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By now you’ll be aware that the SCN Upgrade has been put off till 2012, and you may have seen Mark Yolton’s more detailed blog describing why. I do make reference to both of these further on, please read them before continuing. I also want to make clear that I have no special inside knowledge of either the SCN Development team or the Jive 5 release that the new SCN is based on. Everything I write here is drawn on publicly available documents and conversations.

Now that’s out of the way, my first reaction at hearing about the delay was disapointment, but I do have to say that when I read Mark’s second post on the delay, I was delighted at seeing someone (Mark, in this case) take ownership of an onerous decison so completely.

Some will ask: Who’s responsible for this delay?  Who needs to be held accountable?  Who can we point a finger at for this delay?  Easy answer: the buck stops here, with me.

From an SCN user and stakeholder’s perspective, there’s two ways to look at the delay. One is the social media and communication aspect. To be blunt, Mark’s first post on the matter looked like it was written by someone with a PHD in PR. Lots of words, but little content beyond the absolute necessary. However, the second post (just over a day later) was worth the wait as it gave a clear precise and concise message about the issues, that was directed both at me (a user and stakeholder) and to the support team behind SCN. Regardless of how SAP management or Development is perceived outside the organisation, these words will be seen by the developers and support teams behind SCN as an act of faith in them, as an acknowledgement that they did their best. Both posts acknowledge the effort put in by the various teams, and his choice to ‘stand them down’ is a welcome recognition of reality that many others would do well to follow. It is obvious from Mark’s tone that while he acted in consultation with others, the final decison to delay was his and his alone (for better or worse), and that he is willing to stand by that decision without playing the blame game.

As far as I’m concerned, there will be some loss of face involved for the SCN Project managers; after all, this upgrade has been promised and planned for a long time now. According to Dennis Howlett, the issues with the new system have been known for 4 weeks or more. On the other hand, Thomas Jung (who had early access due to being a moderator) gave no indication of such problems when discussing the new system on the most recent Enterprise geeks podcast. Of course, the conspiracy minded will remind us that Thomas IS an SAP employee, but one thing he points out is that SAP are a major Jive user and customer. While Mark is at pains to seperate the functional issues with the new SCN from the underlying Jive functionality, I’m suprised at Jive’s absence from the story; As the developers (and presumably experts) in the underlying product, they had a unique opportunity to highlight risks around the conversion and search indexing. Bear in mind that I have no way of knowing if advice was offered, the quality of the offered advice or what part if any of that advice was followed.

Another perspective, that the majority of the SAP community seem to be taking, is that we are talking about technical issues, with some management problems on the side; Understandably so, as many of us have war stories about, say, SAP software (just off the top of my mind !!), that is meant to work out of the box but doesn’t (Reading Michael Krigsman is always a good reminder of how bad projects can go).

Curiously enough, this takes us right back to an entirely different Social Media view of the issue from where I started. The pragmatic decision (which I do agree with BTW) is that at a minimum, the user experience of the new SCN has to exceed that of the current SCN. At the moment, the new SCN would be a retrograde step, so releasing it would damage the community. However, there’s more to migrating to a new community system than just upgrading the look and feel. According to Mark’s second post, there are a lot of issues around data access and integrity, such as data migration, search indexing, security and so on. As far as I’m concerned, these are core components of SCN. In other words,

The ‘User Experience’ is not the value in the Community.

I don’t come here for bells and whistles, I can live with unreliable interfaces (hey, I still remember the old grey screen SAP GUI). This community is invaluable to me because it provides authoritative information on how to resolve speciifc problems, not the theory, not the http://help.sap.com pages (written before the first customer installation is started), but real answers from people who have been there, done that, scars, t-shirt and all, and in return I offer my thoughts, views and experiences. In other words, while the tools demonstrated in the new release of SCN will make my life easier, the value they add is insignificant when compared to the information value of SCN.

By refusing to compromise the data, the real value in SCN, Mark made the right decison.

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8 Comments

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  1. Gregory Misiorek
    the delay has been made very public and while most opinions are sympathetic (including mine), the room for errors has been made smaller. we all have SAP implementation horror stories to share (or not) and we all appreciate the risks of a major IT implementation, but some of us will not be as enthusiastic as we could be had there been no delay.

    i agree that lost posts or logging issues are annoyance rather than show stoppers, but social media with its speed and widespread community gets very buzzy very quickly and it will be hard to get it concerned with something else quickly.
    the waiting will be very loud in its silence.

    when i think of tools it’s the social aspect, when of information, it’s the notes, forums and wikis. the more seamless the integration the more happy SDNers hanging out and chatting about all SAP which benefits all parties.

    my 2 cents/3 Groschen

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    1. Stefan Koehler
      Hey Greg,
      i totally agree – we (the SDN users) have expected some bugs and that not anything will work right from the start. But from now – SAP itself has set the bar much higher – now we expect something great without any noticeable bugs :-))

      Regards
      Stefan

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    2. Stefan Koehler
      Hey Greg,
      i totally agree – we (the SDN users) have expected some bugs and that not anything will work right from the start. But from now – SAP itself has set the bar much higher – now we expect something great without any noticeable bugs :-))

      Regards
      Stefan

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  2. Mark Yolton
    Thank you, Martin, for your thoughtful commentary here.  I think you give me (personally) too much good credit, but I do greatly appreciate it. I also like how you express your other main point about the value of the SCN community being in the content and connections versus the superficial design; we strongly agree on that.  Finally, I hear you loud and clear that the bar is now set much higher for the release in early 2012: it must be extraordinary and a clear leap forward, and I believe it will be on many fronts.  It will also NOT be “the end” of SCN evolution, but rather, a new beginning point from which we will embark on the next phase of the journey… in other words, SCN will never stop evolving and improving from that point forward.  We appreciate your support and thoughful commentary.

    M.

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  3. Michelle Crapo
    Well I sat and debated my thoughts on this one.  They go around in a circle.  I’m sure a lot of other’s thoughts do as well.

    My first thought – almost all large projects I have ever worked on have been delayed.  Why?  Who can I blame?  Well no one person.  Basically a large project is almost impossible to estimate times accurately.  I know, and I know you know that working 24 hours a day can be counterproductive.  Adding more people doesn’t always work.  This is a very large project.  So are you, am I surprised?

    My next thought – We all know that we never have a perfect implementation without bugs.  It just never happens.  So why hold off when we – SCN members could be on the new systems working out the bugs.  We are all professionals used to working with systems.  So why not just move forward?

    And then – BINGO!  I read and re-read some blogs.  Do I really want to lose the data that is on SCN now?  Do you?  There is a lot of very good things out there.  So if there is even a little bit of doubt that the data will be corrupted.  I would not want to upgrade.  Really, would you on your production system?

    Michelle

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    1. Martin English Post author
      Hi Michelle,
        thanks for taking the time to respond –

      “I know, and I know you know that working 24 hours a day can be counterproductive. Adding more people doesn’t always work. This is a very large project. So are you, am I surprised?”

      As I look at my bookshelf in my ‘office’, the FIRST thing I see is a copy of “The Mythical Man-Month” by James Brooks – get the anniversary edition, it has some extra chapters. Yes, the technology may be ancient history (IBM 360 !!), but the principals are timeless. More to the point, so are the solutions – time and people.

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    2. Martin English Post author
      Hi Michelle,
        Thanks for taking the time to respond. 

      “My first thought – almost all large projects I have ever worked on have been delayed. Why? Who can I blame? Well no one person. Basically a large project is almost impossible to estimate times accurately. I know, and I know you know that working 24 hours a day can be counterproductive. Adding more people doesn’t always work. This is a very large project. So are you, am I surprised?”

      I think this covers why most of us are so sympathetic towards the situation. On the other hand, the sentence starting “Adding more people..” made me look at my bookshelf – one of the first things I see is the Fred Brooks book “The Mythical Man-Month”. The projects his team worked on are ancient (the original IBM 360 hardware and OS/360 software), but the principals are timeless.

      PS if you do buy or borrow the book, look for the “anniversary edition” – there’s four very interesting extra chapters

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