WASHINGTON -- To coincide with the debut of its new government cloud offering, Salesforce.com brought its Cloudforce conference here to the nation's capital to trumpet the emergence of the social enterprise, which the company is touting as the next major evolution in business computing.
Salesforce is pressing corporate--and now government--customers to embrace social, open and collaborative cloud technologies in the workplace, arguing that CIOs can boost productivity with work tools that more closely resemble the social applications that have come to figure so prominently in people's personal lives.
"Social is eating the Web. People are spending more time on social media sites than they are on the rest of the Internet," says Vivek Kundra, Salesforce's executive vice president of emerging markets. "Those enterprises that have embraced the social revolution have seen tremendous gains."
A Social Approach That Cultivates, Creates and Engages
In that spirit, Salesforce has developed a three-tiered social approach that aims to help enterprises cultivate their own social profile, create a social network for employees and engage with customers.
Much of that effort follows the upheaval that the advent of social media has created in the marketing world, where the stewards of corporate brands have sought to engage with customers and critics alike on the social Web. Whether they are launching a new promotional initiative or doing damage control, marketers are in near consensus that if consumers are discussing their brand on social outlets, they need to be a part of the conversation.
"If you don't do that, I don't know what your business model is in five years, Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry, a luxury brand that has adopted Salesforce's social applications, said in a video prepared for today's Cloudforce conference.
Salesforce has extended its reach on the social Web through a partnership with Radian6, a social-media-monitoring firm, to help customers cull through the daily churn of Facebook postings, tweets, YouTube videos and other online content to surface mentions of a specific company or product and glean insights about consumer sentiment and promotional opportunities.
In addition to providing tools to help enterprises engage on the public Web, Salesforce is touting a number of back-office and productivity applications on its platform that include a social dimension.
Chief among those offerings is the Chatter enterprise social networking app, which has already seen adoption by some 150,000 companies. Saleforces boasts that the streamlined collaboration that Chatter provides can reduce employees' email volumes by 30 percent.
Salesforce.com's Ripple Effect
On the back-office side, Salesforce has also been ramping up its cloud-based offerings with moves such as last year's acquisition of Rypple, a human resources management system that Salesforce relaunched in March, providing HR managers with a social interface they can use to shake up the traditional approach to employee tracking and performance reviews. With Rypple, employees as well as managers can provide feedback on a co-worker's performance or offer recognition of an accomplishment in a similar fashion as Facebook users can interact with their friends' status updates.
"If we're honest, many of our HR systems today have not kept pace with how we're communicating with our employees. They're on Twitter. They're on Facebook. They have embraced social. They live in the social world," says Monika Fahlbusch, Salesforce's senior vice president of global employee success, a euphemistic title for the company's head of human resources.
"Simply put, Salesforce Rypple is not your grandmother's HR system," she says.
Salesforce envisions its social enterprise tools extending into virtually every business process, from normally mundane functions like HR to public-facing operations like sales and customer service. Video-game-maker Activision, for instance, has tapped Salesforce to engage with its customers, who frequently report glitches in games on various online forums. Activision has set up its own social hub to curate those complaints, and has incorporated applications such as Apple's FaceTime to help troubleshoot problems, and routinely interacts with gamers through its own app and social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
"This is our vision of the social enterprise," Kundra said. "The opportunity before us is to delight our customers and employees in a whole new way."
Kenneth Corbin is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who covers government and regulatory issues for CIO.com.
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