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Tuesday, December 6, 2011 by Angela Ashenden
Yesterday I was briefed by Salesforce.com on their latest SaaS-based product in the collaboration space, Do.com. A result of their acquisition of Manymoon back in February, Do.com is a social project collaboration tool for small groups of up to 15 people, providing features such as task management, notes and discussions. Do.com is still currently in private beta, with public beta coming in a couple of weeks, but once it is fully released, Salesforce.com intends to provide it through a “freemium” model – i.e. a free version will include the core features of the tool, with the option to upgrade to a paid version to access (for example) advanced features, premium support, or perhaps to support larger groups of users.
The product itself, while showing plenty of scope for enhancement, is slick and intuitive, employing a simple task-oriented UI to enable individuals to create and allocate tasks for themselves or others. The task list allows you to categorise tasks in a way that suits you, grouping them into personalisable “sections” which may or may not correspond to the projects to which they belong. The social element is provided in a couple of ways; each task has a comments thread associated with it which captures users’ discussions around the task, as well as tracking edits to the task such as, for example, changes to the assignee or notifications that the task has been completed. Each project has its own activity feed which tracks both comments threads and changes or additions to the tasks associated with that project, and project members can comment inline against particular activities or notifications within the feed.
An interesting aspect to the application is that it has been developed as a “mobile first” app, i.e. the UI has been designed to work well on tablets first and desktops/laptops second – the experience is the same on both. Notifications about your tasks and projects are delivered to your various devices as applicable – for example as emails, or as native pop-up notifications to your iPad or iPhone (note that iPad is the only tablet supported at present). The notes feature is interesting, providing a wiki-like platform for recording or tracking information; a line of text can be selected within an individual note, and a task created from it with a single button click. Documents can be attached to tasks, and you can create tasks and notes by emailing directly into Do.com.
Despite its immaturity, the product is already integrated with fellow SaaS services Google Apps and Dropbox, as well as (of course) the wider Salesforce.com offerings. The Google Apps integration is particularly noteworthy, leveraging the Gmail gadget framework to enable Do.com tasks to be created from an email, for example. There is also single sign on with Salesforce.com, Facebook and Google Apps.
While the app itself is very promising, what strikes me as most significant is the market that Salesforce.com is targeting with this product. Unlike its Sales Cloud or Service Cloud – or even Chatter – which are designed to serve large enterprises, Do.com is very clearly targeting the “prosumer” and small business markets. Not only is this an area where Salesforce.com is not experienced, but this is the second product this year from a major vendor to target small businesses – Microsoft, too, showed its interest in the SMB market during its launch of Office 365 back in June. However, with Do.com, Salesforce is focusing even farther down the scale, seeing it being not only a business tool, but something individuals will use in their personal lives as well, combining the two contexts within a single environment. This is interesting because it is explicitly blurring the boundaries between business and personal tools – something which is characterised by many of the social tools that have achieved massive growth over the last five years, and yet something that many organisations have considerable concerns about, whether for security or for governance reasons. For this reason, it makes sense that Salesforce is positioning Do.com as a small business tool, especially as this type of organisation tends to be more open to SaaS services.
But I wonder if and how Salesforce will eventually link these two strategies – the large enterprise against the small business – and what it intends to achieve with Do.com. Chatter was a logical extension to the Sales and Service Clouds, enabling Salesforce to broaden its applicability within its existing client base, i.e. beyond the sales and marketing and customer support departments. Do.com on the other hand is ignoring this existing customer base altogether. At the moment, that doesn’t make sense to me. I just hope there’s some clearer direction there that isn’t visible yet.
What’s your take on this? Is this a good or a bad move for Salesforce.com?