Saleforce.com Chatter Messenger: A Review
Chatter Messenger is Salesforce’s take on IM; while IM has been around for a while, there are features that make this product tailored to enterprise users. Messenger is a new player to an old game, and further builds the collaborative nature of business in the cloud. Dreamforce '11 provided the first look at this tool, if you recall the demo where real-time chatting and screen sharing was displayed during a keynote. Let’s take a look at what it can do, the ups and downs of Chatter Messenger.
What is it, what can it do?
Chatter Messenger takes some of its design from the old Facebook chat feature, where the buddy list appeared collapsed with a status icon in the bottom right of the page. Upon clicking this, we see a few different options for chatting. One is our existing chats, the others are our favorite people and followed people in the org. This favorite feature is new to Summer '12, so don't worry if you haven't favorited anyone yet. Chats launch to the left of the people list, and provide timestamps and typing notifications. My favorite feature is that the chats are grouped and you can only see one at once. This might be a drag for some, but as an aspiring master of productivity, this keeps me in one place when I'm chatting and holds focus well. This doesn't clutter the page with chats and preserves a nice view of the Salesforce page in the background. If this blocks the view of the page, users can pop out the Messenger window, allowing chats to take place even when not in Salesforce.
Props to Messenger
Where does Messenger shake up the world of IM? The key value added feature is the standardization and centralization of communication to an increasingly collaborative platform. Chatter Messenger excels at providing a way for employees to communicate from Salesforce without having to await the "you've been mentioned" email, or desktop notification. Additionally, it helps IT provide a protocol that every user has access to. For a free feature, this is pretty spot-on at leveraging a tool that you already own.
Areas for Growth
Every organization is different in its communication protocols. Chatter Messenger is a great way to standardize these protocols. Presumably, if you work at an organization (large or small) and have adopted Chatter into your environment, this is a great add-on to the experience. There are some elements where this model falls short. We have received emails asking if our Compliance for Chatter app can provide logging for these chats; it cannot, because there is no API available at this time. This may change in a future release, but for a compliance officer, this presents a large barrier to entry into Chatter Messenger for his or her firm. It is hard to provide another channel to communicate if a firm already has an established culture. We rely upon video chats when we are traveling or after work hours discussions, and this feature doesn't exist now.
Future Features Please
I would love to see Salesforce open up the API for inclusive IM clients like Adium or Pidgin to provide a connection for it, or for Salesforce to release a desktop app that combined Chatter with Messenger. And if we're going down that road, we might as well toss a mobile app into the mix. It's great that I can talk while on Salesforce, but won’t I likely be talking about a particular record? Let's see a button that provides a link to the page that I'm viewing. @JustEdelstein added this idea to the IdeaExchange, and would love for you to promote it within the community.
So what's the grade for Chatter Messenger? I'm giving it a A-. Salesforce produced a great feature to build the social and collaborative enterprise, and it needs a few tweaks to get the full A. Let's hope that we see some of these for Dreamforce '12. As always, I'd love to hear your take. Comment on our Facebook page, via Disqus below, or to @RogerMitchell.