In a recent conversation with SCN Altvater Craig Cmehil, we discussed the relationship between SAP and the community. Asked Craig provocatively, “What community?” Here’s my best answer to Craig’s question.
SAP Community vs. SCN Community
The SCN community is without a doubt the largest community in the SAP ecosystem between whose members any meaningful exchange takes place. Recently, the number of 1.8 million visitors per month was published – that’s an awful lot.
But we have to acknowledge that while the SCN community is huge and should ultimately become a homestead for everyone in the SAP ecosystem, there are other communities beside it that are just as vibrant and legitimate while having little intersection with SCN.
- Take, for example, ASUG, DSAG and other national user groups. They form something like a parallel SAP universe with their own conferences, online groups, excellent content and highly profiled community members (many of whom are, thankfully, also active on SCN or as SAP Mentors).
- SAPfans and ITToolbox have a lot of good, original content and great community members as well as leaders.
- Think also of communities that lack a central technical platform but exist nonetheless (often quite close-knit), such as the community of developers employed, the community of architects at SAP, the community of developers and consultants working in the SAP field, and so on.
- The Business Objects world is now part of the SAP world although integration at the people level is still at its beginning.
- The same is probably true for the Sybase mobile development community to an even stronger extent.
- SAP is only just now building a reputation and gaining a foothold in the Java EE community.
SCN reaches only a tiny fraction
Based on many conversations with people working in the SAP field – in many different companies, industries, roles, and seniority levels, SCN reaches only a tiny fraction of the SAP community as a whole. Let’s face it, no matter how huge SCN is, most people in the SAP community as a whole as just barely aware of its existence.
At the same time, SCN does the right thing and tries to reach out to the different communities. It has transformed from Developers Network to Community Network, founded the Business Process community, the Business Objects community, and surely others will follow. The community evangelists are doing a great job fostering and shapping their respective communities, encourageing active contributors and providing leadership and enabling creative processes coming from the community. But still, SCN is far from saturating large parts SAP community. So how can SCN reach a bigger part of the SAP community?
Fig. 1: SAP Community Space
Acknowledge other communities and reach out to them
The first step would be to acknowledge the position of SCN as one of many communities in the SAP space. In fact SCN isn’t really a community but a community platform containing two to three community with different degrees of overlap. Understanding its strengths as a platform, SCN can reach out to other communities and ultimately aim at becoming the preferred platform for these communities while preserving their unique features.
Don’t preach to the choir – go out on the streets
SCN contains a lot of material that encourages people to use SCN. Logically, this material never reaches people who don’t use SCN. To bring new members in, we must move outside SCN and tell those people to come and give SCN a try. Where can we do this?
- in the workplace
- in other online communities
- in weblogs and forums outside SCN
- in the “social media” (misnomer if you ask me) twitter, Facebook, and so on
- IT related magazines
- at (un-)conferences
- in national and regional user groups
- at trainings
- in consulting situations
Understand the role of the community beyond SCN
In some discussions about the role of community processes at SAP I get the impression that people tend to equate SAP community with SCN community. So when they want to reach wider parts of the SAP community the best they can think of is to address the SCN community. And again, while SCN is surely the biggest SAP-related community, it’s important to understand that the SAP community is much larger and, as of today, mostly found outside SCN.
So when we talk about SAP community, let’s be aware that this means also discovering and reaching also those communities “in the outside world” and to look beyond SCN.
Develop a vision for a global SCN community
While reminding ourselves humbly that SCN is only a fraction of the SAP community, we should also work on a vision where SCN is indeed the home of the entire SAP community. What must change for SCN to be the most desirable place for all kinds of SAP professionals to connect? How can SCN provide more value to all those sub-communities that currently prefer other online and offline waterholes? I look forward to a fruitful discussion.