Salesforce.com is preparing to release an update to their Social Enterprise platform, Chatter in the upcoming weeks. Chatter is Salesforce.com’s entry into the social portal category, sometimes referred to as enterprise social networks. It provides an activity stream tied to Salesforce.com applications as well as most of the usual Social Enterprise features such as microblogging, file sharing, groups, etc.
One area where Chatter has shown some weakness has been in internal messaging. Salesforce.com previously released an internal messaging feature that was somewhat like internal e-mail. This messaging feature allowed Chatter users to create private message streams between individuals or groups of users from just about any place that you see the name of another user or from the My Messages page.
While the private messaging is a great feature, the absence of a group chat or instant messaging (IM) type facility has always been a black hole in the Chatter feature set. IM helps with on-the-fly collaboration and communication. This lack of an IM feature is not unique to Chatter. Many organizations find themselves using standalone IM products because they don't exist in their social portals. However, recent ESG research shows that more than half of the IM implementations are within social communications suites or portals. Clearly, this is an area where Salesforce.com needed to improve Chatter.
With this release, Salesforce.com gets the messaging equation right. The new Chatter Messenger feature implements a full group IM experience. Chatter Messenger has all the typical IM features such as the ability to exchange messages in real-time with others, either individuals or groups. The IM window (which floats over the Chatter windows) also shows who is logged in and available. In a business environment, the chat window acts as an internal In-Out board, letting others know who is connected and available. What really makes it interesting is the ability to initiate IM sessions from any place you might encounter a reference to another user. You can chat from the user’s profile page, a reference to them in a post on the activity stream, or from a workflow action. This is where the usefulness of IM really shows itself. It is a way to act on something right in front of you through a social interaction.
Chatter Messenger is a bit of catch up on Saleforce.com’s part. They are not the first or only social platform to have this feature. However, the implementation is top notch. That makes it worth waiting for.