Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why Yammer can't compete with Chatter!

Security! I'm not talking about general privacy and security that all SaaS vendors provide like SSL, data center security, etc. I'm referring to much more granular level of data access control which is defined and controlled at the enterprise application layer. Most companies want to control data that their users access. Take a SFA system as an example. You typically see policies that allow sales reps to  see information about their own accounts and opportunities (only), sales managers to see data belonging to their teams, regional managers within their region, ... so on and so forth. So, you'd only want your users to see Enterprise "Tweets" that they should see.

Independent Enterprise Social Networking services, like Yammer, lack visibility into external system data and the data access control policies in those systems to control who should see what. Sure you can create logical groups and confine private posts to those in the group. You can even integrate in SAP, Salesforce, Oracle EBS, etc. as members of a group but you're still not going to know which specific data updates some one should have access to, at least not very easily and not without external and custom code.

Application administrators go to great lengths to set access control rules so it would be great if the Enterprise Social Networking service could enforce those same rules. Unfortunately, they really can't. First,  they would need access to the rules which is not easy to come by (not their fault). Second, they'd need a standard way of defining the external application objects and access control rules which doesn't exist today (again, not their fault). 

Chatter has an unfair advantage by being native to Salesforce. The same data access control rules you configure for your objects are also valid for Chatter feeds. Users can only subscribe to data that they have access to. No additional work required! However, Chatter will the have the same limitations as Yammer when it comes to data objects external to Saleforce. Salesforce does provide for the flexibility of adding custom objects and associated access control rules but you'll then need to make sure you synchronize the data with your custom object(s).

I'd say that CubeTree's sale to SuccessFactors was certainly a good move on their part. Once they're integrated into SuccessFactors, they'll be in the same position as Chatter but for HR related data objects contained within SF modules.

I hope you don't take this as a beat down on Yammer and like services but when it comes to Enterprise Social Networking, they're going to lack the necessary controls to be widely adopted.

Monday, October 18, 2010 Chatter: Tips for Integrating External Enterprise Events

Integrating external events can be very straightforward (from's perspective). Here are a few tips to help get you going quickly.

1. Every parent object in Saleforce is Chatter Feed enabled. By default, the standard objects have been configured to create Chatter events (or feeds) as result of creates and updates (of certain key fields). To make changes, go to Setup>Customize>Chatter>Feed Tracking. You can configure feed tracking for each object (custom included) to track changes to standard and custom fields. For more information, check out this link.

2. Any existing external data integration into Salesforce can instantly be Chatter enabled. Simply go to the feed tracking page for the object of interest and enable tracking for the fields you're updating.

3. For child objects like the Opportunity Line Items, you'll notice that there's no feed tracking capability. This makes sense as you would typically want to track an Opportunity as a whole and not just individual line items. If you're updating the line items with external data such as a "Ship Date" from your ERP, add an extra step to your process to create a Chatter Feed post for the line item's parent opportunity. It's a simple Create call to add a single record to the FeedPost object.

4. Avoid creating additional custom objects and synchronizing external data if all you're interested is being notified of updates from your external applications. It not only creates more work to create and maintain the integrations, it will also require users to subscribe to additional data objects. If you only need to present data from the external systems to the users, consider building a quick mashup instead.

5. Avoid creating a User Update or Post on behalf of an external system as it will potentially bypass the security rules you have in place and may expose sensitive data to your entire org. Since users can only subscribe to Chatter events for data they have access to, it would be a best practice to create feed posts associated with specific data objects.