Why is no one talking about Chatter?

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.

Chatter screen shot

Chatter 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?


9 thoughts on “Why is no one talking about Chatter?

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Atherton, Sam Burrough. Sam Burrough said: New blog post – why is no one talking about chatter? http://wp.me/p1e8x1-F (apart from the fact it's friday night and they have a life) […]

  2. Patrick says:

    Funnily enough, I was just reading a post about similar products, focusing on Tibbr

  3. I think the name says it all. Few training departments use Salesforce.com

    My colleagues and I are testing it with some clients but we really don’t know enough yet to make any public statements. We are constantly trying out many tools.

    Of course, this shows the challenge for L&D when learning becomes the work. L&D gets bypassed as business units just get on with doing the work, using collaborative work [learning] tools like Chatter.

    • Burrough says:

      Thanks for your comment Harold. In our case it’s actually L&D who are trying to educate the rest of the business about the benefits of using collaborative tools like Chatter (btw agree the name is a weak point). Many companies like ours are still quite technophobic and resistant to this kind of change, or at least the people who run them are. I’d be very interested to hear what experience your clients have with it and I’ll be sharing ours in this space. I don’t doubt that there are better platforms out there, but I think we can at least use Chatter to open people’s minds to the possibilities of working smarter through better collaboration.

  4. Use the tools you have access to. Micro-sharing is probably the easiest to start with. Social bookmarking is also a relatively small leap. I would only start with one at a time and wait until it gets some critical mass.

  5. […] recently introduced Chatter to some of our Customer Services managers and while I did position it as a way to solve a problem, […]

  6. Raymond Gao says:

    I signed up for Chatter.com today. But, I cannot find a single person on there. Am I missing something? No one is in the people directory.

    • Burrough says:

      Hi Ray – Chatter is an enterprise collaboration platform, if no one else is on there then it means you are the first person from your company to register. If you were expecting other colleagues to be on there it could be because they have a different email domain. Chatter works on the basis that everyone in the company has the same email domain, which of course is not always true. The other possibility is that your company is existing users (assuming there are some) are using Chatter via the paid for version of Sales force.com. If your company use salesforce.com you have to get the administrator to manually allow invites to chatter for the rest of the company (i.e those not in sales or marketing normally), otherwise you end up with two separate chatter communities.
      Hope that helps

  7. […] Chatter is a social business communication tool, provided free to Salesforce.com customers. We began using Chatter in January 2011 as a potental tool to improve collaboration. So far Chatter has been piloted accross a broad range of small groups. In total there are 98 registered users and 14 groups. The only group so far to provide structured feedback were those who attended a recent reward and recognition conference. This post focuses on their feedback and what we can learn from it, but will also highlight relevant observations from some of the other groups and suggest future applications of the tool. […]

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