Turning the Guns Towards Redmond – #df10 #e20

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It takes stones the size of King Kong to point your guns in the direction of Microsoft, but I believe that is exactly what Salesforce did yesterday when they announced Chatter Freemium.

Of course, Marc Benioff has some big stones.  He took on Siebel and kicked their ass pretty good and they, at one point, were the big ape on the block.

A lot of people immediately quipped how this was going to be devestating for Yammer (here, here, here), but really, the real enemy for Salesforce is SharePoint, not Yammer. 

First of all, when you choose a competitor, you don’t pick the smallest, newest kid on the block, which is what Yammer is.  You pick the biggest, baddest mo-fo around, and in the case of collaboration software, it is SharePoint (see Behind the Cloud on how SFDC picks competitors).  Not only is SharePoint the biggest and baddest (worst?), but it is also the antithesis of what Salesforce is all about. SharePoint is big, clunky software that is hard to install, expensive to manage, impossible to keep current and no one likes it.

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Get it?

Here is the real issue – everyone bitches about adoption of SharePoint.  Everyone knows that no one uses it because it is a nightmare.  CIO magazine writes:

80 percent of respondents with SharePoint access continue e-mailing documents back and forth, even though SharePoint software was designed to prevent this clunky process.

That is embarassing, but MSFT doesn’t care because they either give a huge discount because their customers are on an enterprise license or they promise the world and that it will all be fixed in the next point release.

You know what doesn’t have an adoption problem?  Salesforce.  Most companies say “hey, if you want to get paid, you have to use Salesforce”.  They say it to the sales team, the marketing team & the support team.  It is an easy way to encourage adoption.  If your opportunity isn’t in Salesforce, you won’t get paid on it.  If your working a case and you want to get paid, make sure it is in Salesforce.  Try that with SharePoint and you’ll have a mutiny on your hands.

Added bonus – once you get those teams on board, teams like Finance, who need to see that the deals are there and Product, who need to help with support all fall in line and use the system too.

No adoption problems there.  Where you do have a problem is in things like finding people, having a quick conversation, editing a proposal or building a team to work on an RFI.  These are all business processes that would have historically happened in SharePoint, but along comes Chatter, which does, per TechCrunch:

  • Profiles
  • Status Updates
  • Real-Time Feeds
  • File Sharing
  • Groups
  • Filters
  • Invitations
  • Chatter Mobile
  • Chatter Desktop

To me, that sounds an awful lot like what SharePoint has done in the past with more social functionality than SP2010 has to offer, plus faster development cycles and a more supportive development channel.

While I’m not predicting the immenent demise of SharePoint, I do believe that SFDC has a great opportunity to strike a massive blow to an important piece of the MSFT picture.

 

Am I crazy? Is this right on?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments and tell me what you think.

What’s With All The Chatter?

There seems to be a trend happening in software / technology these days. We’ve gotten way out of control announcing products way before they are baked in an attempt to generate press and build FUD in a way that didn’t happen just a few years ago.Microsoft is guilty, announcing planned features in SharePoint 2010 almost a year before it is scheduled to ship.  Google announced Wave 2 months before developers could get their hands on it and who knows when it will be publicly available.  Today, Salesforce.com announced Chatter, a social integration tool that will turn water to wine and cram 10 pounds of productivity into a 5 pound bag. At least according to Marc Benioff during his keynote today. The downside of this miracle cure is that, like SP10 and Wave, it won’t be available until some undefined date way in the future.I’ve been hearing rumors about SFDC doing something cool around enterprise collaboration for a few weeks. I have to admit, my speculation was that they were going to announce a partnership to integrate with Google Wave.  The first announcements made Chatter sound like it was simple integration / Twitter-esque clone built on top of SFDC.After reading Charlene Li’s post, though, I’m intrigued about where this will go.  Some of her key points were:

Enterprise apps get social–and smart. This is more than merely integrating Twitter-like functionality into CRM and creating “social CRM”. This is a rethink and elevation of how information flows around an organization, and where it lives. The elevation of deals to be on the same level as people is significant — in every other social platform, people reign supreme and the world pivots around them. Look for social CRM providers like Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, and many others to open up their platforms as well.

And:

This means your enterprise app will be “adopting” social technologies, moving away from sending notifications via email (and cluttering up your inbox) and instead, sending updates just like everyone else on your team into the news stream.  Essentially, your enterprise app will be “tweeting”, with it’s own “profile” and Chatter updates aggregated into one place.

This is pretty interesting and something that we’ve been working on for sometime at Socialtext.  On the one hand, SFDC will be a formidable competitor in the market place.  On the other, they are still 5 – 8 months from delivering anything in the best of circumstances.Also, there is still a level of acceptance that will need to be overcome.  Many of the CIO’s that I speak with are still skeptical of having tons of data in the cloud.  Salesforce brags that in 2011, 25% of apps will be in the cloud.  Simple math, but that means that 3/4 will still be on premise.  And let’s face it, most sales reps don’t use SFDC the way they should so paying $50 a month for a glorified contact management system beats hell out of a seven figure Siebel implementation.  It will be interesting to see what kind of acceptance having deal status and team interactions in the cloud will get. From what I’ve seen, it is cool if a small group is doing it, but when a big enough contingent of employees has conversations in the cloud, it makes everyone nervous.The second question that I have is around the level of integration.  They are currently promising a pie in the sky picture of this integration where everything is updating everything, but they haven’t explained anything at all about which apps this will work with (outside Salesforce) and what it won’t (assuming Oracle) nor have they gone into the security of having certain things shared and others not.  Don’t get me started on how this will map to a company’s archiving policy.Selling social software is hard.  I’ve often said that this is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had.  I’m excited about SFDC getting into the market.  I love the competition and it will raise the level of customer acceptance to another level. It’s another endorsement. And we could all use that.Other posts about Chatter:

What do you think? Will Chatter change the way you work, will it be a blip on your radar or will it just be mindless chatter? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

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More on Getting Smart People to Share

I spend a lot of my time talking with organizations about how to encourage adoption of social media tools amongst their employees.  Lately, the conversation seems to have turned to why it is hard to get smart people to share their ideas, thoughts, brainstorms & suggestions via social media.The general feeling is that older workers are going to be less inclined to use these types of tools, but it isn’t just the baby boomers.  It is entire organizations.  Moving from email and siloed data stores to a global collaboration platform is a significant cultural change.  It is a change for the better, though, and as more people recognize the efficiencies of social media in their personal lives, the more they will bring it with them into the workplace.But how do you get smart people to share? A lot of people question the tools and say things like ‘Oh the boomers will never use this stuff.’ I don’t really buy that.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that my 85-year old, stroke inflicted grandfather would learn to juggle chain saws on hot coals if it meant that the croquet players stayed off of his grass tennis courts .  It isn’t the tools.Don’t get me wrong, a shitty tool can significantly impact adoption, but I’ve seen how SharePoint gets adopted and things don’t get much worse than that. So it isn’t the tool.What is it?The problem isn’t the tools.  The problem is a lack of goals (or too tightly defined goals) and a lack of passion.Collaboration without a goal = FAIL .  I’ve seen people spend countless hours sharing ideas and trading stories in everything from NFL chat rooms to cancer support centers.  Sharing is in our DNA.Goals around collaboration are difficult to define and people love independence. If you need me to go to the supermarket and pick up chicken breasts for dinner tonight, no problem.  We will have chicken breasts in the house before our general dinner time.  I have a goal and some general direction and flexibility.  Now, if you tell me that I need to go to WholeFoods, on Bascom, and give me turn by turn instructions and explain that you only want free range organic chickens that are massaged by eunuch monks once a week, I’ll probably just go to the local Safeway and grab Foster Farms because, hey, chicken is chicken.Goals for collaboration in your organization are the same way.  People in your company collaborate today.  Don’t believe me, ask people what they are doing for lunch.  Odds are, they will go out together and come up with great ideas on how to make things better in your company.  They will talk amongst themselves and nothing will ever get done, because these people don’t have the outlet or direction to share these awesome ideas.In order to get people to collaborate, using social media, you just need to get them going.  Give them tools that are easy to use and a clear goal of what success looks like (go get chicken for dinner) and let them go.  You will be amazed at what forms.  A deeper sense of trust, unique communities and a culture that continues to foster a sense of trust and sharing.Goals for collaboration shouldn’t as ambiguous as ‘I want my team to collaborate and magical stuff will happen to our bottom line’. Likewise, they shouldn’t be so directed as people just think that it is another corporate standard that will waste their time.  If you want someone’s opinion or ideas, generally, all you need to do as ask.  Social media provides a great opportunity to develop that conversation between all of your employees.A different problem is passion.  People must have a level of passion for success of their community, their department, their company for enterprise social media to succeed.  If they don’t have this passion, why bother? It is the ‘What’s in it for me’ element to collaboration.  As a company, as an employer, as a person, it is your duty to ensure that your team has a passion for what they are working on.A partner can’t give your team this passion.  This has to come from within.  The good news is that passion breeds passion and passion is addictive.  Starting an internal book club social network let’s people share ideas and discuss books that are of common interest to them (passion).  They are dipping their toes in the water.  Can they develop a similar passion for a project that they are working on?  Maybe not everyone, but if one person is passionate about a topic enough to set up a community to make her voice be heard, that is a community that will be successful.What is the takeaway?Good Tools + Defined Goals + Passion = SuccessWhat do you see as the success factors for social media at your company?  Leave me a comment.Alan Lepofsky was crucial in developing this post.  Thanks, Alan.

A Revolt Is Coming

Sam Lawrence’s post last week reminded me of the push back that I got selling Y! Enterprise Messenger a number of years ago.It is a great satirical post on the reactions that companies have had to collaborative technologies throughout the recent history finishing on social software. It specifically struck a chord with me today as I was on a call with a prospect who was concerned about her employees spending too much time reading and commenting on corporate blogs. She explained that the perception was that reading the same message in email was productive but that reading it in a blog was a waste of time. Huh?It was one of those days.The major difference in selling IM vs. social software is that IM had one competitor – whatever free version of IM that the company had informally standardized on. Social software has competitors for everything that you want to do.  There are free blog platforms; there are free wikis; there are close to free project management systems; there are free social networks, there is free Twitter.  There seems to be a free or close to free alternative for everything that Socialtext, SharePoint or Connections can throw out there.Free is awesome for the consumer, but it isn’t so hot when it is an unsanctioned product behind your firewall or when confidential company data is out in the open.  The challenge, as an IT professional, is implementing these technologies in a sanctioned manner before grass roots efforts, with multiple solutions crop up all over your company.Based on what I’ve seen, the grass roots efforts are dominating this war.  The knee jerk reaction from IT will be to attempt block these services at the firewall, at which point it will be too late.  Employees will find that these services are too valuable and they can’t live without them.  That is when you will have your revolt.