Editor's note: This article by Sameer Patel, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise Social Collaborative Software at SAP, is reproduced from the Oct-Nov-Dec 2013 issue of SAPinsider (SAPinsiderOnline.com) with permission from its publisher, WIS Publishing. Read the entire special report on social collaboration at SAPinsiderOnline.com.
Enterprise social networks offer organizations a tantalizing array of possibilities for accelerating business and driving results, from speeding sales cycles, to increasing customer engagement, to reducing training costs. The market is flooded with enterprise collaboration and social networking tools that aim to help companies capitalize on this opportunity. However, research shows that most organizations do not obtain value from these solutions because they aren’t centered on business results. According to IDC, almost a quarter of companies that have deployed them are considering other solutions, likely due to lack of integration with other business applications and process workflows.1
To develop a social collaboration solution that succeeds where others have fallen short, SAP started not with process principles or social software principles, but with the help of a customer advisory council. We sought to answer two simple questions:
• What really happens in a day in the life of a business person (such as sales or customer service)?
• Where does it make sense to infuse collaborative paradigms into day-to-day work to significantly improve efficiency?
The result of these efforts is SAP Jam. Released in the fall of 2012, SAP Jam leverages technology from SuccessFactors and SAP to help customers take advantage of collaboration to fill unstructured gaps in key processes and activities in areas such as sales, customer service, talent management, and supplier collaboration. To prevent siloed collaboration, SAP has carefully designed SAP Jam to be the single collaboration layer that extends across all customer, partner, and partner-facing processes.
The Need for a New Approach
Organizations have spent decades standardizing around repeatable business processes. By implementing applications in areas such as customer relationship management (CRM), talent management, analytics, and supply chain, clear steps emerge — for approving an invoice, provisioning a supplier, provisioning a new prospect, or entering and consuming data, for instance — that enable companies to strive for consistency, derive insight, be compliant, and minimize human error. SAP has been a pioneer in this area, and via its flagship SAP Business Suite, cloud solutions for SAP, and new applications built on SAP HANA, has helped organizations streamline critical customer, employee, and partner processes.
Modern business process environments also require a level of interaction and integration that pushes the boundaries of traditional process-based technologies. By looking at how employees are using applications such as CRM and HR in their day-to-day work, SAP identified significant opportunities for helping customers get more out of their application investments, and further optimize how work gets done, particularly in the functional, financial, and knowledge process areas.
Optimizing Functional Processes
For many critical processes, a lot of work is done outside of transactional systems. For example, a sales representative relies on a CRM system for essential tasks such as looking up a customer’s order history. However, the work of collaborating with customers early to shorten sales cycles or collaborating with internal experts to improve the quality of RFP responses, for instance, is not supported by traditional CRM applications. Instead, sales teams scramble to find the right documents and experts, and leverage a set of disparate collaboration tools to engage customers and work a deal. SAP Jam is designed to infuse a structured approach to onboarding and enabling your sales teams, as well as finding experts and collaborating closely with prospects and customers, all within CRM (see Figure 1). We bring similar capabilities to other lines of business as well.
Optimizing Financial Processes
Even processes that are considered repeatable — such as approving travel expenses or managing the order-to cash process — have exceptions on a daily basis, including erroneous invoices, misplaced travel receipts, and inaccurate order entry. Managing these exceptions can result in significant cost alignment for finance organizations, but traditional financial applications lack the collaboration capabilities required to support financial tasks. The same is true for analytics applications that provide insight, but offer no way to collaborate and make decisions. To support modern business process workflows, you need to be able to react systematically and efficiently when you see invoices, expenses, or order-to-cash data that needs discussion and decision making. SAP Jam transforms how finance departments work by integrating with your financial and analytics applications to enable you to find the right people who need to come together and make decisions.
Optimizing Knowledge Processes
Arguably the most common processes across your entire employee base are related to talent performance — particularly, initial onboarding for new employees and continuous learning as employees collaborate with peers during the work day. Traditional learning management systems are great at disseminating training. However, a significant amount of learning also happens on the job and between peers. This knowledge can be difficult to institutionalize and share across geographies. With sophisticated expertise finding, templatized capabilities for collaborative mentoring, learning, and onboarding, and video-based capture capabilities, SAP Jam complements the structured capabilities of SAP and SuccessFactors talent management solutions to help you create agile knowledge-sharing organizations (see Figure 2).
Helping You Work Better
SAP Jam connects your employees, customers, and partners in the cloud to deliver collaboration across your business processes, not only to support the way you work and where you work, but to help you work better. SAP Jam has millions of subscribers and has grown more than 850% in the last year. To learn more about leveraging the power of social collaboration in your own business processes, read the rest of the articles in this report and visit www.sap.com/jam.
1 IDC, “IDC’s Social Business Survey, 2013: Driving Influence and Relevance with Social Solutions” by Vanessa Thompson (July 2013).