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Does Research and Community Mix?

Yes I am back from my family leave, which was great and I already forgot how to write a blog and struggling majorly with this one. Really wondering how others are so prolific.The best welcome back remark I got was from my colleague Tracy Prentiss she jokingly said: “Welcome back to reality”  “Or is it from reality?”. We both laughed.

I took a little break from the break to help out at the SAP Research Summit. My Rollerhockey pal  Harald Weppner (we unfortunately haven’t played  in months) who was tasked to organize the event said: “I heard that your SDN Day at TechEd’06 last year where very successful. How did you do it?”

We sat together and I told him about the Speed Networking: 3-4 20 minutes sessions where you sit down at a round table with 5-6 people you don’t know yet. You do a round of introductions and often find surprising connections or common problems the “we have to talk about that more” kind. Contact information are exchanged and before it is getting boring you move on to your next table and the next round.

They were doing the Wiki session suggestion and selection process for the breakouts already last year. Interesting feedback was: “Show us something. Less slideware please.” And they delivered with lots of demos.

Harry asked me whether I could moderate the speed networking. At the end I moderated part of the first day too and in a short presentation I made the case for more community in research. It was a lot of fun.

The question of how much community is right for research groups and what kind is an interesting one. Alone that all researchers of SAP come together once a year for a couple of days of face time is proof that community and cross-pollination among them is important.

But what about beyond SAP Researchers?  Actually according to SAP Research web page they are doing that already under the headline Trend-Driven Innovation they write:

SAP Research collects and screens a wide range of industry reports. Researchers analyze the trends described in the reports and the key factors to gain an understanding of the drivers of change and the impact on future business opportunities. To avoid “a tunnel vision,” researchers frequently discuss emerging trends with external partners in industry and academia — soliciting their input to find the hottest topics and the most qualified partners with which to work.

This sounds to me as a very hand selection process and it looks like it is not easy for a passionate individual that is not aligned with a University or one of our partners to give input to our research.

Similar to what Hasso Plattner said during his keynote in Atlanta about no new products without a community component.

I would like to propose: *No research project without community. *

If you are not able to excite at least a handful of people around your research topic, it may be a sign that you are too far ahead of your time and may have to realign your priorities.

The processes for connecting enthusiastic individuals wherever they are to our research projects are not in place yet and things have to be worked out like patents, intellectual property rights, non-disclosure agreements to name a few.

Wouldn’t it be a great improvement to the research process to involve interested piers to review and improve your research every step of the way? Sounding board for ideas, creation of prototypes, alpha and beta testing, … Your chances of success and adoption just go through the roof if as a researcher you take community and their input seriously.

To answer the question posted in the title of this blog. Absolutely research and community mix to a very potent brew, one that we don’t drink enough from.

I will cover in a future post how you can create community around your research topic here on S(D)N right now (Weblog, private Wiki, …) and where we need to improve to make the process smoother.

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  • Hi Mark,

    you really hit the point. I would like to learn more about the activities of SAP Research. I already found a list of their publications but I didn’t found any papers one the web so far.

    I think I would like to get in contact with people from SAP research and perhaps I could give some useful comments and perhaps even inspiration.

    Please keep SDN community informed about SAP Research and ongoing activities.


  • Hi, Mark.

    I would comment that almost all SAP Research projects involve a community of some form.  A large percentage of the projects and other activities involve consortia, universities, and other collaboration partners.  Others represent “internal consortia” of stakeholders from a variety of interested parties inside the company.  And still others involve a group of “birds of a feather” within SAP Research who share a common idea/vision/interest and work together on a topic.  We also extensively leverage Wiki and other collaborative media to facilitate this type of interaction.

    So, I would suggest that while not perfect, SAP Research is well ahead of the curve on community-based collaboration!