Salesforce.com's Social Enterprise Vision Will Cost You - InformationWeek

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9/1/2011
10:05 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Salesforce.com's Social Enterprise Vision Will Cost You

Looking beyond CRM, the cloud-computing pioneer says it's crucial for companies to build a social-network-savvy enterprise. And, oh by the way, there's a license for that.

Salesforce.com CEO Mark Benioff is one of those aspirational leaders who always focuses on the next vision, both for his company and yours.

In his speeches he places his company at the center of epic, industrywide movements, like the shift from on-premises software to software as an online service. He weaves a compelling yarn, and you invariably start to think of your company as being on the same journey.

It's no different here at this week's Dreamforce event in San Francisco, where Benioff's vision is all about the "social enterprise." On Wednesday he extolled 45,000 registered attendees of the event to join the movement.

He pointed to the role social networks played in bringing about an "Arab Spring" that has seen dictators fall in part due to the power of digitally connected masses. He warned that a "Corporate Spring" is coming for companies that fail to listen to employees and customers--constituents who are letting their feelings be known every day on the leading social networks.

Of course, Salesforce.com has been investing heavily in the tools and technologies needed to create a social enterprise, whether by connecting them to customers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or delivering access to those networks and to Salesforce itself via smartphones, tablets, or PCs.

To those who still think of Salesforce.com as a provider of software-as-a-service-based CRM, Benioff and his lieutenants presented a company that wants to be on a much bigger stage. To promote the use of its broad and growing portfolio of technologies, it's offering a new Social Enterprise License Agreement offering all-you-can-use terms.

Salesforce is not saying how much the new approach will cost, but here's a peek at some of the social enterprise capabilities that go well beyond CRM.

How To Become A Social Enterprise

To make the social enterprise journey seem approachable, Benioff presented a simple, three-step process. Step one is to develop a social profile of your customers, meaning a customer database that tries to capture what they're saying about your brand and products on social networks.

This step can't happen overnight (or without winning a customer's trust and permission), but Benioff pointed to the company's Database.com infrastructure and Data.com (formerly Jigsaw) contact data services as a good starting point. He also introduced a Database.com Data Residency Option that lets companies choose to keep their data in their own data centers while still working with Salesforce apps.

Database.com and Data.com have supported Salesforce's CRM services, but creating a social-savvy customer database is a bigger calling that will demand more services: storage space, customer-data-enrichment, data cleansing, lists, and more. These are all available Database.com and Data.com services.

Step two is to develop an employee social network. That's where the Chatter collaboration app comes in. Salesforce says that pretty much all of its customers are using Chatter, but it won't say how many are paying $15 per user, per month extra for the Chatter Plus edition of the service.

As I detailed in yesterday's coverage, Salesforce has announced a number of Chatter upgrades here at Dreamforce. This list includes Chatter Now presence-awareness and screen sharing; Chatter Connect API-integration to third-party apps (including Chatter for SharePoint); and Chatter Customer Groups, an opening up of the platform to partners and customers.

All these upgrades are aimed at encouraging more adoption and making the app stickier. But it's apparent that not many customers want to tack on yet more per-user, per-month fees (or else they'd be talking about it, right?). More on that when we get to the licensing discussion.

The third step to creating a social enterprise is to build customer social networks and product social networks. This is about creating Facebook, Twitter and other network presences for your brands and products and then bringing all the feedback you gain back into your company's customer database.

In this vein, Salesforce announced a Chatter Service offering, set for release early next year, that will let you associate Facebook and Twitter comments with your customer database social profiles (so long as customers agree to share their information, that is).

Harvesting social network comments is where Salesforce.com's Radian6 acquisition comes in. This company's analytic and unstructured-data filtering capabilities will effectively become ETL-like middleware for the social enterprise, according Alexandre Dayon, Salesforce.com's executive vice president of applications. That is, it will extract and transform brand- and product-relevant data from social networks and load it into your social customer profiles.

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