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SAP and Web 2.0

I believe SAP is an under-appreciated leader in the Web 2.0 space. This blog attempts to explain why, and links to examples of SAP Web 2.0 innovation.

First, I should first point out that there are three distinct categories you can talk about SAP interacting with Web 2.0 technology:

  • Web 2.0 by SAP – Web 2.0 products and services SAP provides to customers
  • Web 2.0 with SAP – how SAP uses Web 2.0 techniques to interact with our customers and partners
  • Web 2.0 at SAP – how SAP uses Web 2.0 technology within SAP

What is SAP doing in each of these areas?

Web 2.0 by SAP

The term Web 2.0 means different things to different people, but generally people use it to encompass one or more of the following categories:

Easy, Powerful Interfaces

Web 2.0 products have simple, interactive, attractive, and intuitive interfaces that let people access information and carry out tasks without training.

SAP is a strong believer in design thinking across all aspects of the product solutions. Technology examples include:

  • SAP BusinessObjects Explorer Accelerated, that lets you browse through billions of rows of corporate data as easily as you browse the web, using innovative memory-resident analytics coupled with an interface that automatically proposes appropriate analyses.
  • SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius, providing attractive, interactive dashboards that can be seamlessly integrated into everyday business activities. For example, a presenter can show the effect of changes to forecasted variables in real time, directly within a PowerPoint presentation.

On-Demand, Mobile, and Cloud Computing

Web 2.0 applications are available on-demand, with a variety of different devices, with an internet-based platform that scales smoothly as demand grows.

SAP has a clear on-demand and cloud strategy:

  • SAP Business ByDesign is now achieving wide recognition as a well-designed, flexible, on-demand business application, and its intuitive user interface now enables users to customize their own KPI dashboards and integrate third-party Web services such as GoYellow, Google Maps, or Map24.
  • The SAP BusinessObjects on-demand platform has long been the clear leader in business intelligence as a service, letting organizations cleanse, store, analyze and share information effectively without having to install any hardware or software.
  • SAP partners provide on-demand extensions to existing in-house functionality.


Web 2.0 tools let people work together to achieve common goals, frequently crossing traditional fault lines such as country, culture, or company boundaries.

SAP believes that collaboration tools should be aligned with business process. Example of technology include:

  • The SAP Netweaver Portal provides discussion forums, lets users comment on, rank, and tag content, and integrate SAP content seamlessly into other platforms such as Microsoft Sharepoint.
  • Collaboration can be analyzed and optimized, like any other business activity. Jive software, the leading independent vendor of Enterprise 2.0 solutions, provides SAP BusinessObjects’ on-demand analytics as an integrated part of their product offer.
  • Data from SAP systems can be used to augment conversations on platforms such as Google Wave.
  • The SAP Gravity prototype lets users of Google Wave bring together technical and business experts to collaborate on business process
  • The new SAP BusinessObjects 12sprints prototype supports directed, collaborative decision-making.

Social Networking

Web 2.0 tools let people make connections and share status updates.

SAP gives organizations the tools they need to monitor and optimize social networking inside and outside organizations.

  • SAP’s text analytics provide organizations with the ability to do “sentiment analysis” across social media, and automatically integrate
  • SAP’s CRM solutions provide a seamless customer experience across networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • The Social Network Analyzer prototype lets organizations bring together and analyze the relationships that are created between employees, and between the company and its customers. It makes it easy to mine the the wealth of data stored in existing corporate systems, such as the organizational hierarchy from a human capital management system, informal organizational information stored in email distribution lists and project systems, the sales relationships from the customer relationship management system, inquiries made through the support platform or web site, etc.
  • Twitter is fast becoming a platform for crowd-sourced data gathering. SAP prototypes allow people to avoid traffic in Australia and make presentations an interactive, collaborative experience by showing the “backchannel” twitter feed directly within the presenter’s slides, and allowing voting via twitter.


Web 2.0 tools are open and easily integrated with other solutions.

SAP is the clear leader in real-life business process, and realizes that it’s essential to bridge systems and combine information from multiple sources

Web 2.0 with SAP

SAP Community Network

The SAP community network site (SCN) is rated as the best in the industry. It gives the SAP ecosystem of customers, partners, solution providers and employees a platform to share questions and expertise. A wide range of different business, solution, and technical areas are covered, and it is . A full set of Web 2.0 tools are provided for members, including discussion forums, blogs (over 5,000 contributors, of whom only 30% work for SAP), e-learning, wikis, and reputation and recognition programs, and there are tight links with other platforms such as LinkedIn and other social forums.

The site has dedicated spaces for the developer network, the business process expert (BPX) community, a Business Objects community, a university alliance community, a community career center, an interactive documentation space called docupedia, an Innocentive innovation challenge program, EcoHub, a community-driven online marketplace, and a soon-to-be-launched code exchange area.

SCN has over 2 million members, who post around 6,000 messages a day in over 200 different discussion forums, and over 250 blog posts each month. People from 229 countries and territories visited the site over 28 million times in 2009, and viewed over 200 million pages.

The growing involvement in these communities helps SAP get closer to customers, partners and stakeholders for product and service innovation. For example, SAP product marketing managers use the BPX community to share product information and best practices for product use and get product feedback. And SAP customers share their own best practices with their peers and get unbiased advice.

SAP’s Community Workspace platform provides customers and employees with the ability to set up invitation-only collaboration forums to discuss common interests, such as “business process in the Oil and Gas Industry”. Over 60,000 people from over 2,000 different customers participate in over 3,500 different forums, visiting the site more than 260,000 times each month.

SAP Influencer Program

SAP provides what many consider the gold standard program for industry analysts, journalists, and bloggers. The program involves regular meetings and virtual events, and a hosted platform for quick answers to questions. It is famous for providing exceptionally open access to senior executives, company directions, and product plans, and for openly accepting and integrating regular critics of the company.

SAP BusinessObjects Innovation Center

SAP is taking an increasingly Web 2.0 approach to innovation. Modeled on the Google Labs, the SAP BusinessObjects innovation center lets customers trial early prototypes and give feedback, long before traditional product development lifecycles. The center receives thousands of pieces of feedback each week that are used to adapt and improve products.

Web 2.0 at SAP

All SAP employees have access to full collection of Web 2.0 tools through the internal corporate portal, including blogging, wikis, discussion forums, collaboration areas, and microblogging.

SAP was one of the earliest members of the 2.0 Adoption Council, a group dedicated to collecting and sharing best practice use of Web 2.0 to improve employee productivity and collaboration. Employees are encouraged to participate in external social media, and have been provided with a clear set of social media guidelines.


For more information about Web 2.0 by, with, and at SAP, please visit the SAP Web 2.0 blog.

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  • I believe this effort from SAP is extraordinary important. And I am sure soon all of us (not only those using IE on Windows) will have access to these great products
  • I think SAP is under appreciated only because SAP means ERP to most people, and the examples you provided in the blog mostly relate to BO, BBD etc. Unless people see web 2.0 examples aplenty that relate directly to ERP, this perception would not go away easily.
    • I think the perception has to change! 🙂

      First, SAP is now the leading BI vendor (IDC, Gartner market figures).

      Second, although I broke it down into several areas, Web 2.0 is primarily about collaboration.

      Most ERP concerns efficient, linear processes that don’t require collaboration, almost by definition (there’s not much discussion or collaboration needed to record that carton of milk going over a bar-code scanner, or to print an employee’s correct pay slip).

      So collaboration is only really required for less linear processes which involve some level of uncertainty or choice (and thus involves information/BI).

      BUT ERP and BI should be tightly linked — you can’t do BI without information that comes from ERP, and you shouldn’t do ERP without figuring out what your strategy is… 

  • I completly agree with Timo. SAP is not only a good web 2.0 company, but also brings state of the art technology such as SAP’s compelling BPM product. I nearly got tears when I watched the Google Wave Gravity Demo and saw the future of Collaborative Process Modelling. I am still dreaming of an extension of a BPX functionality with collaborative BPMN functionalities, and the creation of an open central process repository.

    The question SAP really has to ask is why SAP’s marketing is not bringing out these message, and why SAP still is a ERP solution provider.

  • Timo,

    Excellent blog post.

    I find that the biggest misconception about SAP from afar is the lack of understanding of the cultural changes happening within SAP (and around it) due to web 2.0 strategies. While there are surely growing pains, I believe I see the best of SAP at work in the process of reckoning with a “new openness” and what it means.

    No, it’s not always easy, and it can get messy, but it’s a good messy because it results in more open discourse. You’re right – the blogger program is amazing. The heated back and forth sessions with executives I have seen and been a part of on this program are nothing like typical press conferences and much more impactful on both sides. These conversations don’t solve all of SAP’s problems but they certainly create a better feedback loop.

    We see this on Twitter also. I know that amongst my fellow SAP Mentors, there is a desire to hold conversations about SAP out in the open and make accessibility a big part of what we do. Twitter ends up being one ideal place to spark those kinds of interactions. The SAP Mentor Initiative is, in my opinion,  groundbreaking and surely connects to the Web 2.0 effort SAP is undertaking. Shel Israel has recently been writing about the Mentor program in his blog.

    Finally, to chime in on the relevance of Web 2.0 to ERP. I definitely agree with Vijay’s point here: “I actually think that ERP can surely use Web 2.0 – especially in exception handling use cases. ERP has plenty of uncertain scenarios too – like planning, exception handling etc where collaboration is key.”

    To me, that’s the foremost thing SAP could accomplish, is not to separate these areas out but bring collaboration into historically closed ERP systems – but ONLY where customers want it and where it delivers real results. To me, that would be truly moving beyond E 2.0 hype.

    – Jon