Why I liked SAP's TechEd Community Day

SAP's Community Day, with ESME as its symbolic poster child, reminds us that collaborative and supportive networks of participation can create successful IT projects.

Community Day kicked off SAP's TechEd conference, which brings 6000 developers to Las Vegas in a software development love fest. The one-day program, which is somewhat like a SAP-centric unconference, was attended by 300 participants drawn from SAP's online community.

As the conference kick-off, SAP uses Community Day to help participants form new relationships, and deepen existing connections, prior to TechEd's official start. I would characterize the overall tone of this event as being warm and collaborative.

SAP did a great job using Community Day to humanize both itself and TechEd. Perhaps because I'm a project failures blogger used to seeing many negative situations, the positive Community Day message resonated.

I asked Craig Cmehill, a SAP evangelist, about the company's online community, where most of the day's attendees are active participants:

The communities promote innovation and education around Netweaver and other SAP technologies. Today, there are almost 1.4 million registered participants.

It's difficult to maintain a sense of intimacy with such a large group. Craig explained how SAP encourages members to participate and remain engaged:

I spend 90 percent of my time talking to the community. There's an open door policy among the evangelists; our focus is communicating to users and maintaining relationships. This ongoing investment does reap results.

One the most interesting initiatives to emerge from the SAP online community is a an enterprise-capable, open source instant messaging project called Enterprise Social Messaging Environment (ESME). The product, pronounced "Ezz Mee" by its friends, is a Twitter-like platform designed for large-scale deployment across corporate networks.

ESME arose spontaneously as a collaborative initiative among online colleagues. However, as participants demonstrate both initial success and ongoing commitment, the project has gained focus and a widening support base. Community Day represents ESME's coming out party.

My take. Readers of this blog know I talk endlessly about failure, organizational dysfunction, and just plain lack of common sense. For me, seeing people from different organizations working together cooperatively, donating their time and energy to projects in which they believe, is a real breath of fresh air.

Healthy collaboration and stakeholder participation are keys to preventing failed IT projects. Organizations that foster supportive networks of cooperative activity are more likely to achieve successful IT execution than those that don't.

SAP's Community Day, with ESME as its symbolic poster child, reminds us of that important lesson.

[Disclosure: I am attending TechEd as SAP's guest under the auspices of the company's blogger-relations group.]

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