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Social Web Applications are truly revolutionizing the way we all collaborate on the Web. However, there’s actually a lot more to it than just connecting with other users. These so called “Social Web Applications” also incorporate some very powerful software design attributes, which facilitate information sharing and user-centric design like never before.  This makes individuals more knowledgeable about what’s happening around them; in their personal network of Facebook friends, in their LinkedIn business network and in their network of Twitter followers.

Undoubtedly, these social applications manage to create an emotional experience, which has users frequently visiting the application. Thus, it is fair to say that social software has not only enjoyed the most rapid uptake of users, but also the most dramatic effect on user experience.  Take, for example, the book: the world Unplugged.  It provides amazing insights on how essential Media and Social Applications have become to the way we construct and manage our friendships and social lives.  Indeed, going without it makes it seem like we lose part of ourselves.  Wouldn’t it be great to achieve such an “addictive” emotional experience with our business applications?

Even if you can’t, or don’t want to, achieve this for your business applications, managers (e.g., Sales or Product Managers) would love to see their employees using the respective enterprise systems more frequently.  This would provide more accurate data and analytics to support making the right decisions. If you think about it, isn’t this a compelling case for “social” or “person-centric” applications in an enterprise context? Many industry experts certainly think so. Consider, for example, the following article: see related Forbes article.

At SAP, we actually believe this new generation of applications and users is showing us the way. It shows us, for example, what kind of solutions we need to offer, how to get the end-user engaged and how to boost a company’s overall collaboration.  All of this is achieved while enhancing the company’s decision-making ability and enhancing the integrity of the information system. To achieve this, we are building upon our market expertise and carefully listening (see Co-Innovation whitepaper) to our customers.

At SAP, we have always seen the value of gaining increased insight into a company or organization. Throughout our 40-year history (yes, we are celebrating our 40th birthday this year J), we have brought key innovations to market.   This includes solutions such as enterprise applications (e.g., ERP, CRM), Mobile, Analytics, and Databases (e.g., In-Memory Computing).  These technologies allow enterprises to better manage business operations, more easily reach out to and serve customers in far away places or just simply better understand who they are selling to.

The past is not necessarily an advantage in business – especially in IT – but we believe that it is a big advantage for us when it comes to designing the next generation of enterprise applications.

SAP’s Product Strategy is of great value for our customers in this regard since content (e.g., business objects, best practice and data models) can be leveraged from across the enterprise. This content may be resident in a wide variety of systems such as ERP, CRM, enterprise platforms or the Social Web. It is fair to say that this wealth of content is absolutely critical in the design of social applications for the enterprise.  It represents the foundation to bring employees meaningful content; tuned to the work roles they perform and presented the way they choose to use it.

We believe that this requires in your enterprise systems a combination of process-automation and people collaboration capabilities. This is in contrast to the approaches of other vendors in the space. Just beating the drum on ”social” and bolt-on tools doesn’t help the end-user or the company.

So where is the proof?

You can already deploy productized examples first hand – e.g., SAP Sales OnDemand, SAP Travel OnDemand and SAP StreamWork. These solutions mark a new breed of enterprise applications coming from SAP which are both Social and Person-Centric. Of course, these are cloud solutions since the speed of innovation and the co-innovative approach has been applied here first.  Furthermore, you can expect these solutions to run nicely in hybrid scenarios.  We believe companies will be running such landscapes for some time.

In the spirit of social, we know that we will not succeed if we act autonomously.  Therefore, we count on our customers and interested business professionals to assist us in building out this new game-changing application approach.

Feel free to join our co-innovation program.  We look forwardto your feedback.

Regards Niclas Otte (@ottenic) and Sven Denecken (@SDenecken)

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