University Finds Chatter Cuts 'Reply To All' Problem

Fresno Pacific University deploys social software on departmental basis, nixes wall-to-wall rollout.

David F Carr, Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

August 18, 2011

3 Min Read

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Since Fresno Pacific University adopted's Chatter social network as part of an effort to improve the recruiting process, it has begun expanding, department by department, across the university based in Fresno, Calif.

Jonathan Maher, institutional research data analyst at the university, said Chatter was originally adopted in early 2010 as part of an implementation of, with customizations specific to recruiting built on Since then, its use has been slowly growing throughout the university and now covers five departments. For example, now that the tutoring faculty is on the system, a recruiter who gets a question from a Spanish-speaking student worried about his English skills can use Chatter to query a tutor about the help the school has available, he said.

"The faculty is not currently in it, although one of the deans came to me recently talking about his interest in having faculty members create accounts," Maher said. "I'd love for everyone to have a Chatter account, but right now adoption needs to be department by department."

Maher said the concern is not cost--he doesn't pay on a per-user basis--but simply taking time to make sure each new group of users is prepared to use the tool effectively. That's a pattern that matches up with some expert advice on more effective adoption of social media. The danger of expanding too fast, without getting users geared up to use the software, is that there will not be enough content in the system to meet user expectations, he said. says it has more than 80,000 customers using the commercial version of Chatter launched last summer, plus another 10,000 who use the free version introduced in February. Those numbers will likely be revised upward during an earnings call on Thursday. Director of product marketing Sarah Patterson said the product is used for a wide variety of collaborative tasks, including those outside of sales and support, but its biggest strength remains its integration with the application platform.

Still, some large customers such as Dell and CA have rolled out Chatter "wall-to-wall" within their organizations because they want everyone to be able to use it, she said.

Salesforce says that users surveyed report that they have been able to reduce meetings by 28% and email by 32%, on average, with the use of Chatter.

Maher said he still has Chatter configured to send him email notifications about activity "because to me it's not about reducing email, it's about improving communication." On the other hand, Chatter is very effective at reducing the kind of group email communication where employees "reply to all"--even though only a fraction of the audience really needs to receive their message. Chatter allows employees to listen in on different conversations and follow different people according to their level of interest, setting email notifications for some communications and periodically checking others when they have a spare moment.

"What I see is that there is definitely less forced communication, where everyone gets something shoved down their throat," Maher said.

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About the Author(s)

David F Carr

Editor, InformationWeek Government/Healthcare

David F. Carr oversees InformationWeek's coverage of government and healthcare IT. He previously led coverage of social business and education technologies and continues to contribute in those areas. He is the editor of Social Collaboration for Dummies (Wiley, Oct. 2013) and was the social business track chair for UBM's E2 conference in 2012 and 2013. He is a frequent speaker and panel moderator at industry events. David is a former Technology Editor of Baseline Magazine and Internet World magazine and has freelanced for publications including CIO Magazine, CIO Insight, and Defense Systems. He has also worked as a web consultant and is the author of several WordPress plugins, including Facebook Tab Manager and RSVPMaker. David works from a home office in Coral Springs, Florida. Contact him at [email protected]and follow him at @davidfcarr.

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