My open letter to the SAP Community
Dear SAP Community,
Let me begin by stating that I’ve always been a fan of online communities like this one where asking for and getting help, sharing information and also having some fun every once in a while is possible and encouraged. As many of you know, I haven’t been an active and contributing member for very long and therefore haven’t had to live through some of the apparently “painful” updates applied to this space. I have however greatly benefited from a lot of free advice provided to my own and others’ questions and I’m very grateful for that.
Of late, I’ve noticed not just some but quite a lot of frustration and disenchantment creeping in caused by what’s sometimes perceived and called out as deliberate negligence by SAP regarding the SAP Community. It crops up in many questions/responses (e.g. from Jelena Perfiljeva here or Vadim Kalinin here), in blog posts (e.g. Michelle Crapo here) and comments to them, even – and most conspicuous – in the coffee corner (e.g. Matthew Billingham here or Raphael Pacheco here). I’m really sad to see this and am wondering how to halt this apparent downward spiral before too many long-time and valued contributors jump ship.
Personally, I think, that what is currently going on here, isn’t anything new – it has happened over and over again in many other communities. To illustrate this, let me repost a link which I already shared as a comment a while ago, but it fits into my open letter as well I think – even though times and means of communicating online have obviously changed a lot since “The Life Cycle of A List” was initially posted to an email list in 1995. Having been involved with many different online communities over the last couple of years, at least some of the bullet items still hold true as far as I can tell. They may not be all completely applicable to SAP Community, but all in all I’d say it’s an “oldie but goldie”:
Web-Archive of “The Life Cycle of A List”
Why am I even bothering to write this letter? Being an eternal optimist, I still think that we can turn this ship around but it’ll obviously take some effort and goodwill from everybody involved. For starters, I’d like to suggest creating a kind of open forum where everybody gets a chance to really lay out what’s causing frustrations and disengagement. I don’t mean just another “rant-thread” on Q&A or in the Coffee Corner. Instead, I’d like to see us talking with each other, community members from across the globe with SAP employees who are involved with and/or in charge of SAP Community.
The technology to do this is already in place and I don’t see a reason why the SAP Community Calls couldn’t offer a regular platform for some open and face to face – even if virtual – discussions between all participants. Any thoughts about this Craig Cmehil & Jason Cao?
Here is hoping for some good and constructive discussions prompted by my letter!
Cheers from Germany
I just read your post, while attending the SitNL, an awesome get-together of SAP people. I see a lot of enthusiasm here, a lot of familiar faces and luckily some new faces as well. But I do miss some familiar faces from long ago as well.
And isn't that just what happens? Communities change, people leave and other people join. Roles change, and people who fulfill these roles change as well . I think we should accept this change.
However, I do agree that negative feedback should not be part of this community, and we should address this. Personally I believe the most effective way is contacting the negative person directly, if possible by a valued peer. In this case the negative impact might lead to positive changes. The people you mention might have a role in this.
Jan-Willem - my letter is not meant to be seen as having to prevent "negative feedback" and most definitely not as calling out any "negative person" (none of the ones I mentioned fall into such a category as far as I'm concerned). Instead, I'd like to see the underlying reasons addressed which prompted many longtime and valued contributors to write what they did.
I am constrained from offer a full explanation as it involves specific people and groups of people. I am not by nature a negative person. Rules changes, procedures change and I'm fairly stoic and accepting, but everyone has their limits.
I'm currently on vacation in Australia. Our accomodation for next week was cancelled two days ago. I was a bit stressed, but I didn't get angry. I just sorted it out and got us a new place, thankfully quite quickly. I focus on goals - what do I want to achieve. Getting cross and stamping my feet just wastes energy.
I simply have no faith in the current administrators and leaders of the community. In the past, we had a fairly democratic approach among the moderator team. That is no longer the case, and I believe this to be a grave error. It also feels high-handed, dismissive and unappreciative of the efforts made over the years. Frankly, I'm glad to be out of it.
I'm still looking at questions and dealing with them as I see fit. As an ordinary member, I no longer am obliged to adhere to the moderator code of practice! Quite freeing really.
commence thread hijack
OMG OMG you're in Australia!!! I've emailed you
Matt - you are always the gentleman and diplomatic. You were a really good Mentor during Moderation days and I'm glad you're still around.
Your letter and eternal optimism is both appreciated and respected. I'm also at the #sitNL right now and I ducked into a quiet room to address your post the second I got the notification. I understand the frustrations, the angst, the anger, and the general negativity but I also understand this is not widespread at least not in all aspects of our community. Sometimes it may look widespread or even feel so but personally I get a lot of positive feedback and sentiment as well. But during anytime of transition there will always be those two sides of the coin and one will always seem "more" than the other.
Since stepping into the role in May/June I've spent a lot of time every week reaching out and contacting multiple individuals throughout our community worldwide. Now I understand there are some that feel as though they are not been heard or listened too, this is honestly not the case. The community is a priority for SAP and we are dedicated to rolling out changes, improvements and fixes every chance we get - with that said this is a website that still has consistently 250,000+ unique visitors per day so changes need to be thoroughly vetted for scale and we want to be sure that what does roll out does not cause undue damage along the way. So our cycles are still slower than we would like but they are consistent. We are also working hard to ensure we update materials as we go as well. Are things perfect? Absolutely not, are we determined to continue to push forward, absolutely!
My plans have been to work through networks and the networks of my networks as a first pass, to digest all of the feedback that was provided for the past couple of years and I am now working through influence.sap.com now as a lot of this feedback goes back several years not all of it may still be relevant or desired so the process is a slow one but one I have dedicated several hours every week to that task and that task alone. In many cases it works out to be days and not hours every week.
Going forward for 2019 I do actually intend to start some ad-hoc (in the spirit of the SAP Stammtisch) sessions virtually where the community can get on a call and talk as you say,
We want to move things forward constructively and therefore voices and feedback are essential to that. For me though it's every voice that counts and a consensus is not always something that is required but rather desired. It's also something that has to match the overall SAP strategy going forward and in some cases that may conflict with some individuals and their desires, this will be unavoidable.
I had the honour to present the keynote here at sitNL (there 10 year anniversary even!) and here I shared many of the thoughts I have about where things are going and how I see things working, I shared these same thoughts in Las Vegas, Barcelona and at other events. I am trying hard to be sure that we are transparent and open in our communications, where I have failed in one area is of course in terms of specific changes and when they are coming. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I do not have full control over the multiple teams involved in the back end but I do know that things such as Alert a Moderator for blog post comments is on the list for this year, we just added the moderator ability to convert answers to comments and comments to answers. We've done work around the UX/UI to make things more consistent. We've also working toward blog post categories to help users filter out things they do not want to see without filtering out tags. There are a lot of moving pieces and we are working hard to ensure our "What's New" is kept up to date.
Have we or I been 100% successfully in everything, nope, not at all but the dedication and motivation have not changed nor have the priorities. So for those putting their ideas into the influence.sap.com site please keep going. You'll start to see things moving around in there in the next weeks.
For those who want to talk, please follow me here and send me a direct message. Or email me, you can also find me on multiple social media changes (not yet Mastodon). For those who would rather wait and do it together with others. You can find me at multiple SIT, Stammtisch, and other events from now on or you can wait until I start the open community calls mostly like starting in Jan but maybe as early as December. I've still one more SAP TechEd to make it through. For those in Bangalore you can come find me during SAP TechEd.
A bit long winded but please do not stop, your dedication and desire to provide constructive feedback is what we need to move forward.
Thanks for your detailed response, Craig! I'm happy to read that you are already planning to have open community calls along the lines of what I'm suggesting. It'll be interesting to see how they are received and what'll come out of them. I'm already looking forward to joining them!
Cheers and good luck with your upcoming activities!
Thanks for your feedback, Craig!
Let me just clarify one little thing:
This is not exactly how it works: YOU would have to follow ME, so I can send you a direct message.
What would work, and I assume this is how it was meant: you can take the notification of me following you as a triggert to then follow me. ...and then I'll be able to messag you!
Yes and I am now working to follow every single person who follows me back for that very reason BUT you can also reach me on any number of other channels as well.
I confirm: it works! 😉
Wow! Great comments above. I think my next blog will be about development and changes. But here's the general thought - have you seen the broken swing picture? It can be shown here, I believe. Also as a side note - how do you program? Do you fix everything at once? A group of things? The important things?
That's kind of what is rolling around in my head for my next blog. Thank you for that. A light bulb has just went on in my head.
I love it that you are spreading positive thoughts. I am a bit reformed. I have to look into my mirror and say, I love the community. The people even more than the "thing" - the platform. You and I and so many other people that I've "met" virtually here. So when I have a chance to contribute or make it more of a community... Do I read/comment on a blog? Do I create blogs? How about questions?
So for me it is even a step above the "technical" difficulties into what makes a community.
Loved the blog - loved the comments - keep going you are doing awesome.
BTW - for some reason, my comments can be very long! 😉
Thanks Bärbel for mentioning me and my coffee corner discussion.
Also, thanks Craig Cmehil for your response, it was very motivating and about it what I want to pass my point of view.
I am, just like you, in love with this community. I came here in the previous version and contribute according to the skills I had and the ones that I acquired over the years. I grew up with her, I made friends and even make jokes about learning new languages (Spanish) ??.
I confess that I was very excited with the coming of the new platform because I could participate in the construction, and I did. I proposed some improvements and reported bugs, I remember until there was a blog or document, I'm not sure what kind it was, but there was enough to do. Honestly, I do not know if they were all made. Now, I see the ideas place a good space, but does everyone know? Maybe it would not be better to post these ideas here on the platform in order to spread them and make the community choose?
To conclude, I'm sad that everyone is leaving, but as I said to a special friend, I will not do the same, I will do something, somehow, to bring them back here. I will also try, with time and quality, to make publications of what I find technically interesting.
Once again thank you all for your comments here and in the other discussions made, please forgive me for not interacting anymore, because I end up running out of time.
I have been kinda observing and I noticed this thread. I just wanted to follow up and know if the issue you raise, specifically, "creating a kind of open forum where everybody gets a chance to really lay out what’s causing frustrations and disengagement", has been resolved.
not sure about resolved, but according to Craig's response upthread something along those lines is planned.