Idea Place to Customer Influence: Design, Voting Process, and Privacy Concerns
[Edit] The previous blog and this blog are in regards to the migrated Idea Place sessions to Customer Influence which can be found here. And the SAP Community sessions is here.
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.
thanks for the Update!
I’m missing the Info of where to actually go to check out the successor of Idea-Place, maybe you want to add that to your Blog?
I found out it’s https://influence.sap.com/SAPCommunity
which then forwards to https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/campaign/896, right?
Well, I had a short look at it a few weeks ago(?), and again today…
What really irritated me is navigation:
I can open an IR, but how can I close it?
– Upper right corner, where there usually is an X for closing? -no, that will maximize.
– lower right corner, where per Fiori design there is save and cancel? – no (but there’s a “contact” Button – at least it starts with “c”, too…) .
– maybe clicking somewhere outside the IR, to make it go away? – no, does nothing.
Finally I found the little arrow at the very top….
Also, I think an alert/spam-button is missing, as for things like this: https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/idea/200506
It’s clearly off-topic, and there are some more of those IRs. (They have been there already when I visited for the first time – why can’t they be (re)moved quickly by some admin or mod? (Don’t they know about it?))
Not sure what to think of it.
But surely, the privacy-breach (2nd time, after same thing happened when moving to SAP Community) and the lack of acknowledgement that it is a problem (or more precisely a big “f*ck up”) makes me sad/angry.
Maybe that’s a cultural thing, I don’t know…
Links added to migrated Idea Place sessions and the SAP Community added, thanks.
In regards to feedback/ideas please submit them here: https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/campaign/11
Yes the back button is best way to get back to the list. We just added that so the experience is much better than it was. 🙂 We are considering some other options as well but your ideas on how to make that better are appreciated.
Please submit the alert/spam button, great request.
RE: "privacy-breach", to me this implies there was a hack or something like, just to clarify didn't occur. Displaying company name is and has always been a function of the process and site. I see our largest failure was not communicating ahead of time on this change for migrating users and giving and earlier time for feedback. I hope this acknowledges concerns.
This blog is interesting to me customer influence vs. idea place. Maybe this is already answered, and I missed it. Customer influence seems to be things that a company would want to have in their business. Idea place seems like a place where an individual could suggest a new innovation. Something that they dreamed up - it may not help their company, but it may be something that will just be helping overall. For example an idea that is something to do with the SAP Community platform. My company will benefit from it. But it really isn't a customer influence. Or how about that idea that is for a different business. I work in agriculture, but I have a great idea for pharma.
Anyway, thank you for the explanations in this blog! I hope you added the link in the CC thread.
100% agree with the mentioned point: customer influence with voting per company is not a successor of idea place with individual votes. Idea place is simply killed.
Idea Place definitely had areas like that 'a new innovation' type that weren't tied to a company and the SAP Community session was a good example of that. To that effect and based on recent community feedback we have changed the SAP Community session from company voting to user voting.
For the sessions that have the product named in the title it definitely tends to be existing customers talking about existing products. Not to say you couldn't do it but understand that, that is not the empirical norm. One could definitely argue, hey this great solution in agriculture could be used in pharma but we've found these types of ideas to be somewhat more disruptive and a lot of the product sessions (Continuous Influencing Sessions) are focused on incremental improvements and the teams struggle with introducing disruptive ideas.
With that said, the Customer Influence site also has 'Customer Engagement Initiative' sessions which are more focused on disruptive or new or larger problems/opportunities. When the dev team can prepare for handling more disruptive ideas with higher levels of engagement with customers they will choose to run one of these sessions.
I understand. You needed to take something that was generating revenue or seen as helping customers. By pulling idea place you remove some of the noise that may or may not be relevant. By doing that I think you've limited yourselves a little, but the benefits must outweigh the great or not so great ideas on idea place.
So from a bottom line standpoint I agree with you. SAP is just that a company with a need to increase the bottom line.
My concern - and it's not just here - it's with many of the blogs I've read - is that the SAP Community site is a bit like SAPHIRE. Marketing, Marketing, Marketing, oh wait go back two steps that was a good thing that I should understand.
So in regards to this blog - it feels like idea place is gone and customer influence is another place where you can show the customer all the new things SAP offers. And then hope they buy them. If there is enough interest - then you can add it - and make a big win quickly. So customer influence makes sense.
I'm just kind of sad to see idea place go away. Sigh. I get it, even in a community it comes down to dollars and cents.
This comment is in no way pointed directly at you. I just wish you would market it without adding it is like idea place. It really isn't. It is really a cool new place that companies can go to. They can present things they would like to have - get other companies behind them and hope for a change. Or they can add new improvements ad-hoc.
There was an open source site inside of SDN years ago. Rui Nogueira ran it. It created a place for where Ivan Femia invented abap2xlsx - so cool. I downloaded before that was shut down. Now I go to other sites to get the open code. But I never heard that area was being replaced with a new and ... They just shut it down. But without marketing something else.
As usual, I've written a blog in the comments.
Have an awesome day! I hope to convince my boss to look into customer influence - I doubt it will happen. We have too much coming up way too soon!
Why does SAP need suggestions from humble and single developers? (caustic joke)
I may not be following you, are you suggesting that it was a financially motivated decision? The answer to that is - not at all. Of course we do try to reduce costs whenever possible but it was not a choice over user experience and strategy. Actually, the product was not initially designed for the external facing, continuous influence model. But it was a good general innovation tool so with that and a bunch of investing we've built the product up to better support the continuous and other Customer Influence models. I guess that's what you don't see, is how far the product has come in the last year and where we plan to take it to best suit the models on Customer Influence.
As a bit of background, we've been wanting Idea Place and Customer Influence to join for years. Why does SAP have two places to influence SAP products? The community has pointed this out, I might even recall feedback from yourself on that matter. 🙂 After a couple years of both sites growing up, there was no good reason to have them separate and now, customers can go to a single place and in a consistent way influence SAP products while having transparency on what happens with their requests. This has been the top driving force to bring the sites together.
Also, another big motivation to move to a new platform is for data privacy. SAP wanted stricter security of private data and moving to SAP's own software was seen a strong solution.
As for Customer Influence being a marketing site, can you expand on some examples of this? The site is targeted for existing customers using existing products. I would go as far as saying we do not want potential customers on the site. Just the fact that existing customers submit most of the content means that SAP does not control the lexicon of the content, I would expect most prospects to be lost on many of the sessions until they have a couple months of product experience/domain knowledge under their belts. I can definitely say that there are no marketing campaigns tracking the site that lead users to a pipeline where a sales/marketing person would then reach out.
Please expand more on your 'sad' comment. I'm sorry to hear that. If this is in reference to the possibility for lateral cross pollination of ideas. We still support those types of contests but depending on how it is scoped it may run on Customer Influence or we are actually adding that to www.sap.com. But to add, we see very little of this type of behavior.
I remember the Open Source site a few years ago, very cool. I don't recall all the reasons but I believe places like GitHub were simply becoming a stronger community and far superior in technology that made SAP running it's own not beneficial. Now, perhaps, it would have been nice to start a community on GitHub for the sharing of SAP solutions. Maybe that happened in certain areas, I honestly do not know much more about that.
Hope that helps clear up some things. I do hope the site doesn't come across as a cost based decision for promoting SAP products. That is absolutely not the intention or the motivations.
You have more patience than I do. Thank you for the detail.
I think Customer influence is a good place. I'm not real sure it is a "replacement" for the idea space. (But don't worry about that.)
I am sad, because I know:
So therefor, I will not be involved.
I've been gone from the SAP Community website for a couple of years. So a lot has changed since I last ventured her. There were a million different reasons. Some small some large... One of the reasons was the large amount of marketing. So when I think customer influence, I think SAP has something in mind already. The customers are just there to promote that idea. They pick the ones they feel will be the most positive. On that it sounds like I was completely wrong. I'm glad I wasy.
Thank you so much for staying with me on this one!
Ah, I understand. Thanks for clarifying.
Account deletion requested by e-mail to email@example.com. Let's see how much time it will take!
Deletion reported. Trying to find out the way to check that my private info is not visible anymore.
Looks like I has to create a fake P-acount and login with this account to influencing.sap.com 🙂
I wrote up a nice comment to this but then got a message "Comment can not be saved due to security issue". Ah, well.
Ctrl-A + Ctrl-C before "Submit Reply" is a must 🙂
Yeah, I know. I typically do that for long answers, but didn't have a problem with comments till now.
Agreed. I’m doing that with all my comments – luckily it seems the second time they come through without the security message.
I started doing this even on other sites that never failed to post my content. 🙁 Humans adapt but it's not always a good thing...
My idea now has the following comment on it:
It also says now:
In idea place voting was still possible in this phase, or not?
All your votes are there. When the voting model was changed for a session the system deleted all votes. But I had copied all of them and then added them back under the new voting system.
Apologies on the confusing messages.
And yes, voting in 'Under Review' is no longer allowed. This is due to a stricter process for the Product Managers. When an idea is Under Review it means it is actively being considered for implementation. The Product Managers take a snapshot of the votes at the beginning of the review period, so any new votes wouldn't have an impact on the outcome.
This also means, you will not see ideas sitting in under review for months. Maybe a month or two tops.
After the review period a decision has to be made, Accepted (for backlog), Not Planned or back to Acknowledged. In the Acknowledged state you can again vote on the IR as it will have another chance at the next review step.
Can you please share the link to your idea so I can help investigate?
Sure, it is: https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/idea/137848
From what I see, the idea still has 44 votes -- the same count from Idea Place. (You'll see a 44 next to the heart.)
So I'm not sure what Kuhan means by https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/idea/137848/?section=sectionActivities. Let me check with him. But just to assure you -- no votes were lost.
Hi again, Martin:
When I responded, I failed to notice Kuhan's comment above. I believe he addressed your concerns. If not, please let me know.
Just to let you know: the bug with the multiple comment entries is still there (e.g. the comment from Shai Sinai of Jun 22 is shown 6 times in the list).
I'm looking at https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/idea/137848/?section=sectionComments, and I only see Shai's comment once. And the overall comment count is 15, which matches the number of comments made (none of which appears to be counted twice).
Could you send me a link to what you're seeing...or post a screenshot?
Here is what I see:
Hmm...I'm not able to replicate that at all. I only see one comment from Shai.
Let me investigate further.
I see only one as well. But I do still see duplicates on others: https://influence.sap.com/sap/ino/#/idea/101016/?section=sectionComments
I had a screen sharing session with Kuhan a week or so ago as I was also seeing multiple copies of the comments in some of the ideas I visited, but not others. Did some source copying, har file copying, and a variety of other checks on what was happening. Verified that it was happening in IE as well as Chrome, cache cleared or not, and pretty consistent for the two Ideas we were checking. A third Idea suggested by Kuhan was not showing the issue. But apparently enough people are experiencing the problem, that he continues to investigate. Just wanted folks to know that he has not been sitting idle.
FYI: The bug where email was shown to some users has been fixed.
FYI, I now asked for account deletion, too. (One thing less I have to care about. )
How about your views, do you think the move abway from IdeaPlace was a good or a bad one?
The entire goal of Idea Place and Customer Influence is to provide a strong voice of customers to influence SAP products. This is the single best measure of success. There is no value in having customers submit ideas only to have them ignored by SAP. The programs have come a long way and continues to push to make the influence process better and give customers a stronger voice. Many if not all other issues are secondary to this. The feature gaps, bugs and other issues are actively being worked on, fixed and/or considered. So yes, I believe moving away from Idea Place and continuing to grow the customers, partners and greater SAP ecosystem's voice as a very good decision. Could we have done a better job in communications, yes. Are there issues with the new site that warrant further investigation and/or alternatives, yes. Does this mean that leaving Idea Place is a failure, never.
In case anyone is interested: My Account deletion is trough and - as I asked for how I can check if deletion was successful - I also got a before and after screenshot of one of my Ideas.
After deletion, it says "by erased" for the idea (header) and "To clarify" for comments.
Also, I was made aware, that if I re-log in, my user is re-created again, so it's "it would be difficult to check on the site itself".
I have created test account with P-ID to check deletion result. And I used another computer/browser for this test.