SAP Social Software

2 Posts authored by: Richard Hirsch

SAP’s Prashanth Padmanabhan recently responded to a conversation on Twitter that emerged based on his blogconcerning the use of SuccessFactors’ Jam to communicate with colleagues at newly acquired SuccessFactors. In the initial blog, Prashanth gave this description of his motivations for using Jam: 

A few weeks back teams from SAP and SuccessFactors started working together and exchanging information. The teams used SuccessFactors JAM to bring people together, share content and get things done. A lot of work needs to be done when two large companies come together. Time was of the essence and there is no scope for delays. 

The resulting conversation on Twitter compared Jam to SAP’s own StreamWork and explored Prashanth’s decision to use Jam instead of the other tools.   I was interested in the conversation for various reasons:

  • The debate demonstrates that the acquisition between SAP and SuccessFactors takes place at a variety of levels and has an impact on more than just the HCM product strategy of each company.  As is true in any acquisition, Prashanth’s blogs demonstrate that there is also an impact on the tools used internallyby the employees of both companies.  New tools may become available for internal usage. There may be a competition between the tools of both companies.  Prashanth’s blogs, therefore, reflect to some degree a competition between StreamWork and Jam; albeit just for a particular use case.  The potential competition between Jam/Cubetree and StreamWork has been alluded to since the acquisition was announced.
  • The focus on internal tool usage in this particular situation is made more complicated inasmuch as both companies produce enterprise software; customers of each company are, therefore, very interested to hear about which tools are being used internally and why.   What do the tool choices of the employees of each company tell us about the overall product strategy?  I admit Prashanth and his extended (SuccessFactors and SAP) team represent a very limited slice of the entire spectrum of activities at the newly acquired company but there is usually very little information about such collaboration; therefore, the resulting interest was high.
  • Prashanth’s team’s use of a collaboration environment outside of the control of “Corporate IT” is evidence of a scenario (“ShadowIT”) in which business users look to the Cloud to solve a problem without having to wait for Corporate IT to create / accept a solution.
  • Prashanth’s team’s use of an Cloud-based tool is also an excellent example of some of the dilemmas that colleagues involved in acquisitions (regardless of whether part of the acquired company or the buyer) must confront on a daily basis. There are probably firewalls and other barriers that prevent the colleagues to work together on their respective internal platforms.

I took the ensuing debate as an impetus to look more closely at Jam and StreamWork. 

A comparison of Jam and StreamWork 

At first glance, there appears to be an overlap between the two tools. There are various similarities:

  • A      focus on the enterprise market
  • Cloud-based
  • A      focus on collaboration
  • Provide      organization-specific activity streams where users can post status updates
  • Provide      mobile clients for these feeds
  • Integrated      into other products (Jam – Learning Solutions, StreamWork- ERP and BI      Systems)
  • Have      APIs so that developers can extend the functionality 

When you start examining the two offerings in more detail, however, it becomes apparent that the primary use cases that each tool covers and their respective positioning in the market are different. 

 

Jam 

In terms of basic functionality, Jam is more similar to Yammer.  As evident in the use cases on which Jam is focused, SuccessFactors positions Jam in a manner that reflects SuccessFactors’ HR heritage.

Onboarding:

SuccessFactors Jam provides a community for your new hires where they can engage with each other, work together on onboarding activities, and receive support from experts from human resources, payroll, facilities, IT, etc. [SOURCE]

Performance:

Jam will make your performance appraisal, goal setting and compensation planning more efficient for your company's managers and human resources. By giving your managers the detailed information they need when they are actually working on forms, you'll have better compliance with company guidelines and receive better data on your talent improving downstream processes like succession and development planning. [SOURCE]

Social Learning:

By adding a Jam community around each class, both virtual and traditional classrooms, you'll improve the return on your learning investment. With Jam, not only is document distribution a snap (even from SharePoint), but learners do pre-work and discuss the concepts before, during and after the class, greatly improving retention. [SOURCE]

There are often complaints regarding the actual relevance / ROI of new social collaboration tools in the enterprise. By embedding Jam in existing HR processes, SuccessFactors is more able to argue that JAM directly enhances such activities rather than providing vague benefits for its customers. Although Cubetree once supported various other non-HR-related enterprise integrations (including SalesForce!), these are largely ignored today; SharePoint is now the most important integration target.

Just a side note but the fact that JAM also offers wikis, blogs, discussions, polls, photos, etc, actually means that there might be an overlap with the functionality provided by the Collaboration in SAP NetWeaver Portal.

 

StreamWork

SAP’s positioning of StreamWork is broader – there are various integrations possible (CRM, BI, ERP, etc). I assume that HR-related integrations are possible but I didn’t find any details. This more general positioning reflects the characteristics of SAP itself – in that it offers a much greater variety of products than SuccessFactors.

While the focus of JAM is largely on activity streams albeit in a HR context, StreamWork has a different focus in that it focuses more on collaborative decision-making.

SAP StreamWork provides a cohesive online environment that enables teams to perform collective problem solving.  Bring order to chaos when you invite people from inside or outside the company, get the team to commit to a  cause, and keep everyone on the same  page with notifications and action items.  Bring structure to the process by selecting proven, interactive business tools from the built-in catalog to plan agendas, assign responsibilities, rank lists of items, brainstorm options, poll the team, or strategize. [SOURCE]

StreamWork also has activity streams – underused in my opinion- but the activities with their tool catalog (Cost/Benefit Analysis, SWOT Analysis, Consensus, etc) are more important. 

Although Prashanth and his team didn’t use StreamWork, it provides other functionality which would help the collaborative process between the two companies.  For example, the social “explorer” would be useful for such internal teams which lack detailed information about each other.

This functionality – especially the ability to actively explore the network to discover new experts, etc – would be quite useful if exploited by the social network inherent in Jam.

 

Analysis 

Thus, despite general similarities, each tool actually has a different focus.

I don’t know the exact activities that Prashanth and his team performed with SuccessFactors colleagues in Jam. We just have the one blog with limited details.  I assume some decisions were also discussed during such interactions. I’d be curious to know why the teams didn’t use StreamWork to make the related decisions.  Prashanth answered my general question regarding the choice not to use StreamWork so:

Perhaps we found JAM to be more suitable for this type of collaboration. May be it was a gesture of openness towards our new colleagues from SuccessFactors. [SOURCE]

Inasmuch as another reason might be related to the lack of integration between the two environments. I’d like to take a quick look at possible integration scenarios between the two tools.

Integration

There are a variety of scenarios – beyond those in which that Prashanth and his team were involved - where the two tools could be integrated with one another.  For example, users in JAM could be discussing a performance review and need additional tools (SWAT Analysis, etc).  Until a deeper integration exists, the users in the conversation could manually create a StreamWork activity and add the link to conversations. When a deeper integration via API exists, then a special dialog to create an activity might be provided for JAM users.

There is also the possibility for tighter integration between the main SuccessFactors applications and StreamWork. For example, when making a decision about a new hire or about an employee’s promotion, the decision-making tools in StreamWork could be used. This is very similar to the integration that already exists between SAP CRM and StreamWork.  Actually, the integration between StreamWork and SuccessFactors might actually be easier since both are SaaS applications and thus complications dealing with the integration of OnPremise applications in StreamWork might be avoided.

Conclusion

The acquisition of SuccessFactors by SAP represents an opportunity for each company. The synergetic potential is there but the main question is whether both companies can avoid confusing customers as choices are made concerning future product strategy.  The uncertainty in the ecosystem concerning StreamWork and Jam is one indication of this greater problem.   Regarding the main HCM products, an initial decisionregarding the general direction has been made – whether this decision was correct or not is an assessment that will be made by others.  Although Jam is mentioned in this press release, its potential relationship to other existing SAP products is still unclear. 

Each company has the opportunity to show their collaboration tool to a new customer base.  This is only effective when the respective positioning focuses on the unique use cases at which each tool performs most effectively.  Encroaching on the territory of the other collaboration tool – whatever the temptation – should be avoided.   This strategy only works when the particular strengths of each a tool –those specific use cases which it can solve optimally – are identified; the assertion that either tool can solve all or most collaboration-related business requirements is counterproductive.

As this blog has shown, the threat of a competition between StreamWork and Jam is largely based on superficial comparisons rather than a deeper examination of their respective positioning / use cases.  Indeed, integration possibilities show that the tools might even complementary.  SAP and SuccessFactors should offer details about how the two tools will evolve and their respective positioning. If this clarity isn’t provided soon, then the marketplace will make assumptions – regardless of whether correct or not - that are detrimental to the future success of both collaboration tools.

I recently came across a new offering from SAP Consulting for integrating StreamWork into CRM. This offering is associated with a new consulting package called “SAP CRM express” which is a “flexible building block kit from SAP Consulting for a fast realization of your CRM-Strategy based on the SAP CRM Rapid Deployment Solution (RDS)”.  The StreamWork integration is offered as an additional predefined service in the package and provides the following functional scope:
  • Integration into all three CRM areas: Sales, Marketing and Services
  • Multiple StreamWork activities can be created from many objects in SAP CRM, like accounts, opportunities and campaigns
  • Key StreamWork functions are available directly in SAP CRM. Create and edit everything directly in the native CRM WebClient UI
  • SAP StreamWork News Feed integrated both on SAP CRM homepage and  object-specific in detail views
  • Installation of  SAP StreamWork Enterprise Agent and Add-ons for SAP CRM
  • User training guide
Note: I’m especially pleased to see the StreamWork feed being integrated into CRM and would be curious to see how the filtering works in the “object-specific [feeds] in detail views” inasmuch as this shows social content presented in a process context.  

A SAP press release in May announced a similar integration:

SAP StreamWork, enterprise edition, now offers integration with several SAP applications, including the SAP® Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) application for social CRM, enabling sales leaders to bring teams together — sales, customer service, consultants and more — to help close sales opportunities more quickly. Sales teams can also collaborate directly with their customers to help ensure the products and services are delivered when expected and to help address the requirements defined.

At the time, there were some details about how such “links” would be supported.

StreamWork customers would buy the application links "as either pre-packaged solutions from SAP (or consultants) or as small consulting engagements from SAP or consultants," according to a spokesman.

I’m unsure if the integration mentioned in the PR announcement is the same as that provided by SAP Consulting – which might be restricted to RDS-based solutions – but I found the SAP Consulting offering interesting for various reasons.

POV

Out-of-the-Box StreamWork Integration in BusinessSuite?

I had hoped that StreamWork  integration with BusinessSuite applications would be standardized and be part of the out-of-the-box functionality provided by these applications.  This would help StreamWork increase its footing in the landscapes of existing SAP customers.  The fact that this functionality is an add-on that must be purchased separately rather than being available as standard functionality is disappointing.  My impression of this decision is that the new style of collaboration in enterprise software (as represented by StreamWork) is still not considered to be an integral part of the BusinessSuite.

Most SAP applications require some degree of customization and the integration with StreamWork would in all likelihood also require customization. If, however,  a special heavy-duty SAP Consulting effort is necessary to get the integration working,  the penetration level of StreamWork in SAP OnPremise customers won’t be as high as might be expected.

Note: I was also surprised to see that SAP Enterprise Agent is a prerequisite for the SAP Consulting solution.  This requirement means additional costs for customers – but also more security. I’d be interested to know if future BusinessSuite integrations have the same requirement or whether it might possible to use the Professional version of StreamWork.

StreamWork maturity level

The fact that there is a SAP Consulting offering regarding StreamWork integration shows that the platform has reached a high level of maturity and that other parts of the SAP organization are now becoming aware of its potential - they are realizing that they can make money from it. I’m hopeful that the SAP Sales organization also acknowledges this development and starts to more aggressively promote the platform. 

Note: There may be other offerings from SAP Consulting in OnDemand platforms but the one in the SDN wiki is the only publicly accessible one that I’ve found. I also looked in the EcoHub  for similar offerings but I didn’t find anything. Hopefully, this absence will be remedied in the future as more offerings emerge.

SAP Consulting efforts in different OnDemand platforms

When pundits pay attention to SAP’s OnDemand efforts, the focus is usually on BusinessByDesign and the other LoB OnDemand applications (such as SalesOnDemand).  The above-mentioned SAP Consulting offering for StreamWork demonstrates that other OnDemand areas covered by SAP (for example, those associated with Edge OnDemand) also have potential for SAP Consulting offers.  I assume that are also SAP Consulting offers regarding SAP CarbonImpact (which runs on River) but I didn’t find any evidence of their existence.

The potential of hybrid environments

The particulars of the SAP Consulting offer also reveal the area in which such consulting efforts will be the most lucrative in the future – the integration of existing OnPremise installations into OnDemand platforms.  The importance of such hybrid environments was also acknowledged by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff at the recent DreamForce conference.
http://searchsap.techtarget.com/news/2240075698/SAP-on-demand-honcho-cites-growing-demand-for-hybrid-deployments
The very nature of SaaS environments (for example, multi-tenancy) means that standardization is critical and huge customization/implementation projects in these environments aren’t to be expected.  By focusing on the OnPremise customization necessary in hybrid environments, consulting companies can open new growth areas – albeit without the expectation of the large (in terms of the involved efforts) implementation projects with which they were accustomed.  The skills necessary for such projects are more associated with integration rather than intensive back-end customization.  Also the difficulties experienced in integrating standardized SaaS solutions and highly customized OnPremise environments isn’t to be underestimated and should also provide new opportunities for consulting efforts.  The teams necessary to deal with such projects require experts who understand the involved SaaS solutions as well as consultants who are familiar with the customer-specific characteristics of the OnPremise environments.

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