Salesforce formally announced Chatterbox today at Dreamforce. Chatterbox is adding file management to Chatter, a collaboration service which is integrated with Salesforce. This will be the first direct offering of file management from Salesforce. Salesforce is formally targeting Dropbox with the announcement, but this will also go head-to-head with partners like Box and SpringCM. The announcement was lite in details (for some thoughts read on) so it will be a waiting game for the release, targeted for the first half of 2013.
For those unfamiliar with Chatter, think of Twitter for the enterprise. Users are able to create accounts that allow them to collaborate with others, primarily using status updates. Accounts and deals updates can also be posted in the feed. When an account is updated in Salesforce, the information is shared with anyone tracking that account on Chatter. Chatter feeds uses (#) categories as well, which are monitored to see what’s trending in the organization. Messages can be sent privately to individuals, accounts and records and those are stored with the account. You can even instantly share messages with individuals. All of this is done right inside the tradition Salesforce tab-base UI which includes things like dashboards, accounts, and opportunities. Chatter integrates this solution beyond the traditional tabs, by integrating Salesforce approvals into the Chatter feed. Traditionally this was done with in-boxes. All of this is available on any platform or device.
Today Chatter allows for some simple file sharing for Chatterbox users, inside the enterprise and not on mobile devices. The announcement seems to say Chatterbox will address this supporting customers, partner, and mobile devices. The announcement talks about not only file sharing but also file management from right within the Chatter UI. Security will be tied into Salesforce for which looks at users, roles, accounts, opportunities, and also partners. Whether this will tie into document security such a read, version, and delete, is not mentioned. One important note in the announcement is that this functionality can be extended through custom and partner apps.
While none of this is new, Salesforce makes the big claim that, “Salesforce Chatterbox is the first file sharing solution designed for the enterprise that will allow users to easily share, collaborate on and manage files with anyone in their company.” Vendors like Box and SpringCM have been providing file services into Salesforce and there are also integrations into platforms like Documentum and OpenText. The real story here is around the semantics that file-sharing together with collaboration at the account level is now within Salesforce by Salesforce. But it sounds like for details we will need to keep watching for further announcements.