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This year’s joint SAPPHIRE and ASUG conference was said to have an attendance in excess of 15,000 individuals. At this huge gathering the three things that stood out for me, in no particular order, were (a) the Eric Clapton concert, (b) the focus on how Business Objects plays into SAP’s long-term strategy, and (c) the emphasis on process model innovation and the role of communities in that context. I don’t know what some of you may have thought about the concert, but it was important to me for it was one of those things that I had to check off on my rather long list of things to do at some point in time, and I was glad to do so – though I can think of a few other numbers that I wish Clapton had played! The demos illustrating the blending of the Business Objects offerings with BI and the Business Suite were instructive and heralded a coming of age of the NetWeaver platform – apparently, effortlessly integrating through the use of services. Hasso Plattner’s emphasis on the “By Design” capabilities from SAP opened up a whole new vista of possibilities, but the one thing that got me thinking about the limitations of succeeding in all of this was the discussion around the involvement of communities – in particular, the BPX community.

Almost by definition, I would contend that for the successful leveraging of the BPX community there ought to be significant emphasis on the role of business process experts (BPXers), and in turn business processes, within an organization. For an enterprise to gain momentum in this direction, it is important for these BPXers to make community interaction a part of their routine work lives. Those who occasionally venture out there on their own, or who do it despite a code of conduct that frowns upon such interaction, should be lauded. However, this cannot be enough to deliver value consistently. Such activity tends to be sporadic or incomplete from the perspective of an entire organization’s participation. For there to be a way in which there is an industrialized approach to enriching solutions, or finding responses to complex problems, there ought to be a concerted effort on the part of the organization to foster and grow such activity. There must be a clear path provided by directed effort from the top. It is not sufficient for management to encourage their workforce to engage in collaborative community behavior in their spare time or as an ancillary effort; it is necessary to make this an integral part of what they do each day.

I find organizations are at different stages of recognizing what this evolving brave new world, asking for more interaction and collaboration, is all about. How does your organization look upon activity that calls for interaction/collaboration in communities, internal and external? If they are positive about it, do they merely encourage or condone such actions, or are they actively asking you to reach out and engage in dialogue and activity that will help you do your job better? If it is the latter, have they tied your KPIs and other performance measures to such activity, and have they provided the tools and options to do so with ease?

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