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To take enterprise social software to the next level, SAP is proposing a new approach that integrates social and collaboration technology tightly into business applications.

Enterprise Social Software: Growing, But Facing Adoption Problems

Enterprise social software has been around for around six years, and recent research shows that it continues to be a fast-growing market. According to a recent Forrester Research study, 52% of organizations  will make an investment in enterprise social this year.

But as Dion Hinchcliffe points out, enterprises face much higher adoption “headwinds” for social software than consumers:


The latest research shows that It’s been difficult to get meaningful enterprise social adoption because the applications don’t have a business context. With “non-contextual” social software, the ‘ah-ha’ moment has not happened for a lot of the users, who struggle to understand how social technology impacts the work they do.

For example, Dachis Group’s  Social Business Council carried out a study on the Current State of Social Engagement inside the Large Enterprise and found that :

More than half, 57%, of the survey respondents pegged a mere 10-20% of their eligible workforce as active. There were no members who indicated 100% of their eligible employees were active on the platform.


Executives and vendors have found it hard to justify investments on social software. Unlike business applications such as Customer Relationship Management, there’s no obvious direct link between social software and tangible business benefits. As Mark McDonald of Gartner puts it:

For many executives, social media “appears to be a distraction drawing people away from meaningful work”… “frequently executives ask about the productivity impact of social media and see it as a reason to reinforce control rather than reinvest in collaboration. A social organization means business, so the real question for social media advocates and executives is not ‘to be or not to be social’ but rather ‘What are the right structures for social media in the organization?’”

Today, enterprise social software is often deployed as a silo, separate from where business people do their work. It has been a “white canvas” where proponents have had to “manufacture” the use cases, for example: “a wiki could help you in these six ways and a blog could help you in these three ways” and the business case has had to be built on indirect values.

This lack of alignment with the business has resulted in catch-22 situations: if there isn’t an obvious business use case, then there’s no adoption, and if there’s no adoption, there’s no content being generated, so there’s no real reason for people to go there – and the whole thing breaks down, resulting in “social ghost towns”


Forrester Research also indicates that the biggest barriers to social media adoption are to do with links to the business:

“In environments where social business solutions have been deployed and there have been issues with adoption, survey data demonstrates perceived lack of business value (46%) and lack of integration with workflow and business    
applications (50%) as critical roadblocks”


So what new approaches can be tried to increase the value of social technology in organizations?

SAP Jam – Putting Enterprise Social to Work

Earlier this year, Sameer Patel joined SAP as GM and Global VP Enterprise Social and Collaborative Software. Sameer is a well-known social enterprise analyst and member of the Enterprise Irregulars – “a diverse group of practitioners, consultants, investors, journalists, analysts and full time bloggers who share a common passion - enterprise technology and its application to business in the 21st century”. He explained his reasons for joining in a post on his Pretzel Logic blog.

For the last six months, he has been working with teams from SAP and SuccessFactors on the social strategy of the company. To combat the problems with existing enterprise social software, the strategy is based on four key design principles.


Social Seamlessly Integrated with Work

SAP started from the principle that social software should be something that “shows up when you need it, and it enables and enhances something that you’re already doing”.

Instead of talking about how organizations “have to be a social enterprise,” SAP wanted to look at discrete problems that organizations have today and align social with the core performance metrics that organizations already have. Rather than social success being about “killing email”, it’s about about making what business people do more effective.

To achieve this, SAP brought together a co-innovation council of 20 customers from different industries, who worked together to understand what it means when you say ‘social needs to turn up in the context of work’. The company’s deep experience in applications meant that it was possible to get in touch with the right contacts to think about “day of the life” scenarios for many different roles: sales people, suppliers, HR, finance, etc.

SAP used this feedback to understand where collaboration makes sense in business processes, and what types of collaboration are required – where social and collaboration can and can’t “move the needle”. The company then used this knowledge to embed social into business applications such as customer relationship management, sales force automation, finance applications, and talent management.


Instead of starting with a blank social network, where people don’t know where to start or what to do, users are given social in a business context: collaboration is directly tied to making existing work more effective. It’s an embedded, native experience, so that, for example, somebody who is used to using CRM every day can start from that environment rather than having to switch over to something different.

Forrester outlined the value of this type of collaborative business integration in a recent study, Social Business: Delivering Critical Business Value:

A potential scenario that illustrates this type of integration could involve a salesperson reacting to an opportunity. As information comes into an activity stream from a customer relationship management (CRM) system, it can be critical to activities to drive an opportunity. A high-severity incident with a current client could change the approach to a sales opportunity. A social business layer that is connected to a CRM system could be a perfect mechanism for providing the information to the salesperson in time to drive the right decisions regarding the approach. Additionally, the approach and response to the incident could be refined by collective input from the broader community. Another example would be adding social capabilities to a document-centric collaboration system to allow collective input to content creation and management.

SAP has already integrated SAP Jam into its applications, concentrating on the key areas where collaboration can add value, such as CRM on-premise and on-demand, learning management, and finance on-demand. More applications, including supply chain collaboration inside and outside the organization, and ties to recently-acquired Ariba, will be a focus in 2013.


The Right Social Tools For The Right Situations

So far, most social software has either been “Facebook for the enterprise,” sitting separately from where work is getting done, or “social feeds” inside applications. But the universal answer to every business problem is not always an “inch-deep mile-wide” collaboration tool such as a feed, forum, blog, or wiki.

If a business person has a question that they want to broadcast it to lots of people, these social networking tools provide an excellent solution – for example, if I’m in marketing, and I’m looking for information about a reference customer. But what happens when I receive dozens of replies? I then need to find the two or three people have the best answer, and then I would like to collaborate with them and work to create a document or gather data, make a decision, and rank different possibilities.

These types of collaboration require different “collaborative constructs” that are more adapted to narrower, more work-focused tasks. SAP Jam proposes all the best-of-breed social networking tools that organizations have come to expect from enterprise social software, but also adds a series of more structured collaborative tools, such as dynamic agendas and pro/con tables:


In addition, people can share and annotate documents without having to leave the application or collaboration home screen, including tight integration with Microsoft SharePoint. And there are powerful video tools that help social learning. Anybody can easily capture video, using an iPhone, a webcam, or screen recording, and share it with others in the organization. This is perfect for informal learning situations.

These different tools are then embedded into applications, to provide collaboration along more traditional work processes. This makes it much easier to establish the value of collaboration – instead of talking generically about the ‘value of being a social enterprise’, a VP of sales can see how collaboration can help speed up the lifecycle of onboarding a new sales representative.  Social becomes “just” one of an arsenal of tools making sales more effective.


Finance – perhaps surprisingly – is another area where there are very strong use cases for integrated collaboration. One example is invoice exception handling. Every day in organizations around the world there are invoices that “look strange” – maybe there are data points missing or the organization doesn’t know why the invoice has been received. Finance needs to be able to quickly and easily bring people together to solve the mystery, in an auditable environment. In addition, there are many financial processes such as budgeting that are inherently cross-functional, requiring collaboration with many people across production,  inventory, sales, etc . Using collaborative tools for tasks like this isn’t “social enterprise” as much as just “better finance”.

Here’s a demonstration of SAP Jam embedded into the SAP Financials OnDemand application:

A Seamless Social Experience Across Applications

SAP embeds social collaboration inside applications in a contextual way, but most employees will engage with social across several different applications. So the home page of SAP Jam has been designed as a place to bring together all the employee’s interactions and engagements. If a sales rep has been using collaboration inside CRM, but has also questioned an invoice or an expense report in the Financial application, everything will be shown in one place.


In addition, SAP Jam uses information gathered from different corporate systems to intelligently propose different social interactions and provide default settings – for example, based on job roles, users can be automatically enrolled in particular groups. When you log on to the home page for the first time, users find the typical company feed, but will also see a series of “tiles” with recommendations based on their profile. This could be suggested people to follow, documents to read, training courses to take, etc.

Over time, SAP Jam will learn from what you’ve done and who you are and make more intelligent recommendations.


The social home page becomes somewhere where “users can live” rather than just being another open tab in a browser.

A Social Architecture Available From Everywhere

SAP Jam provides collaborative services whatever an organization's application environment. It is a cloud-based application that integrates tightly with both on-premise and on-demand applications. SAP Jam is designed to be a consistent platform that can outlive any changes to underlying application footprints. There are predefined integrations today for a variety of SAP applications that address all the security and administration requirements that SAP customers rely on. Integration with third-party applications is possible, with a robust API, integration with a variety of single-sign on protocols, etc.

SAP’s Social strategy has three principal layers:

  1. Best-of-breed "traditional" enterprise social networking (blogs, wikis, feeds...)
  2. Purpose-built social and collaborative solutions, integrated with traditional applications
  3. Social media analytics and engagement tools, such as SAP Social Media Analysis


In addition, a dedicated mobile application is currently in development.


Endorsement for SAP’s Work-Oriented Social Approach

SAP’s social and collaborative software aligns with performance objectives organization already have, not just nebulous concepts such as “more sharing” or “more engagement”.

There’s increasing industry consensus that this approach will lead to the next big wave of social software adoption. For example, Dion Hincliffe’s ZDNet article An enterprise-wide vision for social business:

SAP's vision for social… is a view that we're starting to see more and more often as companies begin to think more holistically about the new social channels that surround them and reconciling with the increasingly empty legacy channels they have. In this new view, engagement is the fundamental process that matters most and gets work done. Engagement is also where companies have now realized they need the most improvement. SAP's vision shows that analytics and engagement tools are required to make use of these new channels. Customers, employees, and partners are all connected together in a useful way that ensures business processes are the focus and use social to create an absolute minimum of friction in terms of lack of information or a connection to the necessary resources or people to get any given piece of work done.

Embedding social technologies into work will help get organizations closer to the next "tranformational" business opportunities. Forrester Research puts it this way:

Business as we know it is changing. The next generation of market-leading organizations will digitize their enterprise model with new capabilities enabled by social technologies. But many of today's social technology initiatives fall well short of their transformational potential. Smart business and technology leaders are rethinking business strategy to create a "social business" — moving beyond linear, process-driven organizations to create new, dynamic, networked businesses that focus on customer value. These new organizations are capable of empowering and connecting people in new ways to create value in the marketplace. These social businesses change the competition and set new standards for how companies, governments, and nonprofits deliver value.


More Information

SAP Jam: Secure Social Collaboration Where You Work

SAP Redefines Social for the Enterprise

SAP Jam Overview

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