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SAP Taps employees to drive 12Sprints Innovation

Last November SAP 12Sprints moved from exclusive private beta to a more open invitation only beta. The move was a welcome step for the Product Management team, (of which I am a part) eager to make 12Sprints available to more users and get feedback from a larger audience. Feedback has been a major driver in the development of the product from sprint to sprint, and has been responsible for shaping the way we build and use the product.


As I have written on 12Sprints for Developers before, we have been building out the 12Sprints APIs in parallel with the product. Because developers have been a smaller subset of the 12Sprints user base it has been more difficult to receive feedback on the APIs especially while we were in the more exclusive early days of the beta. Developers also tend to be very project based and tend to only use the APIs in spurts as opposed the everyday use that the application front end tends to get, making it harder to see the progress over time.


The 12Sprints team are probably the most active group of users in the product; we use it every day to make decisions that affect every aspect of the product. We wanted a way to simulate this same type exhaustive and everyday use of the product, but for the APIs. Fortunately we are lead by some very forward thinking Engineering leadership who suggested we sponsor an SAP internal developer contest. We are a company 50,000 people strong full of developers with exciting ideas and use cases for something like 12Sprints. We thought this would be a great way to validate the APIs before opening them up to a larger audience.


We ran the challenge very much like we ran similar customer challenges for the Xcelsius and 20K for Best Polestar Mashup where we simply said, “Here’s the APIs, build the coolest and most useful things you can imagine”. We were blown away by the response, but it didn’t hurt that we had some very nice prizes for the winners. Prizes aside, many of the participants were excited to try their hand at something new and innovative. One development team manager shared that he was excited to write some code as he hadn’t had much chance to do that anymore since being promoted to management.


For me, I was excited and nervous all at the same time as I was about to get large amounts of feedback from an excellent group of engineers from around the world. Here’s some of the nice comments we received:

Shobhit from the SAP Labs wrote, “The 12Sprints experience was really a wonderful one… The REST based approach taken really makes it very lightweight to do the integration.”

You can read his blog entries below on his experience creating an Android client for 12Sprints.
Fun with Twitter ,12Sprints and Android!
Sprint RESTs on Android!


Another nice comment came with a big ‘However’, “Let me start by saying that I am really impressed by the Constellation Platform as a whole. It shows great potential for becoming something really nice to develop for. However it still needs to evolve…”


Feedback like this was pure gold for a product manager like myself. You can imagine I’m probably just sharing the nice comments with you, and you would probably be right, but none the less I was very happy with the feedback we got as it will drive the future of the APIs for months to come.


The feedback was nice to get, but the biggest payoff was the truly awesome submissions that we received, and the innovation and ideas contained in them. This really helped us see what was possible when you build robust APIs.


Before I go ahead and show you a gallery of what’s possible, let me give you a quick description of the APIs that we currently have available.


Invocation REST API

The 12 Sprints Invocation API is a REST based web service allowing web, desktop, and mobile applications to connect to and interact with 12 Sprints. This web service API allows applications to do things like create new activities, invite participants, add and retrieve content. You can also monitor the progress of activities by retrieving activity events. This is a RESTFUL web service API that returns simple XML that can be handled by any development language the developer chooses to use.


Methods API

The 12 Sprints Method API allows for the addition of custom business tools to be added to the system for use by 12Sprints users. The process is similar to adding gadgets to your iGoogle page. Developers can build and test their methods in a development sandbox system before reaching out to the 12Sprints Ecosystem team to have them added to the global catalogue of 12Sprints Business tools. Building new Methods or Business tools can be done using JavaScript of Flash and is as easy a building any other web application using these technologies. By leveraging the JavaScript and Flash APIs, developers can leverage the presence based editing, and persistence features of the Method API.

Learn More about the APIs. (Requires 12Sprints Login)

Contest Submissions
After reviewing the submissions I could see that they were really breaking up into few different categories:

  1. General purpose business methods/tools built with the Method API. These included things like Venn diagrams, mind-mapping tools, and collaborative white boards.
  2. Method mash-ups with other Web 2.0 applications like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
  3. New 12Sprints client tools for mobile devices like Android, iPhone, and Blackberry, as well as client integrations with tools like Outlook.
  4. Integrations with existing SAP applications like ERP, CRM, BusinessObjects, and Xcelsius, as well as a number of research project integrations.


I was very happy that we were able to get a wide range of submissions that validate all types of use-cases. A lot of people are going to very interested in seeing what plans SAP has for integrating 12Sprints into its existing products.  The internal challenge has really validated the fact that 12Sprints has the ability to integrate collaborative work and decision making into almost any SAP application and process, or any third party application or process for that matter. The question then becomes which integrations make the most sense and provide the most value to our customers. I hope the gallery below helps to give you an idea of the types of things that are possible with the 12Sprints APIs.

The galleryAll of the screen shots you are seeing are from Prof of Concept(POC) work only. There is no guarantee that any of this work will show up in released products.

BusinessObjects InfoView – is a BI portal for viewing all of your reports and dashboards in your BusinessObjects system. In this integration they have added the ability to send any analytic or report from the portal to 12Sprints to start or enhance the data available to a 12Sprints decisions activity.

Text-To-Query – is a SAP BusinessObjects Innovation Center prototype that uses English to search for corresponding BI data and Charts. This integration allows activity members to search for the data inside an activity and share it with the activity participants.

SAP Applications (WebDynpro) inside an Activity – In this example we were able to push a SAP application screen into the Activity, so that the participants can use the application data to aid their decision. This is probably the most simplistic screen I could add, I received a tone of great submissions around this topic that are much more complex. I just don’t want to give away all the cool ideas we have around here.

Android Client – Screenshot of one of mobile clients we received for the Android OS.

Xcelsius – A plug-in was built to push Xcelsius visualizations to 12Sprints in order kick-off a decision activity from wherever the visualization is deployed. In this case it is deployed on a company intranet.

YouTube – Add YouTube videos to your activity to help make an informed decision. In this activity we are looking to help from Elen for content around ‘making decisions’.

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