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June 25, 2012

34

Can Salesforce replace your corporate intranet?

intranett

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.

Key features of the front page will be:

  • “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.

Moving forward

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!

 
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  • Pingback: Intranet Lounge

  • Leon

    Hi there – I’m a social architect at salesforce.com – what you’re doing sounds really interesting and I would love to learn more and help out if I can.

    You can reach me on my email address or my twitter handle is @humanleon

    Good luck!

  • Shesh

    Hi Christopher,

    Great Blog ! I love the way you have explained the components of a well designed Intranet and identified and explained the perceived gaps.

    I am an Architect from Salesforce as well and would love to collaborate and contribute towards what you are trying to accomplish.

    cheers!
    @sheshzilla

  • http://no.linkedin.com/in/christopherea Christopher Eikanger Andersen

    Hello guys,

    Thanks for the feedback! I’ll reach out to you privately to discuss further :-)

  • Hannele Piipari

    Great blog – thanks for sharing!
    I’ve got a suggestion for you – could you please get in touch asap!

    hpiipari@salesforce.com
    +358-50-5995661

  • Christopher Eikanger Andersen

    Sure, I’ll contact you by email :-)

  • Natalie

    I’ve actually been tasked with the same thing and would love to contribute wherever possible as I found some of the same shortcomings you mentioned.

    I was also pointed towards this wiki solution: http://code.google.com/p/wikiforce/

    Please email me as I’d love to help!

  • http://no.linkedin.com/in/christopherea Christopher Eikanger Andersen

    Hello Natalie,

    Thanks for your comment. Our current intranets are primarily run on wiki based systems (e.g. Confluence). Based on our initial assessment of the existing systems, we have found that a wiki based solution is not ideal for our way of collaborating. Most end users find editing and contributing to wiki pages too time consuming and difficult, hence they are left out of contribution. Therefore, we will use Chatter collaboration functionality for this purpose, while we build custom objects for news and articles to create these entries. One potential area I see that a wiki system could come into play is with our R&D department where they to a larger degree work on “live documents”, e.g. scrum documents etc. I’ll look into the wikiforce application for that purpose, thanks for the tip :-)

  • Pingback: I will be presenting at @Dreamforce – join in! | CHRISTOPHER'S BLOG

  • Dan

    Excellent Article. I’m tasked with the same project for our organization. One thing I’d like to understand is whether not your organization use a mixture of Salesforce and Chatter Free/Plus licenses? If so could you please shed some light on the deployment strategy, and managing the collaboration between Full vs Free/Plus licenses?

  • Christopher Eikanger Andersen

    Hello Dan – thanks for your comment.

    We do use a mixture of Salesforce Enterpise licenses, Partner Portal licenses and Chatter only licenses. We have decided to go with a license type called Chatter – One app licenses (5EUR/user) that enables access to one custom application. We needed this as we are developing our intranet based on visual force and custom objects, hence we need some more functionality than the ordinary chatter only licenses provide.

    These licenses still do not have access to opportunities, campaigns etc. Therefore, we have decided to build some google chart components on the front page (e.g. for closed, won sales and top sales rep performance) so that they are viewable for non-CRM users as well.

  • christopherea

    Hello Dan – thanks for your comment.

    We do use a mixture of Salesforce Enterpise licenses, Partner Portal
    licenses and Chatter only licenses. We have decided to go with a license
    type called Chatter – One app licenses (5EUR/user) that enables access
    to one custom application. We needed this as we are developing our
    intranet based on visual force and custom objects, hence we need some
    more functionality than the ordinary chatter only licenses provide.

    These licenses still do not have access to opportunities, campaigns
    etc. Therefore, we have decided to build some google chart components on
    the front page (e.g. for closed, won sales and top sales rep
    performance) so that they are viewable for non-CRM users as well.

  • Dan

    Thanks Christopher. So this license type is something different than Chatter Plus? If I go to Dreamforce this year I’ll definitely attend your presentation and ‘chat’ more about this. Hope to see you there!

  • christopherea

    Yes, they have some more rights than the Chatter plus license: Force.com – One App users are entitled to the same rights as Salesforce Platform users, plus they have access to an unlimited number of custom
    tabs. However, they are limited to the use of one custom app, which
    is defined as up to 10 custom objects, and they are limited to read-only
    access to the Accounts and Contacts objects.

  • Paul

    Hi Chris, this is great. It’s exactly what I need to do so that I can roll out intranet without putting SharePoint in just for that. I’d love to understand some of the detail about how you built this. I’m mainly starting with standard intranet like news but adding chatter feeds looks interesting. It would be great to collaborate with you offline in more detail.

  • Paul

    Oh and by the way I just rolled out Chatter so happy to pass back my experience to you on the strategy I used.

  • http://twitter.com/rickyfrohnerath Ricky Frohnerath

    Props to you and your team, Chris, who blaze the trails that must be made and take the time to share and inspire others. I look forward to your updates.

  • christopherea

    Hello Ricky! Thanks for your feedback :-)

  • christopherea

    Hello Paul! Thanks for your feedback. We have built custom objects in Salesforce for news, articles and blogs and then use visual force to render the pages where we embed Chatter. I will present this project on Dreamforce in SF in September and I hope to be able to provide some more details following this.

  • Paul

    Great thanks. I almost made it to DF this year. Next year I’ll be there.

  • Dav

    Hi Chris – on which days and location will you be presenting at Dreamforce this week. I’d love to catch up with you on your progress and the things that have worked well / have not worked well with this initiative,

  • http://twitter.com/gillianream Gillian Ream

    Hey Chris, I just found this so I obviously missed you at Dreamforce, but would love to see your slides.. the slides link on this post is broken but it’d be great if you could let me know when your presentation video or slides are uploaded!

  • christopherea

    Hello Gillian!

    The Dreamforce session is published here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X81d9NvhmDE

    In addition, you can find a few slide decks outlining our solution on my slideshare account: http://www.slideshare.net/chph84/intranet-corporate-presentation &
    http://www.slideshare.net/chph84/social-enterprise-in-oslo

  • Mike

    Is anyone able to offer any lessons learned for using or implementing SalesForce as an intranet or document repository?

  • Guro Sandersen

    Hi Mike! I have gained some experience with this now and we use the intranet to store internal docs and content to store external docs for our customers in libraries based on languages. In my company this works quite well!

    We are still pretty new in this game (had the intranet in SF for 6 months and been using Content for approx. 1 yr), so there is still need of in house training, but we do that and the use increases due to that it works and simplifies peoples daily work.

  • Eric

    We are looking to implement, the same type of Corporate Intranet that Chris is talking about. If anybody has experience or knows people companies who have already completed this I would be very interested in talking to them. Thanks! email me at: eric@verticallimit.com

  • Ryan

    As of yesterday at the Salesforce / CeBit conference in Sydney, SFDC are launching a community-based app designed specifically as an intranet and as competitive takeaway for Sharepoint. First time in SFDC history they’ve launched a product outside the US.

  • Lone

    Very Interesting, can you guide me where to get more info on the topic, on the Cebit event site or elsewhere?

  • christopherea

    Is it based on the Chatter Communities app? In any case, that is great news – and about time Salesforce starts closing the gap between the Chatter and collaboration and more traditional intranets!

  • christopherea

    Hello Lone! Hope all is well :-) You can have a look at http://techcrunch.com/2013/05/30/salesforce-com-offers-replacement-to-corporate-intranet-and-moves-farther-from-crm-roots/ that offers some more insights into the plans :-)

  • Lone

    I am well, thanks! ok, thanks for the techcrunch link. Doesn´t tell a lot though;-) but interesting still.

  • christopherea

    True – I am chasing the salesforce guys for some more info, I’d be happy to share if I get something :)

  • Christian Lindknud

    Thank you for sharing, I was also starting to wonder whether we were the only one considering such a move. Will try to find other reports or cases as I’m not quite convinced yet. Sounds a bit as if bridging Salesforce with a more rock solid enterprise 2.0 solution (office 365?) might be another option?

  • Kumar

    Site.com??