For SAP customers, the future of work is collaborative

In late May, SAP released the latest version of their collaboration platform, Jam. Alan Lepofsky shares some insights about the product.
Written by Constellation Research, Contributor

By Alan Lepofsky

In late May, SAP released the latest version of their collaboration platform, Jam. A week later at their annual SAP Sapphire event I had the opportunity to speak to several members of the Jam team. The three key themes I took away from those conversations are:

  • Integration Is Essential
  • SAP Understands How People Work
  • It’s Time To Build An Ecosystem

MyPOV: These are excellent business focused areas that provide more substance than the highly overused "cloud, social, mobile and analytics" rhetoric I hear from so many companies.

Collaborate Where You Work

As “sharing” becomes an accepted, and even expected part of way people work, it’s important that software supports — not hinders — collaboration. One of the ways to accomplish this it to integrate social/sharing features with the tools and processes that people already use to get their jobs done.

SAP clearly understands this, and since the introduction of SAP Jam in 2012, the software giant has focused both product development and marketing on making sure SAP Jam is not just a stand-alone enterprise social network, but rather an integrated part of their vast software portfolio. (CRM, ERP, finance, HR, BI, learning)

SAP Jam: Ready for enterprise collaboration

One manifestation of this integration comes in the form of widgets which can now be added to a group’s home page to display content from other platforms. 

A second example of integration is the new add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook, which enables people to create status updates or blog/wiki/forum posts in Jam, right from their inbox. It’s wise of SAP to provide this integration, as email is still one of the primary tools of the business world.

MyPOV: I’ve written extensively about #PurposefulCollaboration, where social features are no longer something people need to think about, as they seamlessly become part of the standard way of working. SAP is a leader in this area, enabling SAP Jam conversations to be embedded inside other SAP applications as well as letting SAP applications be embedded inside Jam.

As you’ll read below, they are also now extending this to 3rd party applications. 

SAP Understands Business Workflows

Very few people have “being social” in their business titles. Most people work in Sales, Marketing, Engineering, HR, etc. Knowing this, SAP has studied several of the most common business areas and created templates for SAP Jam to match the workflow of each. They call these SAP Jam Patterns, and first introduced them in November 2013. With the May 2014 release they have added a few new work patterns (Service Requests and Event Planning) which also include the introduction of new features such as integrated calendars and subgroups.

MyPOV: In order to get people to change the way they work, it’s essential that the new tool/process provide value above and beyond what’s already in place. As customers start to use SAP Jam, it’s critical that the barrier to entry be low. Having templates that pre-populate with workflow specific content and connections to other systems makes it much easier for people to get started and find value in their new SAP Jam groups.

SAP is not unique in this area, nor are templates a new concept. Lotus Notes had these in the '90s, Microsoft SharePoint followed with them in the 2000s, and Jive Software delivers them today with what they call Purposeful Places. Still, it’s good to see SAP providing them for their platform. 

A Platform, Not A Product

Perhaps the most important announcement at SAP Sapphire (wrt to Jam) was that third-party developers will now be able to build their own add-ons and customizations to Jam.  That means business partners with specific domain expertise will be able to build their own Work Patterns, or add features to Jam that SAP is not delivering themselves. Similarly, customers with their own in-house developers will be able to extend Jam to meet their specific needs. Documentation, code samples and other information about the SAP Jam Developer Community can be found here.

MyPOV: A vibrant ecosystem is critical for long-term success. The new OData and REST APIs could help SAP compete with the collaboration platforms from vendors such as IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce, each of whom already have robust partner communities developing on their platforms. SAP will need to educate and financially motivate their existing partners on the value of adding collaborative features to their applications. 

Top Down Messaging

Even though the key theme of SAPphire was "Simplify", the importance of collaboration was still woven  throughout the show. While SAP Hana Cloud Platform may have gotten the most attention, SAP Jam was mentioned in the keynote and was prominant in both the sessions and showcase floor.

SAP Jam has a complex history, evolvling from products like Cubetree and StreamWork. The SAP Jam team should leverage the new Simplify theme to help customers understand that the Future of Work is collaborative, and SAP Jam provides simple deployment and simple user expereince, but at the same time has a deep intergation with the business patterns people use to get work done.

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