How Citizen Schools has Deployed Salesforce Chatter – Part I

December 12, 2011

Last week, my team had the opportunity to present our use of Chatter to the Boston Non-Profit Salesforce User Group and I thought I’d share the gist of what we presented here.  A huge shout out to my colleagues Julianne Diamond, Shrina Amin, Kate Berlent and Colin Stokes for putting it all together and making a compelling presentation.  This is Part I of a two-part story, focused on how we rolled the system out.  Part II will cover some reflections and best-practices.

At Citizen Schools, we’ve had access to Chatter from the pilot stage, when we were evaluating it as a tool/platform for use with our online community.  It didn’t’ work out in that situation, but we were able to turn it on and get some preliminary experience with the platform over the course of the next year or so.  During this period, we had several geographically distributed cohorts that began using Chatter to support their collaboration and share best practices, with good success, but limited uptake by our relatively small (30 users) population.

Last spring, as detailed elsewhere, we decided to move our fundraising operations off of the Raiser’s Edge and into Salesforce.  As we began planning for this transition, it became clear that we had an opportunity to leverage Chatter more effectively at the same time, both to promote collaboration by our staff who were focused on external engagement work (fundraising, volunteer recruitment and policy/advocacy) within a given region as well as for the additional groups of geographically-separated staff who could share best-practices, support and news with each other.

Coincident with this realization, two new tools from Salesforce arrived to help facilitate the general roll-out. The first was the Chatter desktop application, which allows anyone with a Chatter account to easily stay on top of their feed, even when they aren’t inside Salesforce.  Given that Salesforce work is just a part of a staff-member’s day, this application is a key tool to keep Chatter in the front of people’s minds.  The second tool was the rollout of the Chatter Free license.  This license type allows you to invite any member of your organization to join Chatter at no cost.  Because you can simply ‘invite’ people to join Chatter by clicking a button, it makes for a very low barrier to entry,  and it allowed usage to spread virally, along natural lines of communication, rather than in a top-down fashion.

Over the course of the summer, we began pushing usage from a central perspective as well, enlisting several champions within senior management who saw the value and were interested in helping solve the organizational communication problem (which we call EmailFail internally).  We developed and published guidelines (and actually did the document development through Chatter Files) and intentionally moved more group work into Chatter Groups.

When we went live with our Convio Luminate solution in October, at a management strategy retreat focused on external relations work, we also pushed Chatter heavily as a communication tool.  We created a group and hashtags for the retreat and asked for questions and commentary about the retreat to be posted to Chatter.  We also got all users set up on Chatter Mobile and Desktop as quickly as possible.

At this point, we’ve got a fairly active core of users posting status updates and links on a regular basis, but usage is down from the peak that we hit during the retreat.  We’ve also not yet really cracked the code for having people effectively updating Chatter on records and following records.  There are some concerns about confidentiality (our sharing model is pretty open), as well as a more general feeling of being overwhelmed (as we doubled our number of Salesforce users with our October launch), so this will definitely be an area for us to work on in the coming months.


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