Sometimes historical steps are taken without public notice. Usually this happens because public means a majority who is not really aware about the consequences of things happening.
Just yesterday I got a book from Jeff Jarvis “What would Google do?” and there I found some expressions that bring it so much to the point like: Pipelines, people, products or intellectual property are not any longer key to success. Openness in contrast is. (and hopefully my back translation is correct). Think about the consequences for software companies…
The book starts with an example about how wrong it can go for companies today when ignoring the community around it and I guess by now everybody knows enough examples for this. My early experience with such goes back to pre- internet times when I was running a Compuserve forum (for those who never experienced this, you had to call them as your provider directly and only could access forums and other stuff that were run by them) for the company I was working for in the early nineties. Someday there was a problem with one of our products and many customers complained. Unfortunately it was decided to send a letter to all of those customers that there are only very few of such complaints and therefore this would not be a priority.
As many of those customers met in my forum I soon started to experience the power of community…
Today not many people would be that stupid any more. But meanwhile the power of internet communities has even grown and as Jeff Jarvis recommends in his book it is not even wise to try to pretend you would not see such discussions going on. The only way to handle them is to participate in them. Not that we wouldn’t have done this anyway. But there is a difference between tolerating a behavior or actively promoting it.
And this leads me back to SAP. The fact that we not only released such rules, but at the same time made them public (see ULR of this blog), unfolded a feeling between pride and relief to me. Pride because we do the right thing and relief because we did not do the wrong thing.
No, my dear friends (not by coincidence a phrase used by Leo Apotheker when he wants to make something very clear), this is not such a clear win as you might think. SAP sometimes is a heterogeneous company too. And there are many people who only believe in things they can see – like written documents that make clear statements. Many employees actually believe that it is forbidden to them to speak anywhere in public about any subject concerning the company. If you now experience such behavior hand them over the link and tell them that their management wants them to talk!
OK, We’re on the right track. There is more to come.