Like just about everyone else, SalesForce is pushing "community" these days. It's latest update -- announced today -- concentrates on sharing content and ideas and letting developers build better user interfaces."Web 2.0." "Enterprise 2.0." "User-Generated Content (UGC)." "Sharing."
These days, it's all about "community," and Salesforce -- which built its business on Software as a Service -- seems to be trying to invent "community as a service."
Al Falcione, Salesforce's senior director of product marketing, says most of the 50 new features Salesforce Summer 08 -- the company's 26th major software update which goes live for all SalesForce customers today -- is all about community. When I talked to Falcione late last week, he explained that the new release is designed to extend the consumer-style community functions in the Salesforce environment out to the partners and customers of Salesforce users.
Specifically, the new release extends the Salesforce Content functionality into the Salesforce Partner Portal and Customer Portal and incorporates Salesforce Ideas into the Partner Portal. Content lets Salesforce users share, tag, rate, and subscribe to everything from articles to Webcasts. Ideas lets partners discuss, vote on, and and share feedback about suggestions. Starbucks, Falcione says, has been using the feature and the results can be seen at My Starbucks Idea.
In addition to the community features, Salesforce rolled out free access to VisualForce, which had been previewed last fall. Running on the Force.com platform, VisualForce is a programming-based tool developers can use to create user interfaces for SalesForce programs and custom SalesForce applications. According Falcione, VisualForce can be used to create buttons, tabs, and graphicial user interface elements using including HTML, AJAX and Adobe Flex, but is not itself a GUI tool.
It all sounds like good stuff, if not exactly earth-shattering. After all, it's not like Content, Ideas, or VisualForce are brand-new here, they're just being extended farther into Salesforce's product line. Still, while the update may not be important enough to make smaller companies switch to Salesforce, it's certainly good news for current customers.