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I would like to keep this blog simple. Let me give you a scenario:

I run a business. I invite a group of customers/friends to a business party. One of them(let us call her X) brings a competitor’s(many of my customers haven’t heard that competitor) product and tells everyone attending the party that the competitor’s product is superior to mine and that it is a real threat to my business. Obviously I was upset because I invited everyone to the party to discuss my products and other business plans I have. So I questioned her motive behind discussing my competitor’s product. She told me she wanted to discuss openly with others. She also told me that there was nothing wrong with discussing openly the competitor’s product in my party. From business etiquette standpoint, is her behavior acceptable? 

Now let me give you another scenario. Since most of us interact socially on web, I launched a web site to discuss my products and my company’s plans. My customers/friends are free to discuss my products and business plans; at the same time, I clearly told them that there would be no solicitation or advertising. All of a sudden, I see one of my friends(X) discussing the superiority of my competitor’s(several of my customers/friends haven’t heard that competitor) products and she tells everyone that that competitor is a real threat to my business. To me, it was advertising of my competitor’s product. When I questioned her motive, she told me that she wanted to discuss openly with others and that there was nothing wrong. From netiquette standpoint, is her behavior acceptable?

Not only I was upset on both occasions but a few of my friends who wanted to grow with me were also upset because:

  • Unnecessary distraction 
  • Waste of time and efforts discussing/researching the competitor’s product in subjective manner
  • Free advertising of a competitor’s product as my guest
  • This might encourage others to start discussing other competitor’s products leading to complete chaos thereby defeating the purpose for which I launched website. This is really a big concern. 
  • In this competitive world, my friends who want to grow with me can’t just ignore friend X’s advertisement and stay silent because other customers may start believing friend X.

What are your thoughts?

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19 Comments

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  1. Fred Verheul
    Hi Bala,

    In both of the cases you present I wouldn’t be amused either.

    I can’t help thinking however that you might be referring to a certain blog post on SCN not too long ago.
    If that’s the case, I *very strongly* disagree with your translation of the blog post’s context to your party/website scenario.

    Admittedly SCN is hosted by SAP, but is has always been and should IMO stay a *community driven* place for discussion and information sharing, not to be censored by SAP in any way (apart from the moderatoring that’s currently being done to keep the content of  high quality). It is, AFAIK, not a website by SAP to discuss only SAP-products nor is it only meant to be populated by SAP customers and friends. Instead, it’s free and open to everyone, which is a good thing IMO.
    On SCN (as opposed to at your party/website) it’s perfectly acceptable (and I would even encourage) to discuss SAP products in relation to the outside world and competitive products out there. This is something completely different from advertising those other products. No advertising should be done on SCN, period. This includes SAP-products, partner products whatever!

    Of course I hope I’m wrong, and that these scenario’s were inspired by something else. And as I said before: in your scenario’s I do agree that X’s behaviour is not something I would like to see.

    Cheers Fred

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  2. Chris Paine
    If your product is really so bad that a discussion about a competitor had you that distressed, there is a solution, fix your product.

    Repression of constructive criticism is a sure sign of ingrained problem. However, support for discussion of diverging viewpoints and using the resulting information garners respect.

    There is a reason that many of the SAP mentors are critics as well as supporters of SAP. We don’t want the emperor to be walking around with no clothes.

    Cheers,

    Chris

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  3. Jan Penninkhof
    Hi Bala,

    Even when it comes to real-world events, there is quite some differences in them. You could throw e.g. a party, but you could also organize a seminar. If you’re looking for praises, set-up a party and make sure it is extravagant and has a free flow of drinks: You’ll get your praises.

    If you are looking for more constructive feedback and a discussion, you would probably setup a seminar and shouldn’t be scared to invite people that know their (and your) business and have a sharp and honest discussion about their points of view. Their views and perhaps even exposure of weakness of your products in comparison to competing products can help you to improve your product.

    When a seminar is open for the public instead of on invitation only, its character changes again. Instead of speaking to the people you invited you will be speaking to folks from all walk of life, similar getting on a soapbox. Your competitor could be there as well and listeners will feel and act more anonymous that on a more restricted event.

    In my opinion, if you set-up a pitch on your website, it will show most similarities to the latter type of real-life event, e.g. like public speaking on a market. As you can’t control who joins the speach, you also can’t control what is going to be said about your products. Your competitor could be there as well and you should be anticipating to that.

    A big difference between real-life events and online events is its timelessness. While words eventually solve in thin air on real-life events, the web is not as forgetful.

    I hope my point of view helps to see the similarities and differences between the various sorts of online and offline types of marketing. While doing any of these types of events, it does help to get expert advice by some (online/social) marketing folks.

    Cheers,
    Jan

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    1. Jan Penninkhof
      I just learned that your blog is a response to Jarret’s “Why Workday is a Major Threat to SAP” (Why Workday is a Major Threat to SAP). It would be good to mention that next time, so that all folks that read your blog get the context right.

      Getting pointed at the actual context of your blog makes my response, that I’ve tried to make as genuine as possible, look quite silly. And I don’t think I will ever get the time and effort back that I’ve put into writing it.

      Thanks for wasting my time and spoiling my mood Bala! A display of poor netiquette as far as I’m concerned.

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  4. Jarret Pazahanick
    I am willing to stand by my “Why Workday is a Major Threat to SAP” which it is obvious this was written in response to. Enclosed is my article for reference.

    Why Workday is a Major Threat to SAP

    I outlined in the comments that my reason for writing was as follows:

    “I have gotten quite a bit of feedback as to people seem shocked that an SAP industry person would write and article praising a vendor and not SAP. I think that is very short sighted and my view is that SAP has to pay serious attention to their competition (ie Workday & Oracle). My goal in writing the article was to cultivate open dialogue to hopefully foster improvement within SAP to better benefit customer. If I look specific to SAP HCM with a 17.6% market share worldwide they are obviously doing many things right which we all already know.”

    We can agree to disagree but the SAP Community is great ONLY because important topics can be brought to light and the discussion will HELP SAP get better. There has already been so great insight from Ethan Jewett for example on how the Workday and SAP In-Memory solutions are different and that doesnt come to light without the article (and me asking Ethan to jump in) ๐Ÿ™‚

    If SCN ever turns into a place where it is filled with marketing material (already to much) I for one wont be visiting quite as much.

    On a side note it is okay that SAP has competitors and the fact that many havent heard of Workday is one of the reasons I wrote the blog. I know first hand that the SAP executive team is following them closely.

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  5. Gregory Misiorek
    Hi Bala,

    SCN is great exactly for allowing this kind of discussions, but it ‘ain’t no social party’. even if i disagree with Jarret’s premises and conclusions i enjoy his forays beyond SAP which is not the only island, but just happens to be the biggest one in the enterprise computing ecosystem.

    rgds,

    @greg_not_so

    PS. i really hope that discussion thread management will be the first improvement addressed by SCN.

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  6. Tom Cenens
    Hello Bala

    I think it’s best you clearly state that this blog is targeted at another specific blog if it’s the case.

    If it is targeted at Jarret’s blog than you are only helping him advertise his blog really which is probably not what you are trying to achieve. You would have been better off just to comment on the blog in question.

    Either way it’s ultimately up to SAP to decide if they find a blog acceptable or not and react upon it. They have multiple options there. Embrace the feedback provided and do something with it or counter the arguments or remove the blog. Each of those actions will have it’s consequences and reactions from the SAP community network members.

    Whether or not a blog is quality content is a question that is often raised. I have blogs that are loved by some, hated by others so there is no clear line what community members X finds quality content compared to community member Y. This has been a frequent point of discussion in the past and in the SCN reputation council.

    When you put yourself out there by blogging and being very active in the community and on social media you will always have persons who like you and others who dislike you. You can’t please everyone which you have already discovered by now.

    For me there is big difference in pointing out threats in a blog vs advertising for your own product in a blog.

    We all know that a product is only the best until another company turns up that makes an alternative that is better so there are always threats. Certainly now in times of fast innovation companies can get rich over night so to me it’s obvious SAP has to continue to do efforts.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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  7. Former Member
    Bala:

    I think this is the kind of blog I don’t too see and read on SCN…while Jarret is talking about SAP’s competition I don’t think he doing it as a way to promote the competition, but to point out some weak points that SAP must endure to keep being the best ERP ever…it’s nice to have compliments, but it’s only nice to have someone telling you the naked truth…SCN is a community open for conversation, discussions and everything else related to the industry…we’re not in a party, we’re on a violent world, were we must try to keep up to date…

    BTW…talking about Etiquette or Netiquette…it’s not a good thing to talk about a blog without actually pointing at it…it’s like talking behind someone’s back…

    Greetings,
    Blag.

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  8. Bala Prabahar Post author
    Hi Everyone,

    I agree with everyone who posted comments to this blog on one point: I should’ve explicitly linked Jarret’s blog. No excuse. I didn’t do it at 1:30am this morning and my sincere apologies for that.

    At the same time, I decided to write this blog to learn or educate as Ethan indicated as a comment to Jarret’s blog.

    “…Nice blog Jarrett. This kind of conversation needs to be had. It sounds from your comment like some people have been surprised or disappointed by this point of view. It’s too bad that they (with the possible exception of Bala) have not come here to make their case and help educate all of us. That’s what SCN is all about. Hopefully we’ll see more alternative points of view chime in….”.

    As Ethan suggested, mine is just an alternative point of view. Anything wrong?
    Does anyone believe I shouldn’t have written this blog to express my thoughts/opinions?

    Please accept my sincere apologies one more time for not explicitly linking Jarret’s blog.

    Finally to err is human, to forgive is divine. Please forgive me, Ladies and Gentlemen.

    Best regards,
    Bala

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    1. Gregory Misiorek
      Bala,

      you don’t have to apologize for having an opinion. sometimes, your opinion makes you unpopular or more popular among others. as long as we stay away from personal attacks and focus on our points any opinion is acceptable and is neither wrong nor right, but just an opinion.  most of us, do have one, but choose to either voice it or withhold it…IMHO.

      rgds,

      greg_not_so

      PS you might be better off addressing each and every counterpoint you get rather than write one general defensive statement, but that’s just my opinion.

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    2. Tom Cenens
      Hello Bala

      Everyone is entitled to have his/her own opinion, there is nothing wrong with that.

      In general I can agree with a lot that has been said. It’s healthy to have different opinions and views in a community.

      A new generation of community members bring new opinions and thoughts which is refreshing.

      For me a healthy mixture of critisism and praise is in order. Improvements are always possible but not everything has to be critized all the time either.

      Kind regards

      Tom

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  9. Stephen Johannes
    I really don’t think the point of the community is for all us to be cheerleaders for SAP.  It would be a disservice for everyone if only positive views about SAP were only allowed.

    I think it’s valid for members of the SAP ecosystem who depend on future consulting projects to blog and be concerned about areas where SAP is having its lunch eaten by another competitor.  As long as the blogging is done in a constructive manner then it should be allowed.

    There is nothing in that blog that you could not find out via other means(research firms, industry experts, etc), but it is nice to see another perspective.  SAP can’t make a better product if we only tell them that the product is fine.

    Take care,

    Stephen

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  10. Sharon Newton
    Hi Bala – I wanted to point out that Jarret’s blog is valuable to the SAP community. Anyone who works with customers during selection of software should know the niche/competitive solutions now and on the horizon.  Workday has a lot of good press and is growing. Existing SAP customers are looking at it and leveraging it.  Anyone involved in SAP, particularly from an HCM perspective should be aware of them and what they are doing.  We in the SAP world need to make sure we know what the competition is doing, regardless of our roles.  Our customers don’t live in a vacuum and neither should we.  Cheers, Sharon
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  11. Marilyn Pratt
    I’ve been following the dialouge generated by Jarrett’s Workday blog and the subsequent responses.
    I must say that by reading the original LinkedIn Workday forum thread that Jarrett shared I was a bit startled to see the following comment by Sven Ringling:

    “Workday, however, seems to have their ears on the market. We both know they listen to 3rd party veterans with loads of front line experience via social media. SAP rarely does.”

    Really?  SAP rarely listens to experience via social media? Hmmmm…. I guess that isn’t the SAP I’ve been working for for at least the last 6 of my 13 years.  But perhaps my exposure is skewed here in this community of 2 million plus and doesn’t reflect the culture outside of SCN?  But Sapphire Now got some media kudos for the innovative way that inclusive conversation was hosted.  Example of not listening?

    Another point. I noticed that Jarrett’s SCN blog is cross posted on a Workday sponsored site: CloudAve.  Of course, it isn’t particularly surprising that Workday would be interested in hosting such content as it certainly isn’t negative press for Workday and serves them well.  But do consider that we, here in the SAP Community Network, do not shy away from hosting critique, even contentious opinion as long as the posters follow certain rules of netiquette such as doing dilligence in research, avoiding personal attacks and also are transparent in their motives.  Such conversation serves us very well here.

    So if we have an agenda here in SCN, it is to make sure the right eyes and ears are exposed to “the customer/ecosystem voice”.  We work hard to ensure that that voice is heard above the din of “attaboys” and what some call “the happy talk”.  Sure we are a vendor site with vendor content, but we are a community site, first and foremost on SCN.

    Those of you who are vetern here know that we on the “collaboration team” (the community advocates and evangelists and facillitators) are constantly working to educate internally as well as externally concerning the need for real, transparent, open dialouge.  That includes the ugly, the very ugly, and the bad as well as the good stuff.

    We also step in when we feel an individual may be treated unfairly.

    I’m stepping in now.  While glad that the community feels strongly that open dialouge around competitor products and candid conversation is very much appreciated, I’d also like to applaud Bala’s courage in raising the question of the quality of conversation.  I’ve spent time in the community reading his thoughtful posts and observing how very dilligent he has been in his analysis of content, how thoughtful his responses and posts.  He consistently invests time in kicking tires, investigating and researching.  A quick look at his blog page would substantiate that easily.
    And I can think of a number of instances where he has raised his voice (albeit courteously) to challenge and maybe even provoke.

    Sometimes culture comes in to play when we joust and debate and discuss things here.  Some feel better with directness.  Others with metaphor and analogy. Still others exercise reserve.
    All ways are welcome as long as we work candidly.

    Thanks Bala for your candor.
    Jarrett you have already received many kudos for your provocation.

    Marilyn

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      I don’t know how to thank you, Marilyn and Jarret. I know one thing for sure: after I began SCN contribution through blogging, commenting etc, I’ve become more confident and happier. And due to SCN participation, my proposals to speak were approved. On Friday, July 15th, I spoke in Chicago. Personally I believe my maiden speech was a great success. I’m going to continue my “journey of speaking” and do my best to “give back” as much as I can.

      Thank you Marilyn for stepping in.

      Best regards,
      Bala

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  12. Jarret Pazahanick
    Thanks for jumping into the discussion Marilyn as you always bring a calming influence.

    Although Bala and I don’t agree on this topic that doesn’t change the respect I have for him willing to have a strong opinion. He is a real asset, contributor and valuable member of the SCN community.

    I think everyone that contributed to the comments of both blogs can be proud that it never got personal which is a great trait built into the fabric of SCN.

    I didn’t agree with Sven comment about SAP listen as we all know SAP is by far “best of breed” within Enterprise Software when it comes to SCN and social media. I have countless examples of senior management reaching out personally when I bring up a question/comment here or on Twitter which for a company the size of SAP is unheard of. This is one of the reasons it is no surprise that SAP is taking market share from Oracle which is well known for their closed and secretive culture.

    I am glad to hear the collaboration team is “we on the “collaboration team “are constantly working to educate internally as well as externally concerning the need for real, transparent, open dialogue “. It is difficult enough to write a strong opinion let alone worry that you are going to be “punished” by SAP for doing something aimed to help the company.

    I worry that people seeing the conflict on a blog/comments like this and will not be as open to giving strong opinions as if so we all lose. Bala & myself know first hand from the past week it is no “fun” having the defend yourself but something we both are willing to do to make SAP a better company.

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    1. Bala Prabahar Post author
      Hi Jarret,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      “…I worry that people seeing the conflict on a blog/comments like this and will not be as open to giving strong opinions as if so we all lose. Bala & myself know first hand from the past week it is no “fun” having the defend yourself but something we both are willing to do to make SAP a better company. …”

      Well said Jarret. I know one thing for sure: When I express my opinion, I become a better person based on feedback I receive from others.

      Thanks again for your kind words.

      Bala

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