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How do I roll out Salesforce Chatter?

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How to Roll Out ChatterAt Dreamforce 2009 Salesforce rolled out Chatter to its customers and literally overnight changed the dynamic of the CRM industry not to mention the direction of their company. No longer was your CRM a place you want to input data and leave, now it was a place to collaborate with coworkers, follow the data, and get updates in real time. With Chatter, Salesforce turned a database from information system to an intelligence system. So with all of the benefits of Chatter, why do companies still struggle to roll it out? And how can you be successful in your rollout?

Take inventory of your current communication systems

It’s easy to think that rolling out Chatter is as simple as “turning it on and watching people instantly use it”. But the reality is that only a small percentage of users will dive in and the majority will simply feel overwhelmed. That overwhelming feeling comes from a lack of understanding the following:

  • What are the goals of Chatter?
  • What should I use Chatter for?
  • I don’t get social media, so I won’t get Chatter.
  • How does Chatter fit with our other communication systems?

Prior to turning Chatter on and giving access to users it’s best to do a Communications Audit of the systems your company uses to collaborate.  Generate a list of what tool is used and it’s intended use, also include the group or groups of employees that have access to it. Is it a communication platform everyone can use or only a certain group of people?
I’ll give you an example below:

  1. Outlook: Email & Calendar. All employees have access.
  2. Google Talk: Instant messaging. All employees have access.
  3. Company Intranet: Company announcements. All employees have access.

After compiling a list of the communication tools you will want to look for a couple things. The first is a gap in tools that could be filled. Let’s say your list only has email. No instant messenger, no company intranet- this means you have a couple communication gaps to fill. So first step is to identify the gaps.

Next look for disparate systems or systems of duplication. Is there a department that uses two systems for communication when one could be more efficient?

Set a Goal for the use of Chatter

After identifying the gaps in communication tools that a company has your next step is to identify the goals for how you want people to use Chatter. This is the most critical step and the one that I think everyone overlooks. To get started ask yourself this question- “When users login to Chatter I want them to use it for _______________________.” Without clearly defined goals, users won’t know what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable to post. Keep in mind, that everyone wants to do the right thing. They want to put in the right information. Anytime they don’t know what is right, or it’s not clear to them- they simply won’t do it.

Clearly Communicate your Goals

To this point you have identified the tools you use for communication, the gaps that Chatter can fill, and your organization’s goal for Chatter use. Now it’s time to communicate those goals. And by communicate I want you to think of every possible way to deliver your message to each employee not once, but twice and in various forms. Depending on the size of your company having an “All-Hands” meeting can be easy or nearly impossible. But what you will definitely want to do is have senior leadership on board. You will want to have the most senior leader communicate the goals and importance of Chatter to your company- ideally the CEO. But if you are just rolling it out to a small group of users make sure it is the manager for those users, and that means the Admin needs to step aside and prep them as much as possible. Make sure your communication method includes more than just one channel. The answer to “What is this Chatter thing?” should never be- “Oh, didn’t you see the email last week”. Remember that the people in your organization consume information from different sources so you need to make sure that you cover every source at least twice. That means:

  • Send more than 1 email.
  • Post goals, rollout schedule, and timeline to every possible medium- email, newsletter, company intranet, etc.
  • Don’t rely on information ‘trickling down’ from Managers. Managers should know first, but always message to the end user as well.
  • Be crystal clear about where to go with questions, comments, concerns- if users don’t feel they have a voice they are unlikely to participate.

Make sure everyone has a room

In a podcast with fellow MVP Becky Webster (click here) she gave everyone a great tip and that is to “make sure everyone has room”. By room she means a Chatter Group. I like this tip a lot. In the same way that you make sure an employee has an office and a computer when they start you should make sure that everyone has a Chatter group to join- or is already a part of. This makes the transition a lot easier and individuals won’t feel the overwhelming need to start following everyone. For many users groups make sense and by having a set of Chatter Groups already in place this gives all your users a “room” when they first start.

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