January 15th, 2009 by Joshua Weinberger

There are big happenings this morning out in San Francisco, where Salesforce.com cofounder, chairman, and CEO Marc Benioff is expected to take the stage in a few hours (damn you, Pacific time!) to ignite a bit of marketing spectacle for the company’s new customer support offering, called Service Cloud. (Marshall Lager’s got the scoop on that release, over in our news section; the Service Cloud home page went live at midnight ET this morning; you can tune in to the live now-archived Webcast of Benioff’s address here, beginning at 3 p.m. ET.)

But I wonder if he’ll take a moment to draw attention to this other item that came over the transom this morning — just in time for the build-up to Tuesday’s inauguration ceremony for President-elect Barack Obama (whose full name is supposed to be used on first reference now, thanks to a change in AP style that I missed when it was announced back in November).

It seems the success of Salesforce.com’s Salesforce Ideas offering at companies such as Starbucks and Dell has inspired the presidential transition team to select that software to help gather citizens’ suggestions for the future direction of the country. (The branding on the product seems to have changed, as well. The release refers to it as Salesforce CRM Ideas — a change that warms the CRM-specific cockles of my heart, of course.)

Salesforce CRM Ideas is being used on the Change.gov Web site to gather input from the American people as part of the effort to foster greater collaboration with citizens and a more transparent government.  The application is now live at http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov.

[...snip...]

The top ideas will be presented directly to President-Elect Obama and his cabinet following the inauguration in the form of a briefing book entitled The Citizen’s Briefing Book.

No word in the release whether that Briefing Book will also be made public, but a transition-team spokesperson is quoted in the release calling the initiative “yet another way that we will ensure that this transition is the most open and transparent one in history” — so I’m hopeful. (I also wonder if they’ll use the same Ideas technology to solicit suggestions/responses for Obama’s much-ballyhooed economic stimulus package, which — despite whatever amount of ballyhoo — still has yet to see the full light of day even though it just increased in size from $775 billion to $850 billion.)

Meanwhile, I’m curious what this means for RightNow Technologies, which got an enormous bump over the last 18 months as the very public provider of the Obama campaign’s knowledge base, known on www.barackobama.com as the Answer Center. We’ll be trying to get some reaction from them later today. (There’s that Pacific time thing again.)

UPDATE, 01/15/09, 11.01aET: Christopher Musico just heard from RightNow’s spokespeople — the official word is that RightNow isn’t involved in Change.gov in any way, and has no comment regarding what the Obama team does on that new site.

But here’s something that I haven’t seen reported anywhere: The Answer Center that RightNow set up for barackobama.com seems to no longer exist. (I haven’t tried a Google Cache search yet.) If you try going to any link there, you get the following error:

Fatal error: Unable to open file

I imagine there are thousands, if not millions, of broken links all over the Web now. And here’s the really big question: What’s become of all that collected information?

The Obama-Biden Transition Team, working with salesforce.com and consulting partner Reside, was able to implement Salesforce CRM Ideas in less than four weeks…

I have to admit — I’d never heard of Reside before this morning, but it’s on my radar screen now. The efforts at Change.gov continue to intrigue me, and you’ll see more coverage from us in the coming weeks — and in the March issue — about CRM and its role in government. (Speaking of magazine tie-ins, if you’re wondering about cloud computing’s ever-increasing impact, check out our January cover story, “The Google-ization of CRM,” by Lauren McKay.)

The full Salesforce.com release is below, after the jump, but suffice to say that if anyone wondered whether the company’s community offerings could scale — well, we’re likely to find out very, very soon.

Also? If the company suffers another outage like the one that hit earlier this month, the effects won’t be as easy to sweep aside or overlook.

The more people you’ve got under your cloud, the more people get wet when it rains.

j.

UPDATE, 01/15/09, 10.28aET: Looking for links to populate this post, I noticed Salesforce.com’s homepage for Salesforce CRM Ideas has a typo in its metatags — the line at the top of the browser window reads (in part) “Salesforce Ideas – Formally CrispyNews”:

The metatag label for the Salesforce CRM Ideas homepage

The metatag label for the Salesforce CRM Ideas homepage

Evidence, I suppose, that the branding there hasn’t yet been updated to “Salesforce CRM Ideas,” but, more surprising, it’s almost certainly supposed to read “Formerly CrispyNews” — which just made me realize two things:

  1. I’d never asked Salesforce.com how it developed the technology, and
  2. Whoever Salesforce.com acquired the technology from had the good sense to demand (or the good fortune to receive) permanent credit atop Salesforce.com’s corporate page for it. As far as I know, that puts CrispyNews in a class by itself.

I dug up an old (April 2008) post by Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine, where he has this quote from Marc Benioff:

“We started using the technology ourselves[...]and we noticed right away that this was a powerful way for us to connect with our community[...] [...]After using it for a while, we decided this had to be part of our portfolio, so we acquired the assets of the company that built it (called Crispy News), and the employees work at Salesforce now.”

(It’s not immediately clear if that parenthetical near the end was added by Jarvis or if it’s just his way of including a spoken aside by Benioff.) Also in that blogpost, Jarvis quotes Benioff’s now-prescient view of how this technology should be applied in government:

* What about government starting ideastorms? “That is simply a killer idea. We are in an election year of course, and I would like to see both parties use technology to better connect with the electorate. Salesforce Ideas is democracy, as the saying goes, red in tooth and claw. But you have to invest in a conversation—it’s not going to work unless there’s a real back-and-forth.”

While I’m at it, I should also note Brent Leary’s series of posts regarding Obama, and his work on Barack 2.0: Barack Obama’s Social Media Lessons for Business. Good stuff.

Salesforce CRM Ideas Chosen to Collect Ideas from American Citizens on Change.gov

Change.gov Web site provides open forum for American people to present their ideas to the President-elect and Cabinet
Most popular ideas to be delivered directly to the President-elect post inauguration
Transition team works with salesforce.com to tap the wisdom of crowds and build first-ever “Citizen’s Briefing Book”

SAN FRANCISCO, January 15, 2009 — Salesforce.com [NYSE: CRM], the enterprise cloud computing company, today announced that Salesforce CRM Ideas is being used on the Change.gov Web site to gather input from the American people as part of the effort to foster greater collaboration with citizens and a more transparent government.  The application is now live at http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov.

In a video on the Change.gov Web site, Valerie Jarret, co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Team, urged Americans to “log onto Change.gov and give us your idea.  It can be about energy, healthcare, or reduction of our dependence on foreign oil.  You decide what is important to you.  Other citizens will then be able to read your ideas and make comments and suggestions.  You may even hear from the transition team.”

Any American interested in making his or her voice heard can go to http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov, which is live today. Users can easily post their ideas in a variety of categories, such as Economy, Education, Energy and Environment, Healthcare, and Homeland Security. In addition, users can read ideas from other citizens and promote the ones they like best. The best ideas will bubble to the top of the list as more community members participate and promote what is important to them. The top ideas will be presented directly to President-Elect Obama and his cabinet following the inauguration in the form of a briefing book entitled The Citizen’s Briefing Book.

Citizen participation is key to the success of the new administration, and in the video, Jarret encouraged American citizens to participate by submitting their ideas.  “We need your help.  We want to hear from you.” Jarret emphasized that “The Citizen’s Briefing Book will come directly from the American people.  It is yet another way that we will ensure that this transition is the most open and transparent one in history.”

The Obama-Biden Transition Team, working with salesforce.com and consulting partner Reside, was able to implement Salesforce CRM Ideas in less than four weeks, an indication of the power, flexibility and ease of salesforce.com’s cloud computing solutions.

“We are honored to be one of the first solutions selected by the transition team to help the President-elect realize his vision of a more transparent government,” said Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO of salesforce.com.  “With Salesforce CRM Ideas, government can transform a closed conversation into a collaborative dialogue that leverages the wisdom of the crowd.”

[...] Running on SalesForce.com’s platform [...]

Pingback by Open Sourcing and Improving the Citizen’s Briefing Book « random($foo) — — January 18, 2009 @ 7:04 am

US Government + Salesforce CRM… what will they come up with next?

Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Bill — — January 23, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

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