“Social” is a term that can be used in so many different ways. In our personal lives, being social means connecting with other people, sharing, and being part of a community. We’re not necessarily trying to get something done, just being social is enough of a reason to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Oh, and it’s still ok to just talk to people.
This concept has not translated well into the busines world, however. You know, because of that work thing we’re all supposed to do. While there may be value in connections and communications, linking “social” activities at work to business outcomes has been difficult, to say the least.
My take is that companies who already have an open and collaborative culture will take to social computing solutions like a duck to water. These are the companies that have been carrying the torch for Enterprise 2.0 thus far.
But what about the other 90%+ of companies? Can social/collaborative tools help them, too? This is the market that SAP is targeting, in my view.
SAP Jam adds “work patterns”
About a year ago, SAP introduced SAP Jam as a “social collaboration” solution to “give you social capabilities where and when they’re needed in business processes.” Since then, the company has been busy building out new capabilities. Sameer Patel, head honcho of the firm’s social/collaborative solutions, recently reviewed with me the new “work patterns” capabilities.
In SAP speak, work patterns means “pre-built collaborative processes that are intended to give companies the 360-degree view into critical workplace activities needed to make more informed decisions rapidly and to act on them to deliver results.” That’s a long way of saying that users can add collaborative elements to existing IT-supported business processes, and give users an “80%” starting point. Many of these same users, I contend, don’t give a damn about being social, but if you make their job easier they’ll put a solution to work regardless of what you call it.
This sort of templated approach to socializing (collaboratizing?) processes is being rolled out for sales applications first. In a demo, Sameer and team showed how reps can be onboarded faster, brought up to speed on accounts, launch groups around opportunities, etc. Sameer said the idea was “bring everything to me.” That’s exactly what reps want, because they think the world revolves around them!
Anyway, my take is this is a meaningful and important step forward to making collaboration an integral part of work, minus the need to worship the ideology of Mark Zuckerberg or Andrew McAfee. Just focus on getting s#$%t done.
One nice feature is that users currently living in CRM, HR and other business applications will see Jam/work patterns as additional function that springs to life when they need it. No radical changes to the existing UIs. But for those who want to move into more of collaborative front end, they can work with the SAP Jam frontend and connect into business apps. Either way, all the data and systems are connected behind the scenes.
Here’s what that might look like for an account manager for a major account. This “group” has the relevant account data integrated in.
What’s next for Social Business?
SAP wasn’t first to the CRM space, but eventually became one of the market leaders. With social, SAP essentially bypassed the initial wave of independent Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 solutions, and eventually introduced Jam, which fits its integrated solution strategy much better.
Of course, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce.com won’t be sitting idly by. They too are focusing on deeper and more meaningful integration of social capabilities. I’m skeptical that SAP’s Jam will be used much outside of SAP’s installed base, and likewise doubt that Salesforce.com’s Chatter will be used outside of their ecosystem. Yammer might be the wild card, since it got more traction as an independent social solution before Microsoft acquired.
For the same reason that Social CRM didn’t have a long life, the same may be true of Social Business. We don’t run around talking about the Phone Business or the Email Business, either. Give this a few more years and maybe we’ll just be back to Business.