SAP is reconfiguring its social strategy around a new service called Jam that the vendor says will redefine enterprise social software.
In a press conference today, SAP executives explained the methodology behind Jam and why they think it is a game-changer in the rapidly evolving enterprise social marketplace.
Attending Meetings You Never Went To
While enterprise social tools began with simple Facebook-like applications, SAP Executive Board member Lars Dalgaard explained that through functionality provided by the CubeTree enterprise social platform (which SAP acquired as part of its SuccessFactors purchase), SAP is creating a social “knowledge management system.”
"You can share documents socially and share a social graph,” he said. “You get a knowledge management system with tons of documents. People say you can’t be part of every meeting, but now you kind of can.”
Dalgaard said that by contributing information to, and obtaining information from social feeds, employees can essentially tap into everything going on in a company in an easy way. “It’s a powerful feature.”
Sameer Patel, SAP GM and global VP of enterprise and collaborative software, said the key differentiating factor of Jam is that it “infuses” social into every application employees use in their day-to-day activities, rather than creating a siloed internal social network.
“We infuse social into processes people don’t normally think about as social, like finance,” said Patel. He said that with infused social functionality in SAP financial solutions, users from around the company can instantly collaborate on activities like reconciling problem invoices and forecasting future financial performance, all without having to log into a separate enterprise social network.
“These are purpose-built social and collaborative solutions inside applications that connect to the systems of record,” said Patel.
Jam originated with the line of Jam informal learning solutions that SAP also inherited when it purchased SuccessFactors. Patel dove into how informal learning can also be enhanced through the new Jam service.
“Informal learning supplements formal courseware,” he said. “Some learning can’t be done well through PowerPoint.” Patel related the example of a large nursing organization that needed nurses to learn how to do things not easily taught through formal solutions, like properly put on gloves. “They can now share an iPhone video and get feedback,” he said.
Jam is integrated into both in-premises and cloud-based solutions. It also features a redesigned user interface that provides access to all systems across the functional stack from a single location. Groups are open except for AutoGroups, which admins can automatically create by pulling users who meet specific criteria, such as job title and date of hire.
Taking on Salesforce
In commentary on today’s official Jam release, IDG News Service said that with Jam, SAP is “taking on” Salesforce.com. According to IDG, “Salesforce.com has oriented its entire business model around ‘social enterprises’ and rolled out a phalanx of social capabilities.” However, the article quotes Patel as saying “SAP shouldn't be viewed as late to the party.” Instead, Patel told IDG that SAP has had an opportunity to view the first five or six years of social software's rise to prominence and come up with a more sensible approach.
Considering that SAP is branding Jam as a “redefinition” of enterprise social networking, the company would probably reject claims it is directly competing with Salesforce.com as much as it is evolving past what Salesforce.com does. But there is no escaping the fact that in order to drive widespread Jam adoption, SAP will need to win customers who otherwise would have implemented Salesforce.com and also probably convince some existing Salesforce.com users to switch.
Project Robus Hits the Shelf
It appears that the new Jam service and overall SAP enterprise social strategy is the fruition of a developing social collaboration strategy the company formerly called “Project Robus.” In June at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, Patel told CMSWire that “Project Robus combines workflow with people, data, content and process. It conforms to how you work, rather than trying to change it.”
Leveraging solutions such as SAP Workflow, Project Robus allowed social collaboration users to have access to the same workstream regardless of what application they are using, with consistent data versioning and communications.
In addition, Patel said users have the ability to initiate collaboration. Whether Jam is the direct descendent of Project Robus or an offshoot, SAP is obviously betting on enterprise social networking in two ways. First, that modern enterprises essentially run their day-to-day operations on the social enterprise model, and second that the model needs updating.