Friday, June 26, 2009

The future of computing looks like Twitter

Marc Benioff, co-founder and chief executive of, said that the world of business software and infrastructure is starting to see the same craze for real-time results that’s taking over web search. And he extolled the virtues of the pioneer of the real-time web — microblogging service Twitter.

Customers of Salesforce’s sales and and customer service web applications, as well as its platform for business applications, expect everything to happen right away, Benioff said — if they update their data, they expect those changes to appear immediately, not an hour or two in the future.

The core insight behind the Service Cloud is the fact that customer service has become decentralized and spread throughout the web. If customers need answers, they’re no longer calling into the company for help. They may not even be logging into the company’s customer service website. Instead, they’re looking on Google, on their social networks, and on other websites. The Service Cloud allows companies to use their Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) accounts to find customer service queries across the web, to track them, and to capture those questions and answers for use elsewhere.

The Service Cloud officially launched in January, and there are now 6,800 companies using Salesforce to provide customer service. But there’s been one overwhelming request since the launch: adding Twitter. That integration will be available soon.

Let’s say you’re a mobile phone manufacturer, for example. Within Salesforce, you’ll be able to search for any relevant “tweets” — for example, complaints about a broken phone — track any responses, and then use the company’s Twitter account to respond yourself. Of course, you can already do all of those things within Twitter, but this makes the process more convenient, and, more importantly, allows you to capture that information and respond, all within a single application, one that lets you perform similar tasks on Facebook and elsewhere.

Salesforce’s emphasis on managing a process that’s become scattered throughout the web is smart, and the Twitter integration (which will be added without extra charge to the Service Cloud package) is a necessary addition.

Many companies haven’t realized this is where things are headed, Benioff said recounted attending meetings with chief information officers who all refused to believe that Twitter represents anything significant; they don’t have accounts themselves because “it’s not their generation.” Benioff’s response? He types the name of their company into Twitter search and shows that they’re missing out on a huge part of the conversation. (Benioff isn’t an impartial observer here, since Salesforce’s Service Cloud product is all about connecting companies to their customers on services like Twitter.)

I think corporations have to step it up in terms of integrating with these real-time systems.

That’s the same lesson that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has learned recently as Twitter is used to organize anti-government protesters.

Business Mashups LLC
partners with to build core business applications, like human resource management (HRM), supply chain management (SCM) and Customer relationship management (CRM).

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