Salesforce.com's Facebook-like application Chatter has been integrated with a range of products from partners, setting the stage for a new standard in the business software user experience, the vendor said Thursday.
Earlier this year, Chatter entered a private beta program that has now been opened up to about 500 companies, including 250 users of Service Cloud 2, the vendor's customer service platform. By the end of this year, all Salesforce.com customers are scheduled to receive access to Chatter at no additional cost.
Salesforce.com has also opened up a ChatterExchange section on its AppExchange marketplace site for applications that use Chatter.
More than a dozen "Chatter-enabled" applications built by partners are now available, including offerings from DocuSign, FinancialForce.com, Appirio and Genius.com.
In addition, more than 15 other tools are available at no charge from Salesforce.com' Force.com Labs site. Among them are Case Triage, Mass Follower and Chatter + Google Alerts.
Social networking sites like Facebook, which actively feed streams of information to people and connect them with other users, are "resetting user expectations for how they're going to work with applications,"said Ariel Kelman, vice president of platform product marketing.
In turn, Chatter employs a range of familiar features, such as status updates from people or applications and document sharing.
In a demonstration, a Salesforce.com spokeswoman showed how customer service agents could use Chatter to track high-priority cases, be alerted to new knowledge-base articles and work with other employees on the case. Streams of Chatter activity are attached to each case, providing an audit trail.
Chatter's approach makes sense, according to analyst Ray Wang, partner with Altimeter Group. "In this phase of the market, that's what users are starting to adopt as the UX standard. More user interaction paradigms will emerge, but right now, the Facebook one is easiest to adopt."
Salesforce.com customer Enterasys Networks is involved in the Chatter private beta, and experiencing good results so far, according to officials at the Andover, Massachusetts, networking infrastructure provider.
Chatter has been deployed to some 600 users, who are primarily salespeople but also include support, marketing and engineering workers, said Ben Doyle, director of IT applications.
The company's salespeople "love it," Doyle said. "Inside sales reps, every time they set an appoint for a field sales rep, they'll follow that opportunity. They're much more in tune with the business they're driving." Product marketing workers are using the tool to discuss events and new collateral, he added.
Enterasys also uses Salesforce.com to track IT service desk tickets. Chatter is providing an additional window into what's going on with tickets, said Dan Petlon, vice president of system quality and IT.
But the company wants additional features, such as rules-based following, Petlon said. For example, its regional salespeople are interested in following deals in their territory, he said. "I want that to be automatic." The feature is supposed to be en route, according to Petlon.
It would also be valuable if Chatter content could be organized around groups, "so it's not getting lost in general news feeds and lives in one centralized place," he said.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff is scheduled to discuss the announcements further during an event Thursday in New York.