Google Wave dead: Streamwork next?

Google Wave is dead but is SAP Streamwork next? I see many parallels.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

So Google is halting development of Wave. Where's the surprise? Google cites lack of interest and as Sam Diaz points out, they really didn't take the product forward. We can argue about Google's habit of throwing something over the wall, seeing if it sticks and then maybe developing it further but as Sam Diaz says, they were onto something.

When I saw Wave demo'd at SAP TechEd last year, I was impressed. It had one and a half of the three things I want to see in social applications: content and some context but no process. The contextual part came in aggregating different types of content around a topic. The real problem was lack of process. Process provides the other half of the contextual argument, locating social apps where they need to be and providing a genuine purpose that makes sense to the business user. Put more succinctly by Andrew Mager:

Wave was an awesome platform, but I just never found it useful in the workplace. It was fun to watch other people as they type messages and upload photos, but it was not a productive tool.

Alex Williams at Read Write Web adds:

In reality, developers had difficulty understanding the context for Google Wave.

Sameer Patel provides more color on this topic:

My sense is that the primary culprit here is lack of context. No matter how sexy, the use case for silo’ed, dumb “un-smart” collaboration still generally goes like this:

  • Think up/get notified of a process problem or event
  • Remember that a bunch of tools and metaphors (email, phone, he conf room, software) exists that can help decision facilitation/brainstorming
  • Group/find the right people to collaborate
  • Pick a collaboration metaphor that works for everyone
  • Solve the problem
  • Go back to the system of record or powers that be, to deliver the outcomes.

That’s a lot of steps and frankly a lot to expect from the average business user.

So now the question comes - will SAP's Streamwork be next for the chop?

SAP Mentors use it and as part of that group I can't avoid it. I see plenty of problems with that technology, not least the persistent email notifications when something changes. It's downright annoying. But for me the big issue is that I don't get it.

During SAPPHIRE 2010 I asked Marge Breya (link to PDF profile), SAP's most senior evangelist for Streamwork what it's about. I should preface what follows by saying that I am notorious for 'not getting' something only to have a Damascus Road experience at some point in the future. She replied that Streamwork is a social application that helps people make collaborative decisions. OK. I can get that bit but where is the process element that ties me back to economic activities? Nowhere - or at least it was nowhere at the time.

As Sameer points out, people who live in the enterprise world have a hard enough time juggling different applications. Why would they step into something like Streamwork and then back out to the app they use on a day to day basis? It doesn't make sense. At least not to this observer.

I really hope that SAP keeps Streamwork alive and finds a way to integrate it to apps in a contextual manner. As THE process company in the ERP landscape, if SAP  can't do it then who can? Unfortunately, I sense they may experience the same uptake issues that served to kill off Wave. Streamwork activity among Mentors is sporadic at best and then annoying. It interrupts rather than contextualizes what's going on. Given most Mentors are at the bleeding edge of what SAP delivers that has to be telling.

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