Techcrunch has a very interesting guest post from Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce on the inspiration behind their new collaboration suite “Salesforce Chatter“. Benioff resigned from Oracle to start Salesforce as a result of his dissatisfaction with enterprise software; a sector which has traditionally been slow to adopt new technology. This is understandable when you think of the effort that was required to install software on tens of thousands of machines in an office network, but something that has gradually changed now that hosted services are reliable and secure.
The basis of Salesforce Chatter seems to be in bringing some of the ideas behind facebook, twitter, and similar social services to enterprise software. I wrote about a similar concept (bring game mechanics to ‘serious’ software) a while ago. I think the opportunity here is huge.
Enterprise software development is generally driven by directly solving issues within the direct problem domain and rarely do these sorts of social ideas get traction beyond mimicking an email system within software. At some point in time every enterprise system I’ve worked on has had an email system shoe-horned into it, and it has failed in every case. People already have email, it’s not of any benefit to have a separate system to do the same thing.
However, this sort of “soft” collaboration is unobtrusive and very useful. It builds on network effects to grab information from outside the user’s direct circle. Salesforce may be one of the first to offer these sorts of services, but they definitely won’t be the last – Social media may just have crossed the chasm.