The social adoption and ROI discussions are getting louder as more and more enterprises implement social collaboration solutions and struggle to find success. Adoption and ROI are difficult areas to define, measure and implement. The Altimeter Group released a report on The Evolution of Social Business detailing how organizations that have implemented social have created technology silos and lack clear focus or strategy in how it should be deployed across the enterprise.

As social has become mainstream over the past few years, we have seen major software vendors across vertical markets and solution types integrate social into the fabric of their core products. Dion Hinchcliffe highlighted this trend in 2011 in his blog post “Putting Social to Work,” where he described the integration of social with ERP suites like Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, Microsoft and SAP.

I recently spoke with SAP's Social Software Solutions Senior Vice President and General Manager, Sameer Patel about social adoption and ROI. We discussed how SAP views these issues and how it developed the SAP Jam platform to address them. Its an interesting approach that's worth exploring in more depth.

SAP Gets Social

SAP introduced its first collaboration solution, SAP StreamWork, in the spring of 2010. The following year it purchased a Human Capital Management software provider, SuccessFactors. SAP began working with the SuccessFactors Jam social product they acquired as part of the sale.In 2012, SAP introduced a new platform called SAP Jam that incorporated some elements of SuccessFactors Jam and SAP StreamWork, with business process integration capabilities and structured collaboration.

Sameer Patel’s Journey to SAP

Sameer Patel joined SAP in early 2012, but he is no stranger to social business and what it means to the enterprise. Patel wrote a well-respected web blog called Pretzel Logic and was a longtime partner with the Sovos Group, which focused on social business and enterprise social collaboration. Prior to the Sovos Group, Patel was the Managing Partner at SpanTechnologies, a collaboration consulting organization.

The social world was rocked when SAP announced that Patel was joining the company. The industry realized that this signaled SAP was serious about social in the enterprise and it was committed to integrating this disruptive technology into the SAP product stack.

SAP’s View of Adoption and ROI

Patel feels that the adoption and ROI discussion has taken a difficult turn with the maturation of social in the enterprise. The metrics people use to understand how they are doing with social focus on the tactical side of the equation. This shift moves us away from the business objectives executives seek for social.

We have created technology silos where social collaboration happens instead of weaving social into the fabric of business process. The major reason for this is the emphasis on the tactical side instead of focussing on strategic objectives across or within the organizational levels of the enterprise. SAP's approach puts the focus on solving real business problems and integrating social into business processes -- addressing the adoption and ROI questions as a result. Users will adopt a solution that solves a business problem and the ROI is evident based on the improvement realized by the implementation.

Patel said,

Look at it this way … What keeps a VP of Sales for a Fortune 100 company up at night? He has a significant revenue target to hit on a quarterly basis but it isn’t functionality of CRM that keeps him awake. It’s the fact that he has to hire and train 40 new Sales Reps to make his quarterly number. He loses sleep over how he is going to onboard and train these 40 new people each quarter. How is he going to connect his best Sales Reps with the new team members? How will he retain these resources that are difficult to find, hire, train and keep them engaged?Similar challenges exist across every line of business through to the supply chain.

Say you’re a technology professional and you walked into the VP of Sales’ office to tell him how social collaboration can help solve his onboarding and training issues. You know it can help.You’ve seen it work in other areas of the enterprise. If you started off the discussion with how you’re going to reduce email with social networking and blogging, you’re going to get kicked out of his office in two minutes. He will stop you mid-sentence and throw you out.

If you change the discussion focus from what the technology is and what it does to how you are going to help solve his specific business problem you’re going to get a better reaction. If you start the conversation with how you can help him streamline the sales onboarding process, the sales training process, and the engagement process across the organization to reduce the overall time it takes to get a sales person to delivering revenue, you’ll have his attention. This method introduces business process and work patterns, i.e., social processes, to the implementation and you have the keys to success.”

SAP's solution is to weave social into the fabric of the business processes users execute each day. By adding back end data, conversations with colleagues and work related content the end user has a rich, deep and contextual work experience. Multiply this across the organization and you have a connected, integrated, social experience that drives value and increases productivity.

SAP Jam - Not Just Another Social Tool

SAP Jam is not just an Enterprise Social Network added to an existing ERP solution. Patel and the SAP Team work continuously with 60 SAP customers to design and build SAP Jam with a holistic view which interlaces social with the platform to drive specific contextual information to the user based on specific context. SAP Jam integrates information based on four key elements -- people, data, process and content.The platform pulls data from backend systems and manipulates it based on a specific hierarchy. SAP systems generate a significant amount of data that can be processed for signals, patterns, metadata and context based on a user’s role. Since the backend data is dynamic, Jam updates contextual information in real time -- when something changes in the backend, Jam shows the change automatically.

For example, a sales person creating a new opportunity in their CRM system can immediately kick-off a collaborative account management group directly from where they are, invite key participants from customer service and product development, and develop a sales strategy or proposal.Within the group, the team sees the latest related opportunities, details of the current opportunity, and any open customer service tickets, all in updated in real-time directly from the CRM system.It’s this ability to initiate collaboration with relevant information at the point when and where it’s needed, that helps this sales person get his work done better and faster.

It’s All About Work Patterns

SAP believes that business is made up of Work Patterns. Mika Sissonen, senior marketing manager at SAP described a Work Pattern as

Learning Opportunities

a pre-built collaborative process that combines expertise, content and best practices with real time business data and applications. Work Patterns help people collaborate within the business processes and applications they already use -- rather than in separate, disconnected silos of collaboration -- so that they can ultimately complete their work faster and more effectively.”

In essence, you tell SAP Jam what you are doing (defining a Work Pattern) and the system will provide a holistic view of contextual information and content based on the Work Pattern. This provides users with one place where they are connected with colleagues, relevant data and contextual content.

SAP Jam provides flexible Work Pattern templates that users can customize by selecting widgets that offer specific functionality. Organizations can therefore customize the Work Pattern to their specific needs. SAP Jam ships with several out of the box Work Pattern templates that have been developed based on common business processes.

The following SAP Jam example shows the integration of people, content, discussions, events and system related data pulled into a single user experience. The Work Pattern includes several commonly used social components like discussion groups, activity feeds, recently updated documents, calendar events, tasks, group questions and polls, and key members (colleagues and experts) in a contextual flow of information.


You can see more examples of out of the box SAP Jam Work Patterns here.

Exponential Growth and Success

SAP Jam has seen significant growth and adoption in the 18 months since its release. It boasts over 15 million subscribers to date, with more joining daily. To say this is a success is somewhat of an understatement.SAP will continue to release new versions and integrate more capabilities over the coming months.

The latest release integrates with Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint Server 2013, enabling document updates in SAP Jam. An updated document in SharePoint automatically syncs with the SAP Jam site. SAP has also developed a Federated Search Connector for SharePoint to allow users to search for documents and public SAP Jam groups from within SharePoint.SAP Jam also works out of the box with a slew of SAP, SuccessFactors and other third party applications.

What’s Next for SAP Jam

Patel stated that SAP Consulting Partners and its own Consulting Services are ramping up to help extend customized Work Patterns for customers. This will likely prove to be a high growth area as customers seek to drive competitive differentiation with Work Patterns in SAP Jam. Patel stated that the SAP Jam team will continue to weave the product into additional business processes and create new Work Patterns. The team will also continue to build its developer platform to allow for the integration of other external data types and systems.

SAP has developed a laser focus on social collaboration that tightly integrates business process and Work Patterns into the day to day operations of SAP Customers, turning systems of record into systems of engagement.