Survival of the Fittest
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of the SAP Ecosystem (including the SAP Community Network) and community-based innovation.
But before we focus on the SAP Community Network (SCN), let’s take a quick at innovation which is really based on a survival of the fittest battle. The evolution of an idea is a process that includes a variety of steps. There is a no single evolutionary path but different types of ideas require different phases – follow different paths. Sometimes an idea “takes a few steps” on its particular evolutionary road and then ceases to develop. Other ideas evolve to become reality. Those ideas that are most viable will attract the most contributors and survive.
The presence of a number of different ideas at different stages in their “evolutionary development” is what makes a community interesting. It is a sign that community members are not just consuming content – they are also creating.
The role of the SAP Ecosystem
There are number of examples of innovation within the SAP ecosystem (including InnoCentive). In my opinion, the central question is what are the respective perspectives of SAP and the community regarding the role of the SAP ecosystem in innovation.
As an SAP Mentor, I know that there a variety of discussions currently taking place behind the scenes that are related to the ecosystem and open-source issues. The fact that there are even discussions on these topics is very important and a sign of the maturity of the ecosystem as well as the relationship between SAP and the community. At their core, many of these discussions relate to creativity.
Just as SAP has shown maturity in engaging SAP Mentors on various issues, SAP must also realize that its efforts regarding innovation take place in a marketplace where there are other offers. Thus, developers from SAP ecosystem may choose other environments in which to innovate. It is necessary to remember that participation in innovation- as is all community participation – is voluntary. On the other hand, if SAP creates an environment with enough differentiators and that is conducive to playing a greater role in innovation, then the developers will come.
I see the ecosystem as a facilitator to encourage innovation. This role means that the ecosystem plays part of this evolutionary process. It usually can’t and won’t play the only part. Indeed, it may only play a small role in this process. Just as SCN members are usually members of other communities (Facebook, etc.), innovation that originates in the SAP ecosystem may emerge somewhere else. A desire for exclusivity regarding innovation is destined to disappoint.
ESME’s Proposal to the Apache Incubator
One example of the role of the SAP ecosystem in promoting innovation is ESME which started as a plurk conversation moved to the SDN wiki then to Assembla and finally to Google Code. Last week, we submitted a proposal to join the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) which “provides organizational, legal, and financial support for a broad range of open source software projects. The Foundation provides an established framework for intellectual property and financial contributions that simultaneously limits contributors’ potential legal exposure. We are seeking admission to the ASF via the Apache Incubator.
In the open-source world, participation in the ASF is highly desired and provides an amazing foundation for further growth. We haven’t been accepted yet into the program but for me the fact that we even submitted a proposal is a typical open-source “rags-to-riches” story in which the SAP Ecosystem played a critical role.
It is really only when innovation expands beyond the borders of the SCN that the diversity that exists outside the Ecosystem can be tapped into. Although the SCN is huge, it is still homogenous group with SAP as its common denominator. Fresh ideas and perspectives from others outside of the community can only benefit the evolution of ideas.
Although such innovation may not take place directly in the SCN itself, the involvement of SCN community members in these innovative efforts assures that the Ecosystem remains involved through its social network.
This network is the true power of the community and not the community-created content on http://www.sdn.sap.com.