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Salesforce Communities Pick Up Where Portals Left Off

By Erika Morphy
May 3, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Salesforce has announced that a product it first unveiled last summer, Salesforce Communities, will go live this summer.

Salesforce Communities Pick Up Where Portals Left Off

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Since its original debut, Communities has been tweaked to take into account user views and feedback. Salesforce's user community got a taste of similar functionality last month with the company's rollout of Chatter Topics and Expertise, which lets users find information and related resources, as well as identify experts, based on topics of interest.

Although it is powered by Chatter, Communities is a different product. That said, it does share certain traits with Chatter Topics and Expertise.

Dynamic and Flexible

It allows companies to create social communities with business data and processes. These communities can be tailored to any customer or partner need; for example, a community could be created around a mobile banking app or a video game development project.

In short, Salesforce Communities is the company's answer to legacy portal software, said Anna Rosenman, senior product marketing manager.

Communities is more dynamic than the traditional portal software, she told CRM Buyer, in that it is more flexible and easier to use.

"At its heart is Chatter and Salesforce's collaboration tools," said Rosenman -- plus the ability to combine a myriad range of data and processes, depending on the design vision of the users.

"We have seen incredible examples of difference use cases," she observed. "That was the first thing we noticed during the pilot -- the use case was incredibly broad."

Salesforce Communities allows users to create any custom community -- for example, for new product development or to connect devices with manufacturers and dealers for customer feedback.

Sales, Marketing, Service

Communities also can be deployed for sales, service or marketing; there are modules for each of these categories.

Salesforce Communities for Sales, for instance, guides companies in creating customized communities to connect with channel partners, distributors, resellers and suppliers. There are features to facilitate lead sharing and deal registration, among others.

Salesforce Communities for Service gives a user's customers a single destination to get answers from a company's knowledge base, from members of its community, or directly from company experts or service reps.

Salesforce Communities for Marketing helps users collaborate on product development by creating communities with agencies that provide access to the company's creative concepts and brand guidelines. Communities for Marketing also can streamline the approval process.

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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