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In April, I had the opportunity to participate in the (near) virtual global marketing meeting (login is probably required) that took place using Collaboration Workspace. At the time I recall being wildly impressed with the ease of use and extent to which I had access to tools in a service with which I was immediately at ease. I was so excited I wanted to find out more and at SAPPHIRE met with Marty Homlish, SAP’s CMO and Yusef Aiaz who runs the SAP business partner ecosystem. During those meetings, I saw more of what CW has to offer and was left amazed at both what had been achieved and the potential.

Yesterday, I had a call with Aaron Williams who is running the CW project. Here’s a few facts from the discussion:

  • There are some 4,000  users in
  • 230 workspaces that engages
  • 200 companies across
  • 16 different broad programs

By any standards this is a hefty initiative.

SAP has taken the Jive Clearspace product and enhanced it for internal group usage. Since each workspace has specific goals and targets, it cannot operate like an open social network. This means that workspace owners can manage who is able to participate to ensure relevance is maintained. This is a good idea because each participant matters to the workspace. Subject matter experts are free to apply for an invitation to join a workspace and the workspace leader will determine whether their credentials are appropriate to the initiative. 

One of the key determinants of value comes form the ‘five star’ rating system used by CW. In my opinion that’s not good enough because reputation could end up being based on notions of popularity rather than on real value delivered.

Aaron tells me that SAP is enhancing CW with the ability to plays games that act as markets. The idea is that users can ‘buy’ a feature or ‘buy’ the prioritisation of an enhancement. However, in all but the rarest of cases, individuals won’t have enough ‘money’ to make that purchase outright. They will need to find collaborators willing to support their cause. That will require the active creation of cogent argument in support of a particular value proposition. In this way, Aaron believes that it will be much easier to prioritize enhancements over time. 

Over the next couple of months, there will be further enhancements that will include an Adobe Connect widget to hekp schedule and run online meetings and templates that set out clear blueprints for engaging with companies. This will allow consultants to develop templates and service definitions that have a direct impact on the the ability to build profitable business networks.

Alongside that, I note that a conversation on Plurk, combined with Enterprise Twitter – the BPX view  and The specified item was not found. has led to ESME, an idea for building out a Twitter clone for TechEd Demo Jam. Whether it happens and is selected is a moot point but the fact this is moving forward rapidly among participants tells me that Web 2.0 technologies can and will remove the barriers for people wanting to get things done. While discussing CW with Aaron, it suddenly struck me how useful a Twitter clone gadget a la ESME might be in CW workspaces. 

All of this is goodness but for me it only goes so far.

It seems to me that while collaborative spaces provide an excellent breeding ground for surfacing ideas and building out the networks Aaron envisages, they only do half the job. In order to be actionable, such networks need to be tied into business process issues. That way, the time between project conception, discussion and execution might be usefully collapsed, ensuring that customers get best and early project value. With that in mind, here are some questions:

  • How then might this be taken forward?
  • How might BPX’ers who are trying to cross the business and technical divide engage?
  • What might a BPX project team look like and what are the kinds of roles that will be needed to make the most effective use of CW in conjunction with process initiaitves?
  • What kind of ideas does it spark?
  • Where are the bottlenecks and what might act as show stoppers?
  • How might process improvement be included in the mix?

The easiest way to answer some of these questions is to make a start. Aaron is eager to hear new ideas and develop use cases. It’s an opportunity I believe BPX’ers should grab with both hands. 

UPDATE: In later trawling around the Collaboration Workspace, I stumbled across this presentation podcast from SAPPHIRE which talks about energy management at Kodak. During the presentation, the speaker, Bernard Morneau of OSIsoft talks about how Kodak has tuurned the business of energy management into a game that draws business participants into being aware of issues aorund the topic. That project has yielded annualized savings of $21 million rising to $28 million. While the speaker doesn’t directly reference the use of of tools like Collaboration Workspace, it seems an obvious way for companies that are energy intensive to think about how they might innovate for energy reduction. The accompanying slides are here.

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  1. Aaron Williams
    Thanks, Dennis!  I hope this does spur a deeper conversation within our BPX community about collaboration workspace – we welcome everything from fully thought out use cases to the craziest ideas.

    And the prioritization tool you mentioned is called “Buy a Feature” and it is an innovation from an excellent partner of ours called Enthiosys.  They have a whole collection of Innovation Games (check them all out at innovationgames.com or buy the book, it is absolutely worth every penny).  We’ve found the games very helpful at increasing our customer understanding through collaboration, both online and at our face-to-face meetings.

    And keep up the trawling – you never know what you’re going to find coming out of the private groups in collaboration workspace …

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    1. Darren Hague
      In an interesting technical coincidence, the “Buy a Feature” site is implemented in Scala and /lift/ (the technologies I have been blogging about on SDN), by none other than /lift/’s creator, Dave Pollak. We are planning to use the same technologies for building ESME.
      I like how these circles of influence are starting to intersect – people may wonder about the value of “Web 2.0”, but this whole ESME idea has only happened because of people listening to podcasts (hello, Java Posse), hanging out on Twitter/Plurk, and participating in SDN. This stuff works – but because it’s largely serendipitous, the business value can only be demonstrated anecdotally. Thanks to Dennis for helping with that.
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      1. Dennis Howlett Post author
        (Blush) – thanks Darren: now let’s hope we can entice a few more BPX’ers to at least have a nose around, perhaps throw curve balls, who knows?

        Seriously – these things are always a team effort with some good ideas, others gr8, still others that are just not feasible. I’m happy to be able to throw stuff in and see what happens, knowing there are super smart people out there who know far more than I.  

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