SAP Mentor contributes to Enterprise Q&A, an SAP SuccessFactors app extension for HANA Cloud Platform, to help employees source experts…and get answers
SAP Mentors are a super-smart, engaged, global cohort of nearly 140 experts in all things SAP. They come from the ranks of customers, partners, employees, bloggers, consultants, business people and technical wizards and are nominated by peers in the SAP Community Network (SCN), and selected by SAP.
Imagine: A well-regarded tech firm recruits you. As a smart new hire, you’ve been given a tough problem to solve. But since key people are on vacation and your timeline is tight, you need help. You correctly guess someone in your organization has insights into your problem—or may even have addressed something similar—but there’s no way to find her or him without potentially appearing less than competent in your new role.
Finding the easiest and best ways to find and engage with internal experts is a major organizational challenge. Enterprise social networks and knowledge management (KM) systems have been developed over the years to help organizations “know what they know.” Yet, despite this progress, KM systems are costly and complex, limiting their usefulness and scalability. Typically they are siloed, resulting in the loss of important implicit and explicit knowledge held in disparate applications and systems. Furthermore, distributed workforces and far-flung international offices make finding the right people that much more difficult, if not impossible.
Expertise Inside the “Enterprise Jungle”
Based in California, EnterpriseJungle’s Enterprise Q&A app harnesses the full power, flexibility and scalability of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Available in the SAP Store, SAP Mentor and co-developer Chris Paine says it’s “the first true application extension for SuccessFactors,” an SAP company which addresses Human Capital Management challenges for more than 4,000 customers in 177 countries.
Enterprise Q&A is an application extension that helps organizations and employees find the right internal experts to connect and/or network with to solve real business or technology problems. Via Skype from his Melbourne, Australia, home office, Paine describes how the powerful app extension was created.
October 2014. James Sinclair (left), Principal of EnterpriseJungle, Chris Paine (center), SAP Mentor and co-
developer of EnterpriseJungle for SuccessFactors, demos HANA-powered technology at SAP TechEd with
Steve Lucas (right), President, SAP Platform.
“I was at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas in 2013,” he notes. “Because SuccessFactors didn’t have time-sheeting functionality built in, I thought, ‘Why don’t we build a mobile-enabled timesheet for Android and iOS that speaks to the HANA Cloud Platform?’”
According to Paine, serendipity kicked in right away. “I got an email from another SAP Mentor named Jamie Oswald,” he recalls. “‘Someone’s asking me for your contact details and wants to learn about apps on HANA Cloud Platform.’
“As an SAP Mentor at TechEd, I had a crazy schedule and was jumping from session to session. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to connect but then I happened to bump into James Sinclair, co-founder of EnterpriseJungle — the very person Jamie Oswald had just contacted me about.”
Paine and Sinclair spoke about the HANA Cloud Platform architecture and within a couple of months, Sinclair approached Paine to help develop the application. Next, Paine received his consulting firm’s support to work with EnterpriseJungle on app development.
“We went straight to work, building, iterating and reiterating the application,” says Paine.
Paine and Sinclair worked closely with SAP using contacts from the powerful SAP Mentor network, which helped EnterpriseJungle and SAP to meet key objectives. The company gained insight into the real business problems in the KM space, as well as crucial feedback from SAP on what could be improved. Key SAP staff, in particular, members of the Human Capital Management team, were made available.
Says Sinclair: “We shared our challenges directly with SAP, a connection that accelerated progress and provided SAP’s HANA team with useful insight into the challenges and opportunities we faced as an early builder on their platform.”
Enterprise Q&A accomplishes “social discovery” identifying people within organizations who can solve a specific business problem or share expert advice on any given topic.
“The user asks a text-based question,” Paine says. “Enterprise Q&A analyzes the question and conducts deep searches of people’s skills and networks across the organization, drawing on information from internal business applications including SuccessFactors, SAP HCM enterprise applications, SAP Jam, Microsoft Sharepoint, Microsoft Project, and other external data sources such as LinkedIn.
“Enterprise Q&A immediately presents you with a person who likely has knowledge on the topic and will answer your question – or can connect you to the right person,” Paine continues. “Imagine Quora, but what we’re targeting people who likely have knowledge about that question. And we know whether they’re willing to collaborate.”
Paine notes that current solutions emphasize the search aspect. Unfortunately, he adds that search functions don’t help employees understand if an internal expert is willing to help. They also don’t address the awkward reality that employees may be asking a question about something they’re “supposed” to know already (which means they may be making others aware they don’t know how to do their job).
“Enterprise Q&A solves this,” Paine remarks. “Questions are posed anonymously with the app directing questions to appropriate experts who are most likely to respond.”
“We sought to recognize the human side of search in our platform,” adds Sinclair. “Employees rarely want to expose a lack of knowledge. Anonymity increases the likelihood of employees asking a question, fostering enterprise-wide collaboration and knowledge sharing.”
Enterprise Q&A uses its deep searching ability and catalyzes it with HANA’s incredible speed at sifting through multiple details and analyzing the network for who can answer a question or otherwise assist. For example, if two people with similar roles are on opposite sides of the planet and don’t know each another Enterprise Q&A would notice and indicate that they should know one another.
“EnterpriseJungle helps to initiate important collaboration discussions,” states Paine. He’s confident that the the company’s success story couldn’t have occurred without the spirit and actions of SAP Mentors. “It’s somehow integral to the ethos of SAP Mentors that Jamie Oswald helped me connect with James Sinclair.”
For his part, Sinclair believes SAP Mentors allowed EnterpriseJungle to start — and remain at — the cutting edge of SAP technology. “Chris has been an essential catalyst fundamentally pushing the limits of what developers can do when building out extensions,” says Sinclair. “He set a precedent and smoothed the path for future SAP Mentors by, for example, going to TechEd to demo the product with Steve Lucas to an audience of 7,500 enthusiastic attendees.
“It was a great example of teamwork and of sharing with an engaged audience,” he says. “It really showed why we couldn’t have achieved EnterpriseJungle’s milestones so quickly with any company other than SAP.”
EnterpriseJungle via SAP Jam
Go to the SAP Store and key “Enterprise Q&A” into the Search box
Videos of James Sinclair
Videos of Chris Paine