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As a full time blogger specializing in enterprisey stuff, I am constantly writing and looking for stories that will inform and hopefully entertain. Events like SAPPHIRE are always interesting because you don’t know what you’re going to find.

I’m privileged because SAP has a well established influencer program that includes a number of the Enterprise Irregulars of which I am one of the early members. That means I usually (but not always) get a seat at the Big Man’s Table – ie we get to meet with the CEO and other members of the executive board along with what I term C-level types. 

If you’ve never met Henning Kagermann, Leo Apotheker, Hasso Plattner or Peter Zencke, you’re really missing a treat. Although each is very different in personality, they each try to do something that’s quite rare in the tech industry. Give straight answers. This year was particularly poignant because the delay in going to GA with Business ByDesign was announced very close to the first SAPPHIRE so was very much top of agenda. 

Several of us were keen to ensure we had a full understanding behind the decision because we need to communicate as accurately as possible to our differernt consitituencies. We add our own spin – as you’d expect – and in something that’s sort of a tradition, I always sit right next to the exec to make sure I get the first question in. 

I like that we can always have a healthy debate with the execs because it fosters two things that are essential: trust and respect. This year was no different, despite that fact the Business ByDesign ‘news’ could not have been easy for them to manage. If anything, Henning, Leo and Peter seemed relaxed.

This year, Marilyn Pratt roped me into chairing a panel as part of the ASUG BPM day. Dick Hirsch joiuned me and Jim Spath acted as room monitor, running around with the microphone. Marilyn kept us in order. We made the whole session a Q&A rather than blah from the top table. This was very much in the nature of demonstrating the concepts around community to an audience that isn’t very comfortable with the idea of blogging or commenting. I think the session went well especially as we fielded excellent questions about the value of blogs (learning), the fear of looking foolish (there are not dumb questions!) and the difficulty of finding time in otherwise hectic schedules to engage with blogs. 

The other biggie for me was getting a quick inside look at the way SAP is developing Plexus as a framework for offering online community capability back to the partner ecosystem. A few weeks back I’d been part of a team that used Plexus to deliver a series of blog entries in support of a global marketing event. If you’ve not had the chance to look at Plexus, I’d recommend it – especially if you have marketing projects in mind. It’s drop dead easy to use, is visually attractive and makes content creation a breeze. You can think of it as a super blog environment with the ability to readily drop any kind of content into the framework.

I’m fortunate that I’ll also be attending Berlin SAPPHIRE and I’ve asked for a deep dive on Plexus as it is something I think can add genuine value across a number of dimensions. I’ll also be doing a bit of tidying up in my understanding of Business ByDesign. Finally, I hope to spend time with the CSR team and some of the NGOs with which SAP is engaged. 

CSR is one of the most important business topics I am currently focusing upon as it has huge profit, reputation and risk implications. I’m thinking for instance about how SAP might leverage tools like Plexus to help drive value between partners and customers while informing the business process development effort.

I’m sure there will be surprises, but above everything, I am looking forward to meeting members of this community with whom I’ve only had contact via the community environment. Blogs are great and I’m an avid fan but sometimes real life is that bit better.

Onwards to Berlin and I’ll report back how we get along.

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15 Comments

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  1. Community User
    Dennis, very much looking forward to seeing you in Berlin!

    Folks one thing many of you might not realize that often times comments to blogs such as this which are recaps of previous discussions, knowing that a future discussion will also take place, are the perfect opportunity to get your own thoughts heard and included in that discussion.

    I’ll be blogging soon about my upcoming trip to the same event and you are welcome to post your questions and comments here or on mine and we’ll do our best to include that into the conversations that take place with the execs, the SAP Mentors here are also possible channels to those execs as they will have key meetings as well.

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    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      Hells teeth Craig – 1st class point. And as a freshly minted mentor I’d be remiss in not batting a few things around with the execs on behalf of the community. So as Craig says, ask away, more than happy to try get answers to burning questions.
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      1. Jim Spath
        Dennis – I’m looking for insight into Plexus, particularly as you see CSR leverage. Jen R. is looking for case studies for me to webcast, so any names/companies you can provide would be “super.” Only 3 hits for Plexus on SDN today, your blog and mine inclusive (Kartik makes 3) – Jim
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  2. Anton Wenzelhuemer
    Can you tell us what Plexus is?

    I feel like some people closely related to SAP but not working for SAP have embarked to a guerilla marketing campaign called ‘Create Plexus awareness’ (but don’t tell too exactly what it is). A typical marketing strategy. Or has Plexus been discussed on SAPPHIRE but not on SDN?

    anton

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      1. Anton Wenzelhuemer
        where is ‘here? in Orlando or on SDN? SDN search yields 3 hits of 3 prominent people dropping the term as if it were common knowledge what it is. this  is what made me post my earlier comment.
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        1. Community User
          I thought here as in SDN and I thought Marilyn but she said she was not involved so perhaps Frauke knows more – I’ll keep looking. It was at TechEd, Sapphire and I’ll be at Sapphire in Berlin next week…
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    1. Dennis Howlett Post author
      @Anton: If you read my main blog at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett, you’ll see that I am a pretty sharp SAP critic. BUT, when they do something well – and I believe Plexus is goodness – then I will say so.

      In the post above I said: “You can think of it as a super blog environment with the ability to readily drop any kind of content into the framework.”

      If you want to have a quick look at the publicly available stuff I know about then I’d suggest checking out this link: https://plexus.sap.com/index.jspa

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      1. Anton Wenzelhuemer
        In case someone misunderstood Dennis’ Plexus part like I did here’s my impression from a short trip around  the site cited and a little further analysis:

        In contrary to what I understood from the original blog SAP is not creating any software to support collaboration but they are extending their usage of Jive Software’s product Clearspace.

        So, if ‘…they do something well…‘ it is giving additional collaboration opportunities to the community, definitely a step in the right direction. The design of the beta site, imho, is, ermmm, cookie cutter style, but enterprisies seem to love that, and geeks don’t care as long as the functionality rocks.
        It is interesting to see what the site has been used so far, or what the use cases so far point at: support of the Enterprise Service Conmmunity (ESC) collaboration. A look at one ESC mission statement I found on that site says ‘To provide SAP and our ecosystem with an IP-safe program that enables the co-innovation …‘. ‘IP-safe’ and ‘co-innovation’ makes me a bit suspicious. While there’s is nothing bad about it in the first place it should definitely not be mistaken with a free (like in ‘academic’) discussion and innovation platform(and in contrary to what some people think there are also reasonable business models with the provision of really free environments).
        but the degree of freedom of the collaboration platform plexus will be easily to be judged by the quantity of NDA documents and terms of conditions documents and the amount of fine print lines in those documents required to take part in that IP safe environment 😉

        my 2 cents,
        anton

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        1. Bryant Loftin
          Looking over the Plexus site I’m still not sure what the context is. Is it a standalone sandbox experiment? If not, is it only being used by SAP for the SDN/PBX context or is the intent to replace the current forums platform in EP?

          Bryant

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        2. Dennis Howlett Post author
          @Anton – I’m not sure what the issue is here. I said: “a framework for offering online community capability back to the partner ecosystem. A few weeks back I’d been part of a team that used Plexus to deliver a series of blog entries in support of a global marketing event. If you’ve not had the chance to look at Plexus, I’d recommend it – especially if you have marketing projects in mind.”

          If there was a lack of clarity here then I’m not sure where it is.

          I do not know whether SAP will productize the service and push it out to the wider community but it is something I can raise. I am aware that SAP is looking at these styles of service as something that can enhance existing applications. On that point I’d draw your attention to a conversation I had with Doug Merritt who was talking about how information created in these Web 2.0 style applications might usefully inform areas like talent management. (As an example). Once again, I’m hoping to pick up that conversation again in Berlin.

          One correction – it is BASED on Jive but has been extensively developed. As I said – I plan to find out more in Berlin.

          As to the issue of co-innovation, I had some brief discussions with Zia Yusef on that topic but there is much more for me to find out before making any pronouncements in that direction.

          I would suggest that issues around ‘co-innovation’ etc is a separate topic. To that extent, I’d invite you to spell out your concerns and thought, perhaps in a separate blog post and draw my attention to it. I can then raise those directly when I meet with Zia next week. Does that work?

          The bottom line: being part of the community provides me with questions I can raise at the appropriate level and allows others within SAP to see what matters to the community.

          It’s all goodness.

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    2. Kieran O'Connor
      Hi Anton,

      The Collaboration Workspace from SAP was originally established under the project name Plexus.

      The workspace is designed to provide a secure easy-to-use platform for roundtables and ecosystem collaborations complementing the BPX, SDN, and ESC sites. It facilitates document exchange and collaborative work on material that is not yet ready for widespread distribution or publication (due to sensitivity of IP issues or other needs for restricted access).

      Here’s a link to the welcome message from Aaron Williams of the Enterprise Services Community which should give an overview and orientation…

      https://plexus.sap.com/blogs/gettingstarted/2008/02/09/welcome-to-collaboration-workspace-from-sap

      Kieran

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    3. Andre Fonseca
      Hi Anton, Dennis and Kieran,

      First I wanted to thank both Dennis and Kieran for the answers as they both experienced collaboration workspace (new name for Project Plexus) while we were in the Pilot and were amazing contributors inside and outside of our community.

      It is not guerilla marketing. Our project has been in a pilot until Sapphire Orlando and most of the workspaces are private in nature but our official press release is going to happen in an event at the SAP Co-innovation Lab soon.

      If you think about co-innovation, you notice the need for private collaboration tools that enforce the legal terms between the companies that are creating the innovation. Collaboration workspace from SAP is such tool. We partnered with Jive Software who created a great individual contributor collaboration solution called Clearspace Community and we added the enterprise membership awareness on top of it with the help of our partners Adobe, Intelligroup, Enthiosys and Wipro.

      While SDN and BPX offer a public collaboration, collaboration workspace focuses on private collaboration. Whenever the results become public, they get posted on SDN and BPX and whenever a group decides to create a private collaboration, they can do so on collaboration workspace.

      When you go to our website http://plexus.sap.com you will see what you can do with the ES Community, IVN, COIL and BPX. But right now most of the groups in there are private and available through invitation only.

      Please feel free to ask questions in the http://plexus.sap.com/community/gettingstarted and our community will be able to provide you more insights.

      Best,

      Andre

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