Salesforce Chatter Update Tweaks: First Look

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The enterprise social media tool gets file-sharing capabilities and a ‘Favorites’ facelift

The social collaboration changes in the Summer ‘11 rev of the software-as-a-service CRM platform consist of a light sprinkling of filter improvements to the Chatter enterprise social media module.

The minor changes in the Chatter module improve content filtering by surfacing posts directed at a user or posts directed to files the user is following. The new “collaboration” file-sharing capabilities that were also added in Summer ‘11 can only be seen as a rudimentary second stab at enabling individuals and groups to work in common on a shared file. The first stab, as seen in the previous version of Chatter, enabled file-sharing but no central upload/download repository.

A look at the revisions made to the Chatter Desktop client, a Tweetdeck-like companion to the full Chatter module, will need to wait until it is released sometime in the next several weeks.

Updates and Revisions

Salesforce Summer ‘11 became available on 3 June. The revised Chatter module is included in all paid editions as well as the no-cost, standalone edition of Chatter that can be used in organisations that subscribe to paid Salesforce editions. Summer ‘11 also made revisions to the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Jigsaw and SaaS (software-as-a-service) offerings, along with underlying changes to analytical processes many of these components use. Existing customers will see the updates roll out over the coming weeks.

I used a preview account in a Salesforce test organisation to look at the Summer ‘11 release.

The file collaboration tools that are facilitated by the Summer ‘11 version of Chatter are nothing to crow about. I used the new “collaboration” feature to share Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet between two active users. After sharing the file, the second user downloaded and saved the file. Then opened the file using Excel, made changes and then saved the file. The second user then uploaded the file, at which point a Salesforce dialog box appeared querying the user to comment on what changed. The first user could then download and open the modified file.

The uploading and sharing activity was automatically posted in Chatter activity stream, quickly creating a torrent of updates. There is only rudimentary version information and no check-out/check-in system. My Excel files lost formatting information when I downloaded and opened them through Chatter. They worked correctly when I saved the file to my PC running Windows 7 and then opened it in Excel. While the file-collaboration feature was disappointing, the new filters that help users find information quickly worked well.

Information I Need

For example, files that a user is following in Chatter can be filtered using the new “Files I Own” and “Files I Follow” subfilters. These developments are an important step forward for using enterprise social media because they surface posts directed at a user above the less important banter that is flowing by in the activity stream.

Another improved user aid, a bolstered “Favorites” list reduced the number of steps needed to conduct routine searches. My test account contained several test records with the common keywords, “betta fish.” I was able to search for “betta” and in the records results page, click on a link that added the search to my Chatter Favorites. To conduct subsequent searches for my “betta” records, I was able to click this term in my Chatter Favorites list. Users can have up to 50 Favorites.

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