Salesforce Chatter is a bit like moving up to Big School

Anyone that knows me understands that I am passionate about Salesforce’s Chatter product and the huge benefits that a team can get by using Chatter to collaborate and follow each other’s activities.

However, many individuals that I speak to at all levels of business, from new starters up to Directors and VP’s can struggle understanding how to get the best out of Chatter – or even what it’s purpose is. This story from my school days may help you to explain to other members of your team why Chatter can be so valuable.

School Assembly

I remember being at my preparatory school. This would have been from the ages of 8 to 13. It was a fairly small school with only 100 or so pupils. Every day we would have assembly in the sports hall – with all the boys lined up cross-legged on the floor.

Assembly consisted of a series of notices being read out. This is who is playing in the football team this afternoon. The play rehearsal has been postponed until tomorrow. French lessons will be moving from Room 1 to Room 4. Fairly standard stuff of which perhaps 15% was relavent to any one person.

One day I remember the head master saying that when we moved up to secondary school that we wouldn’t be spoon-fed this information. There would be notice boards. And it would be your responsibility to seek out and find the right information rather than having it blasted out to everyone every day. If you turned up to the play rehearsal a day early, or went to the wrong room for your French class then that would be your fault.

So think for a minute about how your company communicates. Do they treat you like primary school students and spoon-feed you updates, or do they treat you like secondary school students and give you the opportunity to find the right information yourselves.

Before private social networks like Chatter every business would use the ultimate “assembly” – the all@mycompany.com email address. In addition, each department would probably have a “mini-assembly” – marketing@mycompany.com or operations@mycompany.com.

Just like at primary school, knowing that most messages are not relavent to you specifically, you drown them out and start day-dreaming about running around outside with a stick.

Chatter treats you like an adult

Chatter treats employees like adults. Chatter is a series of noticeboards enabling you to keep tabs on subjects that interest you.

Imagine a long corridor with:

  • A noticeboard for each individual in your company
  • A public noticeboard for each department or team
  • A private noticeboard for your own team
  • A noticeboard for each Account (client, partner, prospect)
  • A noticeboard for each Opportunity
  • A noticeboard for each Support Case
  • A noticeboard for the Christmas party

If you want to find out what is going on with the ACME deal as it progresses – follow the noticeboard.

If you want to know what is happening with the XYZ Support case that is escalated – follow the noticeboard.

Conversely, if you DON’T want to know about the latest sales wins, DON’T follow the Sales Team noticeboard.

If you DON’T want to know what the CEO is planning on for next FY, DON’T follow the CEO’s notice board.

Action points

Is your notice board empty?

1. Make sure your own noticeboard (Chatter Profile) is up to date, with contact details, a quality photo and bio including your specialities and the questions you can answer. Update it with the work you are doing, and give others a reason to follow you.

2. Make sure the Exec in your business post to their noticeboards, or to the Company noticeboards instead of resorting to the all@mycompanydomain.com. This is a culture shift and it needs to be led from the top.

3. Make sure each team has a Private and Public Group. The Private Group is a noticeboard for you to discuss confidentially with your team, the Public Group is both for you to publish items for other teams to read, but also for other teams to pose questions and share information with you.

4. If you have a question and you are just about to fire off an email to 10 people – wait. Think about which noticeboard would be best placed to help you. Could the followers of the Sales Director help? Could the Product Management team get you an answer. You may find your question gets answered by someone you’ve never heard of before who happens to follow that person or group. Delete that email and post your question to Chatter.

5. If you dare, remove the all@mycompany.com email group, as well as the department wide email groups. This is the ultimate test of moving to big school. By removing “assembly” you give your team the trust and respect that they can now find the information themselves.

The question is – will they turn up to the right room for French class?!

Have you implemented a business social network like Chatter, or Yammer? Have you found it easy or difficult driving adoption? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Charlie Cowan inspires and enables partners at NewVoiceMedia, a Salesforce Appexchange partner routing inbound calls based on CRM data. Unusually for someone in the IT industry, Charlie holds a degree in Rural Land Management from The Royal Agricultural College. He lives and works in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, with his wife and three children.