Three things have surprised me in the past week (excluding my first unbroken night’s sleep in 7 months – thanks kids).
First I discovered we already have access to a pretty impressive collaboration/networking/sharing tool
Second I discovered that it was free
Third and most surprisingly of all – hardly anyone seems to be talking about it in the L&D community
You’ve probably heard of Chatter from Salesforce.com the massive Cloud based CRM platform. It got a lot of press back in the spring of 2009 when it was introduced and more late last year when it announced that it was going to make it free to all employees of Salesforce customers (well up to 5000 employees).
Yet (almost) nobody in the learning community seems to be talking about it, which seems kind of odd to me. There’s plenty in the marketing, pr and sales blogs, but nada from our side of things.
Am I missing something?
Apparently there are 87,000 Salesforce.com customers and 60,000 of them have started using Chatter. Yahoo have even purchased Chatter as a standalone app for it’s staff (without the CRM pat of Salesforce.com), Dell have ditched all of there collaboration tools and moved to Chatter. Read full article
So what does Chatter do?
Take a look at their website for full details, but it’s basically a Facebook/Twitter wannabe (in a good way). It’s developing rapidly too, now including Twitter functionality like using @ for mentioning individuals and # for tagging topics. You can form groups, follow people, share files and links, and if you have a licence to use the CRM parts of Salesforce, it links to those too. There’s also a free desktop version built on Adobe Air that puts your Chatter feed in a separate Instant Messenger style window and mobile apps too. (except for Android, which is on the way)
This week Salesforce announced several Chatter related investments, including a very interesting tie up with Seesmic (read article). So it’s fair to say Salesforce are pretty serious about Chatter, and the fact they are making it free to everyone in the same way Yammer do by signing up with a corporate email domain, means it’s going to be very, very big.
It has a lot going for it, I’ve only had a fairly superficial play with it so far, but it functions well and does more than I expected.Here’s a shot from my profile page.
Heard it all before?
Of course, it’s not doing anything new, or innovative, but they have achieved what no other social media platform has – they’ve removed the most obstinate obstacle between you and Social tools – the IT department.
You don’t have to make a case for Social Learning, you don’t have to convince your IT department to unblock it because it’s already there as part of a key enterprise tool.
So you can get on with helping people to use it effectively and start building a collaborative culture, without any pressure and frankly without IT even knowing (mwah ha ha ha).
How are we using it?
This week I spent some time with some of the more advanced Salesforce.com users, who I was told had been using Chatter for a while. Turned out they hadn’t used it at all – the only awareness they had was of the rather annoying daily activity feed that it emails by default. Once I’d shown them how to turn that off, we talked about the possible applications of Chatter and they started to get it.
To be honest this has all caught me out a bit – I always imagined having to write a strategy of some sort, make a business case etc, but now I think we’re just going to jump in and get people going with minimal rules and supervision – I think this approach will help people to think for themselves and think of ways to use it that work for them – encouraging innovation and democratisation.
We have a couple of training programs coming up in the next few months that we can incorporate Chatter into, firstly to give people a heads up about what is coming, start conversations, share relevant links. Then I can see it forming part of an effective performance support tool for a content management system we are rolling out and thirdly as part of a leadership development program – that includes zero workshops (quite shockingly progressive for us). This will introduce the system and the advantages it offers to a diverse audience and should create some momentum as well as valuable experiences.
It’s early days and there are bound to be problems to overcome in the near future, but right now it’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to get stuck in…but why is nobody else talking about it as a learning tool?