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Enterprise 2.0 concepts have been gaining in popularity as IT professionals and decision-makers are looking for ways to transform business operations to best support workspace demands. Customer-oriented line-of-businesses, such as sales and marketing, have been key innovation drivers of related concepts. One hot area is collaboration in the enterprise, i.e. improving communication between and beyond teams, as well as boosting employee productivity. As a result, collaboration technologies can be found in most enterprises today.

The email paradox

Many companies and their employees are experiencing the increasing information and communication workload overload resulting from email being used as the central communication and information sharing hub. Paradoxily, all this email communication can get in the way of getting work done, especially in large teams and organizations where team members may not know each other.  Statements like: “Can you please send me that presentation again? The one we used for discussions of our last team meeting?” are very common today.

Social Technologies

The tremendous growth and proliferation of social technologies in the consumer space has caused another major innovation push over the few last years. Many companies are investing in social technologies for the enterprise with the hope that these would bring some new miracle process into the organization and solve “email chaos.” Undoubtedly, the “kill email” meme is gaining popularity and there are some very prominent statements and projects, such as global Professional Services firm, Atos (see link for details).

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However, it would be a mistake to link the value proposition of enterprise social computing with being an email, Intranet or enterprise application “killer”. In fact, the problem with many of the existing social technologies has been that they are not connected to the rest of the corporate systems, such as transactional or CRM systems. Such traditional enterprise systems work well for defined processes, focusing on a specific group of users, i.e. those who “own” the process. However, they do not address the much larger number of people that influence, or are impacted by, a process. Business applications in this way keep running into a natural limitation – how to support the informal or social activities that constitute the majority of what happens in business. As such, ad-hoc, flexible, and collaborative scenarios are less efficiently supported by traditional enterprise applications.

By deploying social solutions that are disconnected from the process world they end up becoming ‘just’ communication tools, competing with Outlook, rather than becoming tools that can support people in their corporate activities, allowing meaningful engagement.

A new generation of Social Collaboration technologies is evolving that reduces these siloed communication and collaborative processes by connecting them back into the business process they are part of. As the market leader of enterprise applications, SAP is committed to enable companies seeking the next wave of competitive differentiation around Social Collaboration.

SAP Jam

The SAP Jam social software platform can become a part of critical processes in your organization through its integrations with transactional SAP systems. We have observed that organizations want social technology that is connected to where people work and how they work – (business applications and mobile devices), so that it aligns with how they expect to boost employee productivity and drive business outcomes. With SAP Jam, we have delivered on this vision of social collaboration so that companies can see both bottom and top line benefits.

SAP’s approach to social software supports the demands of business processes, allowing you to seamlessly connect people with information and applications. I’ll demonstrate this using a social scenario for CRM, which is a perfect match for social collaboration:

Imagine a typical marketing campaign process of a midsize company. The marketing manager is working on a campaign for one of the company’s products together with marketing team members, product stakeholders and the external marketing agency that helps drive the campaign.

In the described scenario, employee productivity is at risk because the social interactions are not optimally supported by IT. Some actions within the process (e.g., setting up the campaign or budget approval) occur in enterprise applications such as CRM systems, but most of the communication happens outside the CRM application in a way that is disconnected from its respective business process.

As a result of the disjointed process, individual knowledge and context of the related actions and discussions around the business process will be critical for successfully driving the campaign forward, but this isn’t captured in any particular system. Think of all the bits and pieces of intelligence that can make this project a success or failure, yet they are missing or difficult to find in the systems that facilitate the process. In addition, you have questions that you need help answering along the way, such as:

•             Who should be pulled into the campaign planning?

•             Who can help me with expertise and who only needs to be informed?

•             Who can I ask for advice? For example,  which external agency is best suited for this?

•             Where can I find the meeting minutes from the last meeting?

•             …

The list goes on and on but that’s exactly the social intelligence portion that makes social software deliver tremendous business value.

This is because SAP Jam can bring order to the typical chaos that can occur when you invite people from inside or outside the company to help out with collaborative tasks or projects – which is just simply the nature of how many CRM operations work these days. SAP Jam enables teams drawn from across an entire organization and its ecosystem, to easily engage with each other as well as with customers and even partners. The social platform allows you to share information or video messages with the team, and keeps everyone on the same page with feed updates and action items. SAP Jam offers out-of-the-box decision-making tools to get the team to commit to a cause, bringing structure to the social activities by planning agendas, assigning responsibilities, and sharing of ideas or best-practices – just to name a few popular use cases.

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Most importantly, by integrating into enterprise applications including CRM and Customer Experience related solutions, SAP adds collaboration right where your people work. The revolutionary effect is that you avoid broken processes. Unlike in traditional collaboration environments, SAP Jam adds valuable context from the respective business process, such as automatically invite contacts that are maintained in the respective CRM activity or prepopulate attachments for the respective group coming directly from CRM. In this way employee productivity is now continuous and uninterrupted.

Moreover, SAP Jam provides unique capabilities harnessing the collective genius within your organization. SAP Jam helps you discover, via feed updates and recommendations, people, content, groups, data, or tasks – in addition to use filters, search, and tags to identify and find important information of course.

Therefore, there are significant opportunities to boost social ways of working with modern social collaboration technology – for your customer-oriented operations as well as for your whole company.

Niclas Otte (@ottenic)

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