Here is a link to one of the most intelligent things I believe has been said about the Enterprise 2.0 / Enterprise Social Networking / Enterprise Collaboration space yet … and it was written by a blogger who’s expertise is in CRM intelligence and strategy! It is well worth a read – Why Chatter Matters – and it is about Salesforce.com’s recent announcement of Chatter (coverage here and here)within it’s Force.com platform. Note – Chatter will not be released until the Spring of 2010.
The point Esteban makes in his blog post is that collaboration is infrastructure, and the industry should stop looking for an ROI for this stuff. I think it is great advice. How many buyers have calculated the ROI of email? Yet, I would submit that (until recently) most of us would say that email makes us more productive. Moreover, most of us would go further to say we could not do our jobs without email! No ROI calculations are done on this, yet a ton of money has been spent on Exchange and other email systems and servers over the years, and the dollars continue to flow there.
Let’s move on to core collaboration. Here is a decent demo of a collaborative application built on Force.com by Appirio using the new Chatter capability within Force.com. It is a good example of how a traditional application such as Professional Services Automation can become a collaborative application. Notice the contextual information flow to the user while they are in the application doing their job. Also, note the ability to directly engage other people relevant to the work the person is doing from within the application. This is a different way of working … working collaboratively. Notice that the user did not have to jump out of his workstream to send any emails. The user did not have to open a spreadsheet or download any attachments. Everything was handled within the application, including collaborating with team members, and the relevant information flowed in and out directly to the relevant people and applications.
Now we all know that enterprises have massively complex computing environments, and that not every application is doing to be running on Force.com. So, Chatter can address collaboration within the Force.com ecosystem, but other infrastructure will need to emerge to enable collaborative capability within the other applications across each enterprise computing landscape (ones that include and do not include Force.com) to drive these benefits. The broader point is this capability – this social computing capability (profiles, status updates, activity streams, intelligent listening and filtering, policy management and compliance, group collaboration, conversations, etc.) – is infrastructure, and is necessary infrastructure. We need to stop obsessing about the ROI. As enterprises adopt collaboration in the way they work and provide their people with collaborative applications that enable work to be done as in the demo above, this capability will move from being “nice to have” to a necessity. Like email, enterprises will not be able to survive without it. The bigger question is whether your enterprise be among the first to adopt and reap the benefits of this new collaborative capability, or will it delay and fall behind its competition.