SAP helps businesses deal with social anxiety

An interview with Global Vice President, Sameer Patel about integrating social technologies. Photo: Tom Raftery

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2012 — “We’ll know social has arrived when it ceases to stand out” says Sameer Patel. Patel is the Global Vice President, Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Solutions for SAP - a global leader in enterprise solutions. 

Patel has a refreshing take on how social technologies can work for business, a successful blog and a propensity for making the complicated sound and seem simple. If you’re interested in understanding where busines is trending, read further.

1. Why is collaboration important?

Structured process, largely powered by what are called systems of record are critical capabilities at helping you run your business in a consistent and auditable way. Examples are your Customer Relationship Management, your Supply Chain Management and other business applications. However, even these structured processes have gaps or exceptions. For most employees, customers and partners, a good amount of interaction on a daily basis is unstructured. Take a sales rep for example: CRM is absolutely critical but they spend a limited percentage of their total relationship management time with traditional CRM capabilities.

In reality, most of the time during the sales cycle is spent interacting with prospects and customers, teaming with internal colleagues on proposals or finding experts to answer questions. Similar work patterns hold true for others: your project developers, your service representatives, your marketers or even your suppliers. A well designed and purpose driven collaboration fabric is critical to ensure that companies efficiently find, share and engage with each other in the context of business activity. Collaboration is also the “glue” that brings together people, applications, data, information, tools, and processes.

2. How is social a key part in SAP’s BI strategy? 

Social is a key part of SAP’s overall strategy, including BI. Success in social will not come from stand alone social applications or by just placing a Facebook-like feed inside applications. Rather, it will come from truly understanding what blend of social and structured process makes each business activity more effective. We’re applying this rigor to tasks that every organization has and enhancing our application strategy by co-creating with our customers. 

SAP Jam is SAPs next generation social software offering that builds off of current  SAP and Successfactors social offerings. Instead of a “spray and pray” approach to Social, we are leveraging our deep knowledge in core applications and industry domain expertise to drive how we use social concepts to accelerate business process. For instance our social learning product (currently in market) that sits alongside our learning management systems already has over 1.5 million paid users in just a few quarters. Why? Because it solves a specific problem that organizations have. Social will be a key element of business activity of the same SAP applications that customers have trusted us to deliver for decades.

Additionally, because both data and collaboration are key to making the best decisions, SAP has married these in 3 solutions (SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform, SAP BusinessObjects Visual Intelligence, and SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI) to enable business people to analyze, hypothesize, discuss, make decisions, track approvals, and maintain a record of it all for future reference or use. By bringing BI and social collaboration together, sales teams can quickly share, discuss, and analyze pipeline opportunities allowing them to prioritize quickly, marketing teams can plan campaigns and analyze metrics post-delivery to ensure success or take away learnings that can be applied to future campaigns, or supply chain teams can track, discuss, and analyze metrics directly with each supplier. Additionally, the mobile integration allows this to be addressed even when teams are on the road.

And key to supporting social throughout a business process is the need for a social foundation across all of a companies applications, people, data, etc.

3. How is SAP enabling companies to reap the results of social technologies?

The problem with many social and collaborative offerings today is that they sit in a silo and as a result, business value or adoption is hard to achieve. Many are great at letting people connect, but they miss the important business context that sparks purpose-driven collaboration, and as a result, social applications suffer from limited adoption. That business context can come from a customer request into a call center agent, a process exception in a manufacturing resource planning system, or a not-so-rosy sales forecast from your analytics application. SAP is one of the few organizations in the world that powers these critical processes for some of the largest organizations in the world. We have the unique ability to ensure contextual collaboration is available at every point where process exceptions appear or critical real-time data surfaces that warrants the best minds to huddle together. This is how you effectively infuse social and collaborative concepts to drive revenue, lower costs, or mitigate operational and financial risk. And its how we think about providing tangible value from the use of social technologies.

4. What trends are you watching closely? 

Frankly, the trends we’re watching most closely are macro-economic business trends such as globalization or market volatility, and how they are effecting our customers’ ability to adapt or change course. We’re focused on how we can give them the business agility to quickly find the right experts for each business problem set and  to expose collaboration at the point of business decision making so they can execute.

The most critical trend that trumps all is how the social web has created a very well informed prospect and customer. With services such as Yelp or say Trip Advisor, this social prospect comes extremely well informed before you even get wind of the fact that they are a prospect. Geographic distance isn’t an issue, but customer innovation needs to have global competency with local relevancy and expertise wherever the prospect or the customer wants a helping hand. Finding the right people in your organization and engaging with them to solve customer problems or to find credible answers becomes extremely important if you are to make the sale. 

5. What is the next big thing in social technology?

This may sound trite, but the next big thing in social is the disappearance of social from the center of the conversation. When organizations finally see how it can be applied to drive business value, we’ll see it become part of the business technology fabric and an indispensable capability to get work done. We’ve seen this happen in the consumer landscape where you would be hard pressed to find a new consumer application that doesn’t have some kind of social capability. It isn’t the central value proposition but when combined with a contextual application, it becomes much more powerful. Were about to embark on this same process of maturation in enterprise social technology. We’ll know social has arrived when it ceases to stand out.

Jeff Barrett is a recognized leader in public relations, experiential marketing and social media. Co-Founder of Status Creative, 2011 PRNewswire Award Winner for “Best Use of Video In Social Media” and record holder for Most Strikeouts in Tee-Ball. 


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Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is an experienced columnist and business leader. He has been named Business Insider’s #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media and has previously written for Mashable and The Detroit Free Press. 



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