I am supposed to be finishing up a slide deck for a conference speech I am giving (which was due on Friday) and also extending invites to customers for SugarCon (maybe if some of you readers register I can kill at least two birds here – please?). But in my usual scatterbrained manner I was checking out my blog reader and came across a few things that got me sidetracked.
The first was the fact that Salesforce.com has made its Chatter beta available – only three months after it was announced at Dreamforce. (Does anyone ever actually debut software or devices the day people can actually get them? I mean, does anyone have an iPad yet?) The tools are part of what the company calls its “Collaboration Cloud.” Cute.
I get the concept, and I like it. But I think Salesforce misses the mark here. For one, all CRM apps are collaboration tools. It is just that as Facebook and other platforms have proven, there are more simple ways to collaborate in the 2.0 world. Chatter has most of what is needed to do this – feeds, profiles, etc.
But what is the benefit of making an enterprise wide collaboration tool embedded into your CRM system? How can this span departments when only sales people use the CRM? How can this internal and expensive tool be pushed to customers to enable that fable mix of enterprise 2.0 and social CRM?
The answer? I don’t know. Or at least, I don’t know how a customer could do it without being really overcharged for their CRM deployment. Yes, Chatter and other “cool” tools make a CRM sticky. But it also seems ridiculous to spend a significant amount of money to merge 2.0 collaboration tools with your CRM system for an additional fee (or a fee for the non-CRM users that want to be part of cross-departmental collaboration). What I mean is – collaboration is boundary-less, and traditional CRM systems are all about boundaries: from user-level security, team hierarchies, and simply being based on relational databases – boundaries rule CRM. Next generation social and enterprise 2.0 tools should be the opposite.
There are a lot of platforms and tools out there doing stuff like Chatter: Jive, Lithium and even cool tools to analyze the interactions happening in, around and about your company or brand such as Radian 6. These products are dedicated to collaboration, engagement and measurement of your internal and external interactions, and can be integrated where needed with a CRM.
To boot, there are also some very cool Chatter-like tools coming out that can even be access and trialed for free, such as CubeTree (just checked it out and it is very cool and very easy to use).
Look, I get the need for application stickiness (I should note that SugarCRM has pretty much the same tools that Chatter offers and has had them for a year – Sugar feeds, myPortal Dashlets, Cloud Connectors etc. – but we don’t charge for them). But when driving cool factor and driving adoption becomes more of a cash squeeze than a user enablement and success tool, I have to cry foul.
Unless your collaboration and social media tools become a way of enhancing CRM processes in a meaningful way and not simply a method to “sell more seats,” then we won’t see much progress in melding traditional and social CRM any time soon.