Unlike the LZ129 Hindeburg which flew before flaming out, SAP's much vaunted new community network isn't flying any time soon. With less than 48 hours before the planned launch, Mark Yolton, SVP of the SAP Community Network released a statement effectively postponing the launch indefinitely:
I have decided to postpone the launch to early 2012.
It's an understatement to say that the decision to delay the launch was not taken lightly... it was really difficult, nearly excruciating after so much time and work has gone into design, build, migration, testing. But, despite extraordinary efforts by our core SCN team, our partners in SAP IT, vendors/consultants, and key stakeholders, we don't feel that the new platform is of high enough overall quality to launch to our community members.
In the run up to the launch I heard a number of grumbles from senior people involved with SCN. Quality wasn't the only issue. I was hearing horror stories around lack of critical functionality compounded by a lack of gut checking with those who administer the system on a day to day basis. It was clear the strain was showing as Yolton became increasingly tetchy in Twitter posts, at one point implying that some community members should quit whining. That was never going to be the case.
SAP has not gone beyond what Yolton has outlined. While I have some information on this topic I will reserve getting into the detail until SAP steps up to the plate and explains what went wrong such that Yolton felt he had to pull the plug.
Early Twitter comment suggests bugs in the commenting system are to blame and in typical fashion, SAP is waving the 'quality' flag. That won't cut it. As SAP already knows, in the 21st century, quality isn't Job 1, being totally freaking amazing is Job 1.
As a company that has been praised for its social media/community efforts, (and milking it for all its worth) SAP is at risk of permanently blowing up its socmed cred. How SAP responds at this moment in time will tell us a great deal about the true character of the company. Any attempts at glossing over this major embarrassment, or for that matter blaming the Jive platform upon which SCN is built, will almost certainly lead to public ridicule.
This is social media 101 and the clock is ticking...
PS - on a personal note, I know several of the SCN development team. They must be feeling gutted.