Mapping the Journey Ahead
On the day that SAP Community launched, I published a blog post welcoming you to our new home, reemphasizing the importance of the community to SAP, and promising continued support as we settled in.
That was roughly half a year ago, and during the past six months, your feedback has been clear and consistent:
The user experience for our new home is severely lacking.
We heard you and immediately pulled in experts to develop improvements, weighing short-term musts against long-term goals. We published release highlights to share our progress and to show the connection between your input and our deliverables.
But explaining the new releases wasn’t enough. Since you’ve been unhappy with the overall experience, you naturally wanted to know what we were going to deliver and when.
In short, you wanted a road map. And today, you get one — as I outline our plan for the coming months. (You can also find other details about of the road map in the SAP Community wiki.)
We didn’t unveil the map sooner because we had our hands full with fixes, not leaving us all the time necessary to strategize as quickly as we had wanted — and as you had expected. But even as we spent the last half year rolling out new features in iterations, we have also spent the last several months fine-tuning the road map by identifying your common complaints about the user experience and outlining our course of action accordingly.
During the next three months, we will focus on SAP Community features that fall under two important categories, to address the biggest concerns raised by the community vis-à-vis the user experience. One category is content discovery — meaning a collection of new functionality and enhancements that will help members find and share information more easily. The second category is community feel — referring to the features necessary to give members a sense of belonging and a connection with each other.
Some highly demanded features have been delivered already, such as the recent return of email notifications, an important component of community feel. Look for others soon in upcoming releases.
Even more features will be delivered by SAPPHIRE NOW. Some will take longer and our goal is to deliver those by SAP TechEd.
The aforementioned road map in the wiki shows the months in which specific features are expected — from this month through June — but that doesn’t mean we’re planning to stop after three months. Improvements to the user experience will come throughout 2017 — as will additional details.
In some cases, the road map may change. We must continuously keep the right balance between what’s wanted and what’s needed, what’s possible and what’s pragmatic. But as always, we will listen to you and do our best to develop with your requirements in mind. The map will provide evidence of how your input is influencing our priorities.
Here, then, are details about forthcoming changes:
- Overhaul to the “Browse Community” page: When users select Browse the Community from the Community dropdown menu, they arrive on a page that highlights popular community topic pages. Users have reported that this entry point is confusing, so we will give this page an overhaul to help people find the content that interests them — and connect with people who share the same interests. Improvements to this page should come very soon.
- Tag improvements and streamlining: Tags group content together by topic, but search and several pages within SAP Community aggregate this content in ways that cause confusion while navigating. To streamline the experience, we plan to consolidate the unique features of these different aggregator pages for filtering query results. And while we are on the subject of tags — let’s not overlook the fact that there are currently more than 2,000 tags available. Often, users post content with the incorrect tag (due to the sheer number of choices). The volume of tags also creates difficulties when users try to find information. Therefore, we are conducting an analysis of the list of tags, to make it more manageable and reduce the number of tags.
- The return of @mentions: The loss of @mentions in SAP Community is one of the primary culprits responsible for the loss of a sense of community. Without this functionality, members feel disconnected and they are unable to draw the attention of a member who might benefit from their content or who might want to join a conversation. The technical efforts for this functionality require longer development time, but we are working to deliver by SAP TechEd.
- Improved availability of +Actions button menu: We are extending the +Actions button menu to the top of every SAP Community page to improve the findability of common tasks and the consistency of the experience across the site. In addition, users who are not logged in will now see the +Actions button too, and they will be prompted to log in or register upon clicking one of the menu options. This process will help connect the dots to the registration and login process for new users. You can expect changes to this menu in the very near future.
- Profile options and additions: We gave members the ability to do more when handling their avatar images. We are also looking for ways to allow users to see more of their content and contributions in their profiles (such as discussions in the SAP Community archive and Coffee Corner). Profiles for moderators will show the tags that they handle. And for members with many followers, we’ll add new sorting so they can find people in their lists faster — an option that will allow members to send direct messages to their contacts more quickly.
- Improvements to the SAP Community home page: Members have been critical of the SAP Community overview page — noting that it wasn’t clear how to navigate the community, perceiving the large hero image (top image) as an ad, and wondering how we chose which content to feature. With the launch of the next phase of the SAP Community home page, you’ll see an interim solution that addresses several items, including: a smaller hero image and surfacing current blogs and Q&A in feeds. We’ll also start by making it clearer that users are on the SAP Community landing page and by highlighting trending topics and integrating more closely with our social media channels. In addition, we will give Member of the Month winners the recognition they deserve by displaying them more prominently. You’ll see some of these initial changes very soon. For further down the road, we’re working to implement dynamic feeds to provide better entry points into the community and filter content that’s most recent and most liked, along with other features to create a more dynamic feel to the home page. We’ll also work to reduce white space in future phases of the home page.
- Improved universal navigation: SAP.com’s universal header will be more clear, and SAP Community benefits from this. A more informative “mega menu” is on the way to allow for easier navigation, along with methods for finding content within the community.
- Enhancements to the site search experience: As a part of a wider effort to improve and align the site search experience across SAP.com, members will see rolling improvements in the interface for SAP Community search results and list pages. As a result, members will find the same type of content in the same place, with the same formatting — whether it’s the size and location of the author’s avatar or simply finding the same filtering options in the same location across the site.
This overview of the road map is just the beginning, as we will work on even more improvements to the user experience in the second half of the year. In fact, we will invest in delivering elements throughout 2017 to give you the best user experience possible.
This post is also just the beginning of more frequent interaction between my SAP Community Experience team and you. In addition to the bi-weekly release highlights, we’ll also publish monthly updates, so we can let you know if we are on track to deliver everything that we announced. If we need to shift direction, we’ll let you know when (and why).
In October, I concluded my blog post with: “We look forward to working with you in the weeks, months, and years to come.” That statement is as true now as it was then. Please continue to partner with us, and we’ll make sure you see how this partnership translates into our plans. Together, we’ll work as one toward a better community — on a trip following a course we all plot and a map we all share in the coming months, the remaining year, and beyond.