Can Salesforce replace your corporate intranet?
In the company I work for, QuestBack, we always strive to implement and adapt new enhancements and functionality that is released in Salesforce. Whenever we can streamline and move business processes to this platform, it increases our Salesforce.com ROI in addition to providing all employees with fewer separate systems and places to log in. A while ago, I was asked by the management team if Salesforce could replace our current intranet solutions.
This post is based on a talk I gave at Salesforce’s Social Enterprise event in Oslo in April 2012. See the slides from this presentation here.
(GREAT NEWS - I will be discussing this project on Dreamforce’12!)
Chatter – great for collaboration, but…
Over the last years, Salesforce have launched lots of interesting functionality when it comes to building up a social enterprise, including Chatter that enables collaboration and communication directly within the CRM platform. Being aware of this, the management team challenged me to explore whether this could be used as a replacement for our corporate intranet. While a lot can be solved with out-of-the-box functionality in Salesforce (Chatter, CRM Content for Document management, Chatter profiles for employee directory etc) , we discovered a number of shortcomings when using it for a more traditional intranet:
- Lack of news and article functionality - While Chatter is all about posting status updates, questions and attachments, we needed a place to post more traditional, longer texts, e.g. management news and updates that could contain pictures, links and other elements within the same article.
- No front page – Chatter is all about feeds and push notifications. We have the need to have an intranet front page, where editors can sort and select top news and articles and where we can have links to important functionality (both within Salesforce and external systems) in addition to be able to show important metrics (e.g. dashboard components for total sales etc.)
- Lack of placeholders for static content – Our company have a wide variety of static content, e.g. routines for bug handling, travel expense guidelines, HR policies etc. We needed functionality to store this (not as documents and attachments), but rather static HTML pages (“Articles”) in a tree structure based on departments (e.g. Sales, Admin, F&A etc.)
- Missing blog functionality – Related to the above, we want to empower employees and departments to produce more extensive content than Chatter updates allow.
In addition to this, we miss something that could tie all the great elements together, e.g. one point to click to get a total overview of employees, news, feeds, documents etc.
CRM + Intranet= Like?
We often see that intranets are a system detached from all other business systems in the company, a simple placeholder for static information and some corporate news. But does it have to be like that? More than 80% of of our employees are already working within Salesforce everyday, with sales, customer support, billing or marketing. Why not blend these tasks with the more traditional intranet information? By linking information from Salesforce, like information on closed deals, marketing campaigns and Q&A’s from support with news on the intranet and cross-team Chatter collaboration, you truly unleash the power of the two information sources. In addition to this, you may see that merging these will be mutual beneficial for adoption of the two systems.
Closing the gaps
Before starting, I did a lot of research on the web to see if people have been doing similar things within Salesforce. As far as I could see, not much have been done in this intersection between Salesforce and more traditional intranets. Some good discussions on Linkedin and the other great Salesforce communities provided us with good ideas on how to progress, and we connected with Fluido Ltd. to discuss the technical requirements and what it would take to meet our requirements.
We are currently in the progress of developing and rolling out our new corporate Salesforce-based intranet. We want to blend the out-of-the-box functionality with our company specific needs and we need to develop solutions that closes the gaps discovered in the above paragraph. The fundamental idea will be to develop one intranet homepage that displays all relevant information and links for the employees. Supporting this, we have developed Chatter-enabled objects for news, articles and blogs.
- “News for all” section with news available for all employees, e.g. Management updates or other corporate news.
- “News for you” that is news based on your role in the organization (as defined on the user profile). This ensures that employees only see relevant information, e.g. sales news for sales reps or Norwegian news for all employees in our Oslo office.
- Chatter feeds will be visible on the front to make the front appear more dynamic and updated, in addition to providing the user with the latest news from any object he/she subscribes to.
- The right menus populated with real-time updated Salesforce data. In our example, we extract information about Global Sales current quarter, recently closed deals and top Sales reps current quarter.
- At the bottom of the front page, we have external feeds from our media monitoring service, twitter feeds in addition to a corporate calendar (Salesforce object).
- In addition to all this, we will take the standard Chatter functionality into extensive use: Chatter profiles will be used as the corporate employee directory, Chatter groups will be used for collaboration for teams and groups and Salesforce CRM Content will be used for all documents, including any customer facing material that will be tagged with extensive meta data to ease sales reps job of finding relevant and updated documents.
This is a work in progress project, and we are currently working with the great guys at Fluido Ltd. to develop the Visualforce pages and structures needed to put this in place. In addition to this, we are working to extract information from the old intranets and place them in the new information structure (with Chatter groups, news, blogs and static articles). The next point on the agenda will also be to create a Chatter/Collaboration roll-out strategy, which I will save for my next blog post to discuss.
I would love to get in touch with anyone of you that have been working on similar projects to discuss opportunities and challenges with moving internal collaboration and information sharing onto the Salesforce.com platform!