Sometimes it seems that we miss the most obvious things with all our buzzword discussions about cloud computing and social media. The essential change enabled by these technology artefacts is quite simply that we can all communicate and collaborate with each other while we’re on the move. So here’s a simple message to understand and act upon: businesses that can harness that essential change will outcompete their rivals because they will be able to react much faster while operating with much lower costs.
This was brought home to me when I had a preview of the new Chatter-enabled FinancialForce.com — an accounting application that incorporates Salesforce.com’s Twitter-like notifications stream — ahead of its announcement last week [disclosure: Salesforce.com is a recent consulting client]. In fact, the vendor has gone further than simply Chatter-enabling its application (easy enough, as it is built on Salesforce’s Force.com platform, which incorporates Chatter). It has released an application called Chatterbox, which can be used to build rules to initiate a Chatter stream around any Salesforce or Force.com object.
But what struck me was how the vendor is using its creation internally. The joint venture company that develops and sells the application is a geographically dispersed team of 55 staff working in six locations spread across the US, UK and Spain — on top of which, many are often homeworking or on the road — and they are all in constant contact with each other. Imagine how overstretched such a small organisation would have felt just a few years ago with such a dispersed operation. See how agile and efficient it can be using today’s Internet-enabled collaboration technologies.
Of course there’s a culture change that organisations have to undergo to make effective use of these tools. My initial reaction to the notion of putting Chatter technology into the accounts office was that you can’t just graft this kind of interactive, collaborative infrastructure onto an organisation in which Clive and Doris in accounts just want to get the books closed and frankly would rather be skinned alive than have to try and exist on the same wavelength as Dave and his circus in sales. To reap the benefit of real-time collaborative technology, an organization needs to have a culture that’s comfortable with open, quickfire dialog.
As a young, Web-savvy technology company, FinancialForce.com is a clear example of such a company…