Can SAP Really Get Social This Time?

Before digging into the analysis of where Salesforce is and where it is going, and how the message at DreamForce was — what’s the word I am looking for… no, I won’t give it away yet (got a good analogy to introduce you to it, trust me).

Anyways, before doing that – I want to take a few minutes and tell you about a meeting I had Monday before coming to the show.

I met with Sameer Patel who is building the social platform for SAP.

Full disclosure, Sameer is a good friend, we spent many days and nights together talking about the world of social, and we agree in a vast majority of things.  I think that his version of where the world is going if very similar to mine – which is one of the reasons we are good friends… birds of a feather and all that.

Alas, just being my friend does not bring him immunity – and you can corroborate what I going to tell you with anyone else who saw the vision and the product that he is building (there was a SAP Bloggers event the same day and they got the same vision).  When he asked me to meet and give him my feedback I was a tad hesitant – not because of him, but because previous experiences with SAP told me he might not have had the easiest of times making the vision he had become a reality.  I did not want to be the one to give him the bad news that the product was not in the right track.

If you read my stuff and know me you know that I have been advocating “convergence” of social channels (external) and collaboration (internal) for a long time.  We used to call them “Enterprise 2.0”  and SCRM (well, I guess some still call it that) and I wrote a few posts in this blog about that many moons ago.  I improved on that concept working with Mark Tamis and we presented the first version of the Collaborative Enterprise model three years ago at the Social Business Forum – and later continued to refine that model.

You probably heard me say before that the “raison d’etre” for social is collaboration (fine, one of the reasons for it , not the only one).  I firmly maintain, and working with enterprises is proving it, that meshing internal and external, social and collaboration is the way to go and the way to generate return on the investment of resources to create and deploy social networks and collaboration environments and solutions.

All this to tell you that I think SAP (under Sameer’s leadership) seems to have cracked the code to build the social infrastructure for a collaborative enterprise.  We had a good discussions and he showed me plans and early screens for a model of Social that is not just focused on the social aspects, but more in the collaboration that comes from the channels.  I saw how a customer can collaborate with an employee to speed up a sales process, how an internal process can be improved by collecting customer feedback, and how the flow of information to and from customers and employees can be placed into the SAP components.  In other words, I saw how the collaborative enterprise begins to take shape.  Yes, many more use cases and examples are necessary – but they are not building use cases – they are building infrastructure.  The rest requires customer ingenuity to work.

It is exciting – but it is still a vision.  A really good one, with product behind it – but the product is not ready for shipping yet.  November-ish (don’t want to commit anyone to any dates, but I do think it is going to be released before SAPPHIRE in Madrid – where you can meet me if you are attending).  I am hopeful, but SAP has let me down before with product introductions, part of their culture.

I am giving Sameer and SAP room to grow here, I do truly believe this is the best step for them at this time.  Streamwork was interesting, but never amounted to much.  Social and Collaboration is one of the three key areas of investment for enterprises in the next two years.  Midsized and large organizations are embracing social, looking for a purpose.  There are data pointing to the right time and place for them to introduce this solution.

And they seem, for now, to have gotten it right.

Time will tell – don’t you think?