Today I will interview Werner Daehn, SAP Product Manager for IM, working on DataServices and RapidMarts mostly. Like I did in my latest “Wiki Space Councils- Collaborative Creativity Brings Change” blog interviews, I would like to share with community Werner’s unique activities and perspectives as a BusinessObjects Wiki Moderator.
Werner’s Wiki section contains high level of content structure and quality content. The Wiki prides itself in providing content that could not be found in any other resources: Video Tutorials, Projects Guidelines, Customer Benchmark, thorough answers to FAQs, Reviews, Creative solutions for problems and more. All these features creates an online time saver for SAP.
This is a special opportunity for me to thank Daehn for his endless Wiki efforts including other wiki spaces as well. I’ve learned a lot from him.
When and why was your space created?
Actually, it all started at Business Objects in the year 2004. In Forums questions around our products have been asked and often the answers were similar. Questions like, “I need to read multiple files” or “My filename contains the year information, I need that along with the data”. So instead of answering each individual question, we created a page dealing with all the options and use cases and the reply to the post was one sentence and the link.
Why are you investing your time in the Wiki?
It is a time saver for the company. If a customer has a problem, he has four choices: read the manual, ask support, ask in a forum or Google the question. While our documentation is actually good, it is aimed to be used as reference material. What does the option “file group reader” stand for? Ah, you can read multiple files at once. But if your question is “What options do I have to read multiple files?” it is hard to find in the docs as they are not meant for that. Invoking support takes a long time for these simple questions, just entering all the information is too time consuming compared to the simplicity of the answer. And even if support would be perfect and fast and precise in the answers, for us it is expensive to talk to each individual customer. Much faster and cheaper are forums because there, the initial hurdle to ask a question is low. And actually, before you ask, you usually search for similar questions. So the more material there is, the less often you will engage support, or in other words, support can focus on the cases that are too hard to answer quickly, take a lot of research and are customer specific.
As a consequence of this multiyear work we even own a couple of top rankings in Google, e.g. search for “timestamp based delta” and you will find the Wiki as top post. Not an external research, not a competitors, but us.
What can found in your space? What content is unique for your space?
Under the Business Objects Wiki there are three areas we created: The Data Services Tips and Tricks, the Star Schema Design and the Explorer/BWA Home page.
What we try to do there is to provide information that is not available elsewhere. The official documentation is something we are juristically obliged to provide, something that has very thorough reviews, needs to be accurate for every single version, cannot contain opinions. The Wiki is just the opposite, there we do not talk about features but about options to solve a common problem. We might provide opinions even why this method is better than another. Or compare ourselves with other products – in a carefully manner.
Some highlights are the
- Video Tutorials, in case you have no clue what DataServices is about these 10 minute Videos are for you.
- Project Guidelines
- Customer Benchmark, a predefined Job that runs isolated test for your hardware and then you can compare with others to indentify your system problem right away.
What are your future plans for your space?
I have a list of about 20 areas I would love to add, things like Typical Use Cases for our tools with code samples, add more DataQuality content and the such.
And to stay in sync with the current product releases and what was changed, what is new.
Do you want other people to help you ? ( more editor and moderators)
Would love to get others involved, but failed. There is too much content created in other formats, e.g. webex recordings or pdfs (=SDN Articles) which would make sense to be delivered via the Wiki but are not. If I want to download the Supported Platform document of my release, fine, that’s a pdf file. But we use PDF files way too often in my opinion, even for content not suited for that. What would you prefer if you want to understand the technical implementation of something and build the same in your environment as a learning experience? A pdf file meant to be printed? A Video you have to pause every few seconds? Or an online tutorial with screenshots, organized in main topics and sub pages with more details in case an aspect is relevant to you? For me personally the answer is the latter, hence the Wiki.
Similar with the Webex, if you are interested in a topic, e.g. “How can you load non-SAP data into BW?”, would you watch a replay of an one hour Webex with awful sound quality just to distill the part you care about? Or would you rather go into the chapter for SAP BW Loading right away? I am not saying Wiki is the only thing, and Videos are not good. But we should use the best delivery method for each topic, our company is large enough to support that. Hence Wiki a lot, and if Videos, it is something you want to sit back and enjoy, not longer than 10 minutes, recorded for particularly this topic.
And actually, when looking at the Google analytic statistics, the PDF and WebEx Articles are viewed in the range of 10’s times, the Wiki pages get 1000’s of unique visits.
What are the wiki’s strength points ?
We have been asked frequently by publishers about writing a book for our tools. We discussed the pros and cons, like it shows we have a professional product if there is a book about it, but at the end said: A book is outdated the minute it got printed, a book requires even more reviews than the official documentation and we do not have the time for, we would not make money out of it as the number of potential readers are to limited, a book cannot link to external and internal content, a book cannot be reviewed , corrected or commented by the readers.
All of that is no problem with the Wiki, so the Wiki is our “book of Enterprise Information Management Tools”.