Yesterday, Salesforce formally announced Chatterbox, their corporate file-sharing solution. Salesforce is now competing with vendors Box, Google Drive and Dropbox who have been in the file-sharing game for five to seven years. If that sounds bold (or crazy), remember that in 2010 Salesforce took on an even bigger target with Chatter, their so-called “Facebook for business.”
Salesforce’s plan is that Chatterbox will supplant Dropbox, Google Drive and Box for corporate file-sharing because Salesforce already has an existing base of operations within companies – Salesforce and/or Chatter, the latter of which has been free since early 2011. Why should corporate IT staff have to manage Salesforce and Dropbox permissions when Salesforce has a Dropbox replacement that uses your existing login?
To truly understand what Salesforce is trying to do with Chatterbox, you need to understand that Salesforce first launched a single sign-on platform called Salesforce Identity, which CEO Benioff previewed at last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Users who sign into Salesforce Identity will then be able to, in CEO Marc Benioff’s words, “manage and share files in the context of business — all with the trust customers expect from Salesforce.” Put more simply, your Salesforce login will now be a key that unlocks all sorts of Salesforce services in much the same way your Gmail address grants access to Google Drive, Google+ and a host of other free and paid Google services.
Chatter was supposed to be Salesforce’s Trojan horse, but a recent study by BlueWolf shows why Salesforce may be pivoting away from the social enterprise. Only 24 percent of Salesforce’s customers said that they’re diving into social media at all, and 44 percent stated that they’re unsure or even skeptical about social enterprise initiatives.
Sometimes, you need to read between the Tweets to see where Salesforce’s long-term vision lies with a given product — in this case Chatterbox and Salesforce Identity. “Dreamforce takeaway: Salesforce uses social as a platform to move into all areas of enterprise from CRM. Look out IBM, Oracle and Adobe,” said Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li, shortly after Benioff’s keynote.
Essentially, Li’s saying that there are two ways to go if you’re selling to Enterprise: you can either spend millions developing gigantic servers, like IBM and Oracle, or you can start from your foothold in the cloud — in this case, CRM — and slowly swallow up the other guys’ markets from there. Salesforce isn’t giving up on Chatter as its Trojan horse, but is merely adding a few more members to the herd.
As to the actual product, you’ll have to wait until next year to use Chatterbox. The pilot launches in early 2013. Salesforce’s typical product rollout strategy is to preview at Dreamforce whatever products and features they intend to release in the next six months. What you see at Dreamforce you can try and/or buy in Q1 and Q2.
The advice to Sales Ops VPs and IT admins is this: plan on business as usual until Q2 of 2013. Continue backing up your Google Drive (or Dropbox or Box) as usual. When the pilot of Chatterbox launches, opt in. Put a note on your calendar for January 2, January 16, and Jan 30 to assess your network’s usage of Chatterbox, to see if there’s sufficient usage, and if there is, take a few weeks to see if managing file-sharing through Salesforce is actually easier than running your current solution.