Cloud computing is providing a new "social" kind of interface for what used to be traditional stand-alone back-office software. For example, by incorporating the new Chatter message feature recently released by force(dotcom), real estate software developer Propertybase has charted new territory for CRM software. Suddenly, collaborating with colleagues or managing a broker's or real estate developer's office is as easy as using Facebook.
Since we are using it as our example, let's look more closely at Propertybase to see how it has changed by incorporating this new social interface technology. Propertybase is the leading real estate CRM software built on the force(dotcom) platform, which was developed by cloud-computing leader Salesforce. This means that Propertybase runs entirely on the web, with none of the cost or infrastructure overhead typically associated with large software installations. It is what they call a "cloud-based" software application.
The typical advantages of a cloud-based application are low start-up cost (there is usually just a monthly subscription fee, rather than a license purchase), stability (since the software runs on massive international servers), and zero IT or maintenance cost, since all IT is handled by the software developer, not the customer.
In some cases, a cloud-based application may require some initial customization for a given customer, in which case a separate fee is arranged for that service. In other cases, the customer can use the application "off the shelf" without and modification or customization.
In the case of Propertybase, the software runs on the force(dotcom) platform developed by cloud-computer leader Salesforce. That platform recently came out with a new feature called Chatter, its attempt to give a more "social" feel to the user experience.
The Chatter feature creates a Facebook-like interface, where all colleagues can see each other's accounts and interact with each other in real time.
For example, say a sales agent wants to arrange an open-house to show a property. She can simply post the announcement as one would in Facebook, and all of her colleagues see it instantly.
The Chatter system also serves as a calendar manager, allowing users to synchronize or coordinate events, plan meetings, and check each others' schedules for availability.
Anyone familiar with using Facebook will find the new Chatter interface very intuitive and familiar. Each user has an account with a photo, organizational information, contact information, and personal details appropriate for a business environment. And each user has a Wall, and can share things with others by posting them on the Wall.
So what does this mean for real estate professionals?
Using the familiar Facebook-style interface, Propertybase users can now:
* Track each other's business activities in real time.
* Follow other users, prospects, or customers
* Get automated reminders of events.
* Set trigger conditions on accounts, and receive alerts if the trigger event happens.
* Communicate broadly or narrowly with public wall postings or private messages.
* Coordinate and schedule events with the built-in shared calendar.
This also means Propertybase users can always be instantly aware of:
* New property listings
* Price changes and updates
* Buyer and Seller Offers
* Property Viewings
* Open Houses
* And other market activities
And just as in Facebook, they can follow their colleagues' chatter about housing prices, market demand, offer status, and property availability in real time.
Propertybase can also push this information to its users mobile devices such as the iPhone or Blackberry, so that they are always in touch and always the first to know about new developments.
This is just one illustration of how the evolving field of cloud computing is opening up new territory and allowing software developers to create ever-more-social user experiences.