SAP Goes Social

| About: SAP AG (SAP)

It's turning into a big news week for enterprise social network (ESN) software. First, Yammer's first user conference, YamJam12, and then a very interesting announcement from SAP (NYSE:SAP). SAP has, in the past at least, not really exhibited a great deal of interest in social software, nor have its few product attempts in the social business area been particularly compelling. The truth is that many of the enterprise software vendors have had some false starts and made some missteps over the past few years in attempts to get involved in the rapidly evolving enterprise social software market. The market is large already and getting larger quickly as adoption rates for social business solutions are skyrocketing. For the social software market (ESN), our recent forecast shows ~$1.1B in 2012, growing to ~$4.5B in 2016 (a CAGR of 42.4%), but that's not the whole story. The overall social business solutions market is ~$2.9B in 2012, growing to ~$10.3B by 2016 (a CAGR of 28.8%). With market numbers like that, it's pretty obvious why major enterprise vendors like IBM (NYSE:IBM), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and (NYSE:CRM) have all rolled out new social business offerings ranging from ESNs to customer experience suites this year. It also explains why Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) recently bought ESN vendor (and a market leader in our recent social software marketscape) Yammer.

So now it's time for SAP to make its move and with this week's announcement, the company becomes a contender in the social software market. Now this didn't just happen, though. There's a bit of a story to it, as one might expect. Earlier this year, SAP signaled that it was getting serious about social by hiring well-known social business expert Sameer Patel to head up its social business efforts as the Global VP and GM of social software solutions (Disclaimer: he's also a friend). Sameer spent the better part of the last several years helping companies actually DO something with social business solutions, so he brings a wealth of real-world experience to the position and the team. Since joining SAP, he has gathered together a talented team and completely reworked SAP's strategy and offerings, and I have to admit so far, I like what I've seen.

There are quite a few ESN solutions on the market today, and frankly, most have similar features. They can operate as a system of relationships across the entire organization, and offer employees a modern, clean and simple way to collaborate and connect to each other, and to data, content and systems. This approach, forming a new social layer, works fine for some employees and some roles -- that is, moving collaboration and a lot of day-to-day communication into a new system. Some employees, particularly in some specific roles -- roles that spend much of their time doing work inside an enterprise system, like customer service agents or AP/AR clerks -- find it undesirable or inconvenient to add an new system for communication and collaboration that is separate from the system that occupies most of their daily activities. That's why it's necessary to provide the capability to embed the ESN into other enterprise systems to get the broad adoption that delivers the greatest value from the network. While the current leading ESNs have this capability, it has always seemed to me that the major enterprise vendors were in a unique position here, and could leverage the ESN most effectively through inserting it into the work flows inside their other enterprise systems. That's exactly what SAP is doing with its new ESN product, SAP Jam.

SAP Jam, which is offered both on premises and in the cloud, is built to connect people (employees, partners, customers) to people, content and data in context to the enterprise work flow/process. Jam is enterprise- ready, mobile (iPad app available now), secure, not silo'ed, and in SAP terms "infused" across the rest of the SAP apps portfolio (phased in across the next few releases, of course). The following diagram, provided by SAP, gives a good overview of the strategy:

The current roadmap, which is subject to change, provides social on-boarding and collaborative opportunity management in Q4 2012, along with several integrations, including Sales OD, Finance OD, Social OD and CRM 7, as well as the Jam API. In the first half of 2013, SAP plans to add:

  • Social Goal & Performance Management
  • Collaborative Travel Planning
  • Collaborative Contract Management
  • Collaborative Call Center Support

...along with a number of additional integrations, including an OpenSocial API.

SAP has come a long way in a very short period of time, and has some very aggressive plans in the coming months. The real proof is in the execution, so I'm anxious to see how the plans progress, and to talk to some live customers once there's a bit more experience with the new solutions. Based on what I've seen so far, SAP is definitely in the social business software game now, and has a good opportunity to provide significant value to its customers.

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