Salesforce is today announcing company communities – a modern take on the intranet approach of old Essentially company communities ties together enterprise content, the applications used within the organization and the people who use them. It’s a take that is entirely consistent with Salesforce’s approach – they’re all about easing communication channels and exposing the right data to the right people. Before I get on to my view of the news, here’s a quick rundown of what’s coming – with communities, organizations will be able to:
- Publish: Publish, review, update and approve content, and even target specific information to colleagues based on roles and profiles
- Find and engage experts: Social profiles for every employee will track their influence and expertise automatically. In addition, employees will be able to collaborate directly with experts or groups through the Salesforce Chatter feed within Company Communities
- Share and collaborate on files: Employees will be able to access, post, share and get feedback on the latest files and knowledge articles to ensure that teams are accessing the most up-to-date information
- Access apps: Company Communities will provide a single place for employees to access all the apps they need to be productive, including Salesforce apps and third party apps
According to Salesforce, Company Communities is currently scheduled to be generally available in the second half of 2013. Pricing for Salesforce Company Communities will be announced at general availability
Earlier this week I spoke at CeBit Australia where I was a guest of Salesforce’s Australian team. While there Peter Coffee, Head of Platform Research at Salesforce interviewed me (video below) and asked me to give some honest critical feedback on what the company could do better. Company communities highlights where my criticisms lie.
It seems to me that as organizations face increasing pressure to innovate and remain agile, they’re looking for tools which wrap a common framework around all their systems of record. While externally facing social stream from customers and prospects are incredibly important, they’re only part of the picture. Indeed this is something that NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson, in a snipe at Salesforce during the recent SuiteWorld event pointed out when he discussed his view that Salesforce is more about prospect management than customer management and that without deep insight into actually transactions, organizations only have half of the picture.
Obviously the reality is more nuanced than that and Salesforce delivers far deeper insights than simply prospect data, but if we look at Company Communities, and Customer Communities as product offerings, they would be far more compelling if they had deep transactional information within them. Now of course the Salesforce response to that is that Chatter is a fabric and organizations can use Chatter as the unifying messaging bus for all their systems of record and, to a point, that is a fair claim. But I sense that Salesforce needs to broaden it’s perspective and product portfolio to dive deeper into the back office – whether that means specific Salesforce ERP or manufacturing offerings it’s too early to tell, but something needs to change in my view. As Salesforce themselves said in the release of Company Communities:
…legacy intranets have failed to deliver similar levels of access or engagement employees demand to complete business tasks anytime and anywhere—from approving time-off requests and accessing the latest travel policies to identifying the right expert within the company.. these intranets are not designed for today’s real-time business environment, where employees need instant access to company information and people to be successful anywhere, from any device.
That instant access to data that employees need covers both internal and external sources – Salesforce has built its amazing business focusing heavily on the latter of those two. I sense it’s time to start delivering a compelling back office message as well.