Interview with Clara Shih, co-creator of Faceforce

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A few weeks ago, SalesForce.com’s Clara Shih and Facebook’s Todd Perry made waves with the release of Faceforce, a SalesForce application that allows SalesForce users to augment their traditional CRM data with Facebook profile information:

With Faceforce Connector for the AppExchange, you can for the first time unleash the power of your personal network on Facebook to build better relationships with customers, colleagues, and business partners… The seamless integration pulls critical Facebook profile information into your Salesforce Account, Lead, and Contact records in real time, providing you with an instant 360ยบ view of customers, prospects, and business associates.

Last week, I spoke with Faceforce co-creator Clara Shih about the project.

IF: Why did you decide to build Faceforce?

CS: After f8, I realized that the lines are completely blurring between the consumer and enterprise worlds. More than ever before, people are working from home, taking care of personal business at work (just ask any Googler who does laundry at the office), and using so-called consumer apps like eBay and Google Maps for business purposes. For many in my generation, work is play. Among my Stanford computer science class, it is the rule not the exception to have a Web 2.0 site on the side or a business idea in the works. Thanks to open web services APIs given to us by pioneers like Marc Benioff and Mark Zuckerberg, it’s fast and easy to build robust Internet applications.

IF: To what extent is Faceforce the result of an official collaboration between Facebook and SalesForce?

CS: Around the time I decided to create Faceforce, I was serendipitously contacted by Todd Perry, a former Stanford classmate who now works as a software engineer for Facebook. He had come across my previous blog entry and wanted to chat. We got together for drinks, I pitched him my idea for Faceforce, and the rest is history. Although we happen to be employees of salesforce.com and Facebook respectively, we used only publicly available APIs to develop Faceforce (though it certainly didn’t hurt that we were knowledgeable about our respective platforms).

IF: Does Faceforce help SalesForce users do their job better?

CS: Faceforce takes two of the most open and innovative web platforms — one focused in the consumer space, one focused on the enterprise — and mashes them up to offer a seamless experience for users. Out of this I think we will see more, better, and longer-lasting business relationships like so many Facebook users are already experiencing in their personal relationships. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Todd and I are working on another app. I hope and expect other developers will explore this unchartered territory. Five years from now, no enterprise app — CRM, HR, ERP — won’t be integrated with the social graph.

IF: What is the future of SalesForce and social networking?

CS: At salesforce.com, I’ve seen how Internet tools like LinkedIn and Spoke have helped our sales organization win deals and our recruiting department source candidates. The rich profile data and social graph information accessible through the Facebook API seem ideally suited to take this even further. The next generation of CRM won’t be about software. It will be about relationships, and social networking sites by design are 100% about relationships.

[tags]facebook,salesforce,enterprise,crm[/tags]