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If anybody needed further proof for the important role social networks play in our industry these days, this week was the week. Facebook’s $1billion acquisition of Instagram, as well as Google’s campaign launch for Google+ are highly representative for the meaning of social networks in the IT industry. Would you have ever guessed to see a Fortune 500 launching expensive TV advertising across the globe for a “free service”?

Well, let’s leave the quest for users and advertising money out of the discussion for a second, but focus on some of the underlying design attributes, which now also characterize the recent trend towards businesses adopting new social network technologies across their organizations.

As per previous blogs , at SAP, we believe that we can learn a lot from the popularity and design of social networks, especially the ability to foster communications and collaboration, something which has always been an desired outcome in business. A discrete characteristic of the Social Web is that users find an interactive platform for sharing and communicating with a defined network, which allows users to keep track of existing or engage in new social relationships, supporting our natural human appetite for social behavior. Simply, Social web applications have equipped us with new means for “peer-to-peer” communications.

As a result of these observations and supported by the ease and speed with which information can be distributed via Cloud Computing amongst your network or company, it is not surprising that social networks are in turn increasing in the corporate setting as well. SAP is offering leading cloud solutions supporting employees in sharing ideas or content among your enterprise network or in dynamic personal networks. Customers deploy JAM today – recommend to see related eWeek article – and see how enterprise networking transforms their organization’s collaboration capabilities. Try it.

Most importantly though, these new social applications from SAP also foster an important concept that will mark the future of enterprise collaboration: allowing users (employees) to collaborate in context. Not only is it necessary to allow for dynamic personal networks to be created, but also “objects” (e.g., employees or products) and activities (e.g., Selling or Marketing) to be brought in context of the user´s role (e.g., I need to collaborate to reach out to my colleague Mike Smith because he is an expert on the new TV product which is part of my opportunity).

Think of the experience derived in special-interest applications like Tripatini or groups on LinkedIn, where users collaborate as a result of sharing the same interests or friends. Users then derive value from communication, collaboration or interest-related features in the application, which can be nicely applied to the corporate setting as well where employees collaborate with peers in projects or corporate activities, such as learning, selling, innovating, etc. It is important to elevate collaboration beyond a tool driven approach – it needs to be part of a business context to really deliver value. If not, it is just more noise.

At SAP we are working closely together with customers and partners in building out this next-generation approach. We need your help:

  • Innovate together with us by deploying productized examples first hand – e.g., JAM, SAP Sales OnDemand, Service OnDemand, Travel OnDemand, SAP StreamWork – test drive via www.ondemand.com.
  • Join the SAP Co-Innovation program and exchange ideas, requirements or solution feedback with us – see Co-Innovation Whitepaper

Feel free to reach out to us if you are interested.

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

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