Chattering away in the cloud is not for everyone, and maybe especially not for those Microsoft shops that seek to preserve their investments in collaborative software such as SharePoint.
While Chatter has been a significant addition to the Salesforce.com product line, longtime Microsoft partner Neudesic offers an alternative for the Windows world. At next week's Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2011 conference in Atlanta, the company will be particularly playing up its integration with Dynamics CRM, which makes it possible to display a Chatter-like activity stream on the CRM dashboard and also auto-generate posts based on Dynamics CRM events, like when a salesperson books a customer win.
"This lets you carry on contextual conversations inside the CRM account," Jason Noble, general manager of product development, said in an interview. "What we're doing for Dynamics is allowing them to be on par with Chatter and Salesforce's capability." Neudesic strengthened the Dynamics CRM integration with its version 1.2 release in February.
When used with SharePoint, Neudesic Pulse features can be embedded as "Web Parts" components in the portal. "SharePoint out of box has some social capabilities, but it doesn't have the highly interactive activity stream people have grown to expect in terms of microblogging and status updates," Noble said. Pulse also makes it possible to attach files or images to activity stream notes. To keep employees from being overwhelmed, Pulse also includes a notifications system that highlights posts an individual should pay particular attention to, such as a question or a mention directed at that person. Social question and answer systems have become a force in social media applications, public and private, and in Pulse the Q&A conversations are both displayed in the main activity stream and separated out on a questions tab.
One big selling point for some customers is that Pulse is not a cloud-only product, like Chatter or Yammer, so enterprise conversations aren't taking place outside the firewall. "That, for a lot of people, is a very big deal," Director of Product Development Jesse Ezell said. Neudesic customers also tend to value the idea that Pulse can configured as an extension of their existing SharePoint-based collaboration systems, rather than a replacement for them. "If you look at Jive, it tries to be the hub that will pull people away from SharePoint," Ezell said.
While Neudesic does offer a cloud-based version of Pulse, most customers "are only slowly transitioning from on premise technology to the cloud," Noble said.
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