We're at the end of Day 5 of the new SAP Community Network (SCN), and it's been a wild, productive, exhausting, exhilarating, and increasingly positive week.
So, What Did You Do This Week?
We achieved a major milestone in the 9-year history of SCN by migrating -- after a year of planning, restructuring content, redesigning, user- and infrastructure testing -- to a new, more-powerful, more-flexible, modern community platform.
The migration in the first two or three days was hairy: tons of platform performance (speed) and stability (uptime) issues, users booted-out when the system overloaded, high “user experience” challenges as everyone was simultaneously learning where’s my stuff? due to a dramatic change in navigation and labeling, and much more. The feedback and reaction from the community members was quick, far-reaching, coming in high volumes, and devolved from curiosity to frustration to anger, with some raw emotions expressed pretty harshly.
The team was prepared for much of this, and was fully engaged from the moment we flipped the switch, working 24-hours-a-day to address questions and issues from online virtual and geographic support hubs around the world, sharing “how to” documents, recording suggestions and issues, and responding to the flood of input.
By mid-week, we saw dramatic improvements in platform performance and stability (big shout-out to our IT colleagues/partners and to our core platform vendor and consultants), and the correction of those foundational issues caused a dramatic mood shift in a positive direction, so comments and suggestions turned away from performance to labeling, navigation, and features.
Extraordinary Support, Responsiveness, and Forward Progress From An Amazing Cross-Functional Team
Throughout all of this, the SCN business and IT teams continued working around-the-clock to respond to SCN member questions, concerns, comments, and suggestions. (I'm most proud of this; our people performed admirably and reflect the affinity we have for our members and the commitment we have to this community, not through empty words and platitudes but through helpful action and selfless sacrifice delivered in a professional way.)
Augmenting this SCN core team were hundreds of moderators, topic experts, space (topic) owners, mentors, hundreds of helpful community members, and many others.
Now, while we have a long way to go, the underlying platform has been performing pretty well. In addition, many, many people see the potential of new social capabilities and are excited about our future on this new modern platform and design. (There are some, of course, who want the old, familiar SCN despite its now-forgotten flaws.) We are moving forward!
The Challenges Were Real -- And Real Ugly
I fully acknowledge, however, that we had significant problems this week. I know that these have negatively impacted many members, and I personally apologize for the bumpy start you may have experienced in our new beginning together on a modernized platform hosting the new SCN.
The performance of the site was painfully slow at times, and some members discovered that some content (mainly discussion threads and blog images) was missing from the migration. Many members were logged out repeatedly when the system hit overload thresholds. A variety of bugs were discovered by members (thank you for reporting them). In general, we expected some bumps, but the experience thus far has not been as smooth as we had hoped, and this has made for a difficult transition.
On SCN itself, we had a flood of comments expressing disappointment (or worse). Here's what the volume looked like on Twitter from influentials, from Sunday through early Friday (today), peaking with about 90 comments on Monday and calming on Wednesday (Friday is partial).
And the sentiment -- while passionate throughout the week -- was skewing negative on Monday/Tuesday, then took a turn for the better mid-Wednesday, and stayed relatively positive Thursday/Friday. Overall, it leaned neutral-to-positive about the change overall, as you can see. We had 32 negative or very negative comments during the week, more than double that: 77 positive or very positive comments, and 130 neutral or informational comments.
The Teams Are Fully Engaged and Completely Committed
The SCN team has been listening to you and others from the community in our discussion forums, in blog comments, and through social media channels. We certainly heard your voices loud and clear from Sunday evening on, and fortunately the mood turned for the better on Wednesday. After some harsh criticism, many of you are now reporting success with getting accustomed to the new site.
I’ve been known to advise colleagues, “You’ll know whether what you do really matters when you stop doing it… If no one notices, it wasn’t that important after all; however, if people scream and object and escalate, you know that what you’re doing is critical.” We got our answer: SCN is critically important to hundreds of thousands of passionate, vocal, and outspoken members.
And while the early-week comments stung a bit, the constructive ones are extremely helpful to us, as they highlight specific issues and bugs we didn’t find through three months of user testing with 1000 sneak-preview members, and they inform us about how you navigate, what you expect, and what you're experiencing. This allows us to be smarter about prioritizing improvements and rectifying problems so you can use SCN as you always have -- as a destination for intelligent content and a connection point to collaborate with other vibrant community members about SAP products and solutions.
Our Current Laser-Focus
We're focused right now on fixing these issues as our highest priority big-ticket items:
- Overall System Performance: People are coming to the site in huge numbers, and as a result, the load on the site is massive, and some user elements (search, browsing, page rendering) are suffering. We're changing the way background tasks are performed by tuning database and caching servers. This has already shown positive results, and we are continuing to explore system enhancements.
- Member logout: A side effect of system performance issues mentioned above, as the load on the system increases, user sessions may get switched to other systems resulting in a logged-out state. This problem has nearly been rectified, and we are chasing down some final issues.
- Site stability and speed: On launch day we had several unplanned outages and system restarts mainly due to poor performance. Now that the system performance has improved, we are investigating remaining system errors which we believe may impact overall site stability. This will likely be an ongoing task for the next several weeks.
Note: our colleague Oliver Kohl wrote a brilliant blog called "Anatomy of a Go-Live" yesterday which gives blow-by-blow account of the go-live from his perspective as IT architect watching and tuning the platform. Be sure to read it. (And read between the lines to note the dedication he and the rest of our IT colleagues demonstrate.)
These fixes are a collaborative effort among the SCN content and collaboration teams, our internal SAP IT team, and platform partners, and at the risk of sounding like a cliché, we truly are working around the clock to identify causes and implement solutions.
The amazing support teams are also continuously engaged to aid, assist, guide. And as more community members get comfortable in the newly upgraded site, they are helping fellow colleagues and members to find their way, access really cool features, personalize their experience, and get productive again.
Don’t Wait! ... Help Yourself to “Getting Started” Guides and Crib-Sheets
I encourage you to take advantage of the resources we've created to help you use the new platform and find the content and tools you're accustomed to using.
These were created with the notion that user behavior is an individual thing; some members are very task-oriented in how they find things on SCN, and others are more inclined to browse; some are interested in the operation and optimization of core technology, and others in broader forward-looking ideas and thought leadership.
Irrespective of how you use the site, these videos, blogs and documents will help you find what you're looking for:
- IDs, passwords: our ID/password FAQ will help users who have forgotten their log-in information.
- Get started: the documents in the Getting Started space provide everything you need to know about using the new SCN.
- Quick tips: our "Tip In A Minute" video series will get you up and running with all the different actions you can do on the new platform – blogging, discussions, documents, your personal profile, etc. And yes, these truly are only one-minute each.
- The essentials: the "What You Need To Know" document is a great cheat-sheet for getting most of your questions answered.
- Accessing SCN: our FAQs on logging in and registration should be helpful for accessing the site.
- Can't find my stuff: if you encounter people having problems navigating around the site, it may be helpful to direct them to the discussion forum finder, the homepage locator, and the list of blog categories.
- General support: a variety of other good support resources are in the Support space. If users have questions they can't answer, they should start a discussion there.
- Bugs: when a user encounters a bug (some aspect of site functionality that just doesn't work, versus one they simply don't like or one they'd like to put on a "wish list"), then we ask that you direct them to the Bug Reporting space. Users can log a bug by starting a new discussion thread.
- Site operations: the “Site Operations FAQ” provides information on internal processes for stakeholders and the SCN team.
Thanks, Again, For Your Understanding, and For Your Passion, Engagement, Confidence, Support, Encouragement
I also want to note those community members who have taken the initiative to respond in discussions, blog comments, and on Twitter. Your supportive comments to the behind-the-scenes team members, and your willingness to help other SCN members is precisely why we have SCN in the first place: collaborative, helpful, engaged, collective success.
We may experience challenges of change and disruption, but we continue to be a strong, engaged community -- we're helping one another and with each step in the direction of progress, we further validate what SCN is all about. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, the speed of improvement, the engagement level of the community, the professionalism and dedication of the team, and the support of our SCN community members.