One of the least noticed of several largely overlooked news stories at Dreamforce this week was the announcement of enhancements to Quip, the collaborative document platform Salesforce acquired last year.
I wrote up the news on Tuesday in the context of a user session presented by early access customer 21st Century Fox. That session was interesting for the revelation that the collaboration ‘stack’ at Fox consists of Slack as well as Quip. But there’s much more to say about the Quip announcements and what they mean for Salesforce at a strategic level.
Later on in the week, I got a chance to sit down with Salesforce’s Head of Tech Media Strategy Steve Gillmor — better known as founder of the Gillmor Gang — and recorded the short video below on the context that makes these Quip enhancements so significant.
1. Collaboration is pivotal
I think the reason the Quip news has not been picked up so much is because a lot of people think it’s something that will be used just to enable collaboration within the Salesforce domain of sales, marketing and customer service. Certainly this is where Fox is using it, and that will be true of a lot of early adopters.
But the tentacles of collaboration reach much further in today’s hyper-connected digital enterprise. For a very long time now I’ve been arguing that collaboration is the fifth enterprise application stack in the digital era, alongside the traditional pillars of money, people, products and sales. Back in the days of client-server computing, all that mattered was recording the transactions.
Today, we are all digitally connected and what matters are not transactions alone but the interactions, engagement and relationships that surround them. What’s more, the digital enterprise cannot serve its customers unless every function in the organization is co-operating in that effort. Collaboration becomes the glue that holds the digital enterprise together.
Steve and I get into this about five minutes into the video, where I explain why it’s no longer viable to operate in separate functional silos:
A lot of people I don’t think realize this. Quip is not just to help sales and marketing teams collaborate with each other. It’s also about tying those important functions in the back-end of the organization into delivering more efficiently to customer outcomes.
2. Emergence of the collaborative canvas
In the video, I talk a little about this concept I’ve developed of the collaborative canvas, which is where an enterprise anchors digital teamwork. The canvas is not literally a document, it’s a much more porous, shape-shifting container that provides structure for collaboration around a goal. It has eight characteristics.
Four of these characteristics are vehicles for collaboration — messaging, content, applications and workflow. The other four are attributes that must run across all four of these vehicles — sync, search, permissions and people/culture.
I don’t expect any single technology or platform to provide all four vehicles. The mix will vary depending on the needs and priorities of each individual enterprise. That’s why I’m not surprised that Fox is using Slack alongside Quip. I expect most enterprises to build their collaborative canvas infrastructure out of two or more platforms.
Therefore, I see it as a big advance to extend Quip with Live Apps technology, which supports embedding of native Salesforce and third-party apps into Quip documents. This extends it beyond merely a content-centric platform to be able to also support applications, messaging and workflow, making it much more of a contender to be chosen as a core component of an enterprise collaborative canvas.
3. Now add conversational computing
Live Apps also brings Quip into the realms of conversational computing. This is where it gets really interesting, because it means users can access enterprise applications directly from the collaboration layer. We get to this just after ten minutes in. Here’s my explanation:
It’s a new layer whereby you can do everything in a messaging fabric, or a collaborative canvas, whatever you want to call it, and the functionality comes to you. You don’t have to go to the applications any more. They are brought to you in the messaging layer, or in your workflow …
You can just get the job done without having to worry about where the technology happens to be.
This is a big deal because it means that enterprise applications can become headless — people can use them without actually having to visit the application. And therefore the relationship moves away from where the data is held and relocates to where the messaging takes place. That’s why I believe this week’s Quip announcements are so significant and strategic for Saleforce.
I think platform becomes really important now, because if you’re relying on your user experience being what locks your users in, then conversational computing takes all of that away … the messaging layer is what owns the user …
I think a lot of vendors are not really switched on to how fundamentally that’s going to change the whole landscape.
That’s why I think Quip is so important — much more important than most people realize — because it keeps Salesforce in the game.
Here’s the full interview:
Image credit - Video by Steve Gillmor / Gillmor Gang. Still image is a screen grab from the video.
Disclosure - Salesforce is a diginomica premier partner at time of writing.