Idea Place to Customer Influence: Design, Voting Process, and Privacy Concerns
The “[Status Update] Idea Place, features, and fixes” conversation in Coffee Corner has recently exploded with dozens of comments about the new Customer Influence experience. While I’ve done my best to stay on top of everything, that Coffee Corner thread has become difficult to manage — so we’ve decided to start a separate post to address all issues raised there. Since that Coffee Corner conversation was originally meant to consolidate news about the migration itself, it also seemed prudent to start a dedicated discussion via a blog post. In doing so, I can also invite members from the Customer Influence team to chime in.
To be clear: Based on feedback thus far, I fully anticipate some degree of dissatisfaction with the information below. Nonetheless, I have needed to make a few final statements here. Otherwise, the debate could continue endlessly. Still, by the time you finish reading, I hope you’ll have a better understanding of what’s happening and why (and what you can do about it) — even if you aren’t 100% happy with the details. The goal is complete transparency.
Design and technical issues
First off, thanks to everyone who took the time to share their feedback about the look and functionality of the Customer Influence site. As we announced during the transition period, we are looking for input, and we will work on a new release that takes your recommendations and bug reports into account. I realize you’ve heard this before (most notably with the SAP Community site itself), but we are consolidating all of your asks and observations. I’ll stop short of committing to delivery dates — as these things often slip — but I can promise you that work is ongoing to improve the Customer Influence site with a future release.
I hope you’ll take that as good news, but in the grand scheme of things, it seems that the look and feel of the site aren’t the biggest concerns. The biggest concern is what members see as a loss of privacy — particularly with the appearance of company names in profiles.
To understand why this information (i.e., company name) is now available, it’s important to understand how Customer Influence measures Improvement Requests (IRs).
A more formal approach
Please keep in mind that the primary purpose of Customer Influence (and Idea Place as it existed before) is to get customer input about changes to SAP products. SAP Community is a bit out of place in these sites, in that we are trying to gather feedback and ideas about improving an SAP.com experience. While the overall goal is the same (improvement), SAP Community isn’t a product, yet since it is part of the Customer Influence site, IRs for the community have been handled the same way that they are handled for products.
With Idea Place, we were a bit more informal. It was initially designed for open innovation with anyone (customers, partners, prospects, students, etc.). Customer Influence, however, proposed a more closed-circuit approach for customers and partners — with the expectation that anyone who submitted a request or voted for one was truly committed to a change to an SAP product. And when we decided to retire the Idea Place Product Sessions and move some to the existing Customer Influence site and process, we also opted to keep the Customer Influence approach intact.
As you can imagine, changing products should only happen when true demand exists — which is why the stricter Customer Influence approach seemed more pragmatic. Using an informal process — akin to what is common in social media — didn’t seem to best reflect the level of demand and commitment that new development efforts require. This is also why down votes don’t appear in Customer Influence.
Idea Place had both up and down votes (similar to “likes”) for most sessions. Customer Influence had a different notion. Users “registered” their support for an IR and if that IR was delivered, the user made a commitment to implement it. In such a situation, down voting isn’t really relevant, as the whole point is that votes are committing to an implementation. Again, this is a situation where SAP Community doesn’t quite fit the product model of Customer Influence, but the process does still allow us to see how firmly committed people are to IRs for the SAP Community site. (As an aside, we did research on Idea Place whether to keep down votes and found that they were not used. Only 0.5% of votes migrated had down votes. Beyond this, down votes didn’t provide much more value than a critical comment and simply not voting. There had never been a focus on the bottom-most voted items in Idea Place.)
In short, we won’t be bringing down voting back. While I appreciate that certain vocal members of the SAP Community value down voting, it just doesn’t work in the bigger picture of Customer Influence.
In the Coffee Corner thread, posters noticed a drop in IR votes — meaning that an idea which had x votes in Idea Place may now have fewer votes in Customer Influence. This is because votes are counted by company, not by individual.
The reason for this goes back to the need to measure actual commitment to a change. If an individual from a company makes an IR, he could ask his colleagues to stack the votes in favor of that request. Counting votes by company prevents this unfair voting. Put another way: By grouping by customer/partner, we ensure that we serve the largest customer base – and not one customer/partner that managed to get the entire team to vote on the same IR.
With that said (and as acknowledged earlier), the SAP Community session in Customer Influence is an odd duck as it is not about an SAP product. As feedback is more representative of individual participation vs. a company, we will switch the SAP Community session to votes (non-company) only.
This doesn’t fully address the issue of showing a user’s company name. Even though company name was always displayed in Customer Influence, we should have taken into consideration that company name was not displayed on Idea Place and that users had the option to hide their company name in SAP Community. We simply didn’t anticipate that this would be an issue, as we never experienced it during the 7 years that Customer Influence has been live.
Since votes are counted by company in Customer Influence, the site needs to show this information for a user in a session. Again, showing the company name gives a clear indication of a firm commitment to an IR. The intention of Customer Influence is to create a manageable, prioritized backlog of IRs for SAP Product Managers, to serve the largest possible customer base. Displaying company name encourages a stronger commitment to implement the feature, with the expectation that the voters would be early adopters for rolling out the new feature.
By switching to individual votes in the SAP Community session (instead of company votes), we can remove a user’s company name from the session’s votes tab. But since users can continue to participate in other sessions, their company names will still be seen elsewhere in the site — including on their profile pages. Which means that we have not addressed all of the privacy concerns raised in the Coffee Corner conversation. (BTW, that conversation included a comment reporting a bug which displays a user’s email address. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence — but still an unacceptable error. We are working to resolve quickly.)
Removing yourself from Customer Influence
While I have explained the rationale for why a company name appears, we are mindful that the Customer Influence audience has now changed however, if you wish to avoid sharing company name and participating on Customer Influence, then you can request account deletion via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moving forward, we will continue to track all feedback and work to make improvements to the Customer Influence site. For now, we will take the steps outlined above and share updates as they become available.