Small business subscribers to Salesforce.com Inc. seem interested in using Chatter Mobile, but are waiting until the “Twitter for business” applications to launch later this year before jumping on board, according to users.
The cloud-based customer relations management (CRM) company announced it will bring Chatter to mobile platforms BlackBerry and iOS by the end of the year. An Android app is slated for release in early 2011. Salesforce.com employees, partners and customers discussed the newly announced applications at Cloudforce Toronto Sept. 13.
Chatter takes a social networking approach similar to Twitter or Facebook and brings it into a business setting. Now Salesforce.com hopes its customers will use Chatter more after installing a mobile application. That would follow the trend of Facebook mobile users being twice as active as those who just use the Web site.
Salesforce.com is seeing a shift away from bulkier computing form factors and towards the smartphone, says Kendall Collins, chief marketing officer at Salesforce.com.
“We’re talking about applications for business, it’s not about your personal life. But we want to take those same paradigms and apply them to business information,” he says. “It’s important that as people get out of the office that they’re able to connect and be in touch with all their key business information.”
It’s too early yet to tell if Chatter Mobile applications will be useful for Ottawa-based Pythian Group Inc., says Karunakar Dutt, a solutions architect. His company has been using Salesforce.com for more than a year and as someone new to sales, he finds it useful.
“I am making the transition from an IT guy to also do some sales,” he explains. “It’s not just an application, but a process to follow. It’s all laid out in front of you.”
But while he appreciates that process, Dutt also says it could be limiting in some situations. That’s why Chatter can come in handy, to communicate unexpected changes quickly to team members.
“Not every sale is made with a straight line approach,” he says. “It can be more complicated than that, one unexpected step can send you off in many different directions.”
Chatter is already accessible on the Salesforce.com mobile application thanks to third-party extensions from companies like Lowell, Mass.-based Xactly Corp. It adds a tab to Salesforce.com that calculates commission for users, and then can automatically push that information out to employees on Chatter.
Xactly has also been using Chatter internally since it was in beta stage, says compensation analyst Michael Davis. He finds its useful for sharing whitepapers with sales reps and exchanging information about an account.
“Some people adapt, and some people don’t,” he says. “Just like any other technology.”
The mobile release of Chatter will be adopted by Xactly, he says. But it may be used more to consume information than to share information.
“I wouldn’t use it for a lot of internal communications, because anytime I’m typing something out, I want a keyboard,” he says. “But I could see a field rep checking out his commissions in the field – ‘let’s see how much money I made.’”
The Salesforce.com mobile application has been downloaded 300,000 times from Apple’s App Store and 100,000 times from BlackBerry App World.
Chatter Mobile will be freely available to Salesforce CRM and Force.com subscribers.