is, just like the CRM Social accelerator, you can build similar functionality for Salesforce. Here is Salesforce’s version of the CRM Social accelerator:

It was not clear whether Salesforce charge for their twitter integration but, in terms of functionality, the two offerings appear to me to be  pretty similar.

So What About Chatter?

So if Dynamics CRM and Salesforce have similar capabilities for hooking into social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, what else does Salesforce bring to the table? Is it this Chatter my prospect mentioned?

Here are the introductory videos for Chatter:

This looks like a great tool. It is an internal collaboration tool with the look and feel of Facebook. The closest Microsoft gets to this either SharePoint ( where you can create project sites, collaborate on documents, set up alerts etc. or Groove (now called Microsoft SharePoint Workspace

The best way to describe Groove is a cross between IM and SharePoint; you set up projects, you can chat online about them, you can take documents offline and work on them and you can edit documents real time (none of that checking-in/checking-out business). There are also other, third-party, collaboration sites such as BaseCamp ( which do similar things.

STOP PRESS: Aki Antman has pointed me in the direction of OfficeTalk ( This appears to be an Office skunkworks version of Chatter.

So how much does Chatter cost? Initially Salesforce wanted to charge $50 per user per month ( Either because Salesforce are just really nice guys or because they did not get sufficient take-up of the product, a year later this has now come down to $0 per user per month for Salesforce users and $15 per user per month for non-Salesforce users within an organisation using Salesforce (

If Salesforce are authentic to their ‘open’ standpoint they will provide the ability to hook any CRM into Chatter. I can definitely see the potential of using Dynamics CRM and linking this through to Chatter where organisations do not want to use SharePoint either on-premise or as part of the Office 365 offering .

So Is Salesforce a ‘Social App’?

I started out wondering what makes Salesforce a ‘social app’ and Dynamics CRM a ‘snapshot of history’ and I am still drawing a blank. Chatter is an internal collaboration tool; it does not capture conversations with customers. Perhaps my definition is too narrow but, to me, a social application, and specifically social CRM, is about tapping into the conversations customers and potential customers are having and engaging with those people in a relevant conversation. In this regard we have the Dynamics CRM Social accelerator and the Salesforce Service Cloud twitter integration. No differentiation there.

If we expand the definition of ‘social’ to include internal collaboration, there is no doubt Chatter is a great-looking application but, in terms of functionality, it still does not bring much more to the table, compared to SharePoint and the SharePoint Workspace. In fact, with the cloud version of SharePoint, you can even collaborate with customers, who log on securely with their Live ID. From what I can tell Chatter can only be shared internally. Certainly there is not enough between the products to write one off to the annals of history.

Unfortunately it seems the whole “Salesforce is the future, Microsoft is the past” patter is more sizzle than steak. Both offer cloud CRM solutions, both allow the ability to hook into third party applications, such as Facebook and Twitter, and both have integrated collaboration tools (Chatter for Salesforce and SharePoint for Dynamics CRM).

1 comment:

Leon Tribe said...

Slight edits done to the article. Added a bit on customer collaboration using SharePoint online and added a video of Groove.