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For those of you not familiar with Chatter, it’s a relatively new product that Salesforce (CRM vendor) released and it’s basically designed to allow for more efficient communication within your organization. It’s a bit like Facebook but for the enterprise.  I want to note that this post isn’t about Salesforce as a whole, but specifically about their Chatter product.  Here’s what it looks like:

For the past few months we have been using Chatter (along with the Enterprise version of Salesforce) and while I may not have direct numbers to share with you in terms of business impact, I do have plenty of qualitative data.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that we are a small business with a team of five, so we’re by no means an “enterprise.”  Now, having said that we have seen good amount of value from Chatter.

Decreased email

Our internal email has virtually dwindled down to nothing (from around 10-20 internal emails/day).  Do we still use email?  Absolutely, but we only use it for either private communications or for longer more in depth discussions that can’t fit on Chatter.  Our team has gotten in the habit of having discussions directly on chatter and with the desktop app it has become quite an efficient way to communicate with one another.  Since our team travels quite a bit the mobile app is also quite handy.  We update Chatter with where we are, if we have delays, when we arrive, etc.  This means that the team as a whole knows exactly what’s going on with our traveling employees at all times.  We ask questions, share information, and do almost everything we would ordinarily do via email, but in chatter.  This allows us to focus our time and efforts on more important projects, such as closing deals.

Information location

Chatter allows us to follow opportunities that we are working on.  So let’s say for example I just got off the phone with company X and think the deal is going to close in 30 days, I can update Chatter with that information and the team can get up to speed on the opportunity we are working on without ever having to send an email.  It’s an easy and efficient way for us to keep track of who is working on what deals and what stages those deals are in.  We also store files and various documents in Salesforce that we can easily link to, however we also use a wiki (which we can also link to from Chatter).

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

When we work on documents such as proposals, white papers, or marketing collateral we just upload it to chatter for the team to take a look at and make their edits/comments directly in chatter.  If a team member downloads the document they can just re-upload it to chatter and the team will see the most updated version.  We share all of our documents, presentations, and pretty much anything else we create in this way.  The benefit of also using Salesforce for CRM is that we can link directly to a contact, an opportunity, an account, or anything else we want to; directly from Chatter.  We used to email this information to each other in the past and now we don’t have to.  Collaboration and knowledge sharing as a whole has dramatically improved and it just makes things in general easier to run.

I’d say these are the three big areas where we have seen an improvement in how we operate.  So, does Chatter have business value?  Absolutely, and especially if you are already using Salesforce for your CRM needs.  Keep in mind this the perspective from a small business point of view but I’d be curious to hear how organizations with tens of thousands of employees are using Chatter.

What about you?  Are you using Chatter?  Do you find it valuable?  What do you use to collaborate and share information with your team?

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