Pinch me. SAP is Dreaming up Social for the Enterprise.

With Patel’s new position, SAP recently moved “social” into its cloud group where it will support all SAP suites and concentrations (CRM, for example) in a new social platform that will be structured to support the business horizontally and seamlessly across on-premise and cloud offerings. The group is building what they’re calling, “Project Robus.” (Latin for resolve or purpose.)

This was my 5th year attending SAP‘s gala SAPPHIRE event.   You can see from my previous blog posts, a recurring theme in all of them is SAP’s cold shoulder toward all things social.

2008What I-know-I-don’t-know about E2.0 and SAP from Sapphire ’08

 “Enterprise 2.0 is just not a burning issue on the minds of top SAP execs… SAP execs mirror the same sentiment as our executive clients: they have serious businesses to run– not a lot of time for the giddy consumery stuff. SAP software fuels the nitty gritty of hard-core business processes for most of the largest enterprises in the world. Where blogging (for example) fits into getting a raw material through the factory floor to a finished product, booked in inventory and ready to move through a supply chain is just not obvious to me right now. So the likelihood of an Enterprise 2.0 bolt-on to SAP is just as slim as it is naive.”
“So, once again, SAP invited me to its annual SAPPHIRE and ASUG event. I find myself wondering if SAP will get return on their investment in me once again. The answer is, probably not…  The reality is SAP and its global customer base are just not ready for the socialization of the enterprise. It’s just not a topic that commands attention at this massive event (despite my valiant efforts to bring it up in every executive briefing). The majority of conversations at SAPPHIRE revolve around common themes such as decision-making, analysis, data, spreadsheets, databases, reports, statistics, and business processes. In other words, the real work that goes on in real businesses.”
“For me, SAPPHIRE presents a unique opportunity to re-calibrate and diffuse the hype chamber that self-perpetuates around the 2.0 phenomenon.   SAPPHIRE is the 2.0 Rehab that I voluntarily commit myself to every year for one week. Only at SAPPHIRE do I get an opportunity to see the world the way my Council members do– that the 2.0/social business hoopla is enjoyed and shared by a small minority of corporate professionals.  Through the eyes of SAP customers and the SAP eco-system, I gain unique insight into the tremendous task ahead which involves a host of issues, not the least of which is tying 2.0 transformation to the enterprise business processes that run the world’s most successful businesses.”

This year, in 2012, it looks like things might be taking a new turn.  At least the lip service is on message.  Readers of this blog should know SAP recently hired the #e20 community’s good friend Sameer Patel to assume the position of Social Czar at SAP.  Patel has his work cut out  for him, however.  The two social platforms that qualify as social at SAP are StreamWork and SuccessFactor’s Jam (formerly CubeTree).  Two platforms that, frankly, don’t see much social traction in large enterprise. Neither one ever comes up in a landscape conversation of social collaboration software, and turning up examples of hard core users has been pretty slim among those of us who keep an eye on this category.  CubeTree, in fact, was never a player.  With Patel’s new position, SAP recently moved “social”  into its cloud group where it will support all SAP suites and concentrations (CRM, for example) in a new social platform that will be structured to support the business horizontally and seamlessly across on-premise and cloud offerings.  The group is building what they’re calling, “Project Robus.” (Latin for resolve or purpose.)

What’s probably most significant about Project Robus is that all development is being led by SuccessFactor’s co-founder and  technical cloud guru, Aaron Au. Au  is the lead architect and will run engineering for the project.  The operating vision behind the socialization of SAP’s massive ENSW footprint hinges squarely on integrating social with business process.  As Patel describes it, “This is core infrastructure.  It’s like application servers and middleware.”  The orientation is on business activities first, and social features second.  In other words, use cases will drive how and when social interacts with a business process.  All social presentations within the SAP product suite will touch the Robus platform.  My blogger colleague Alan Lepofsky describes it as “social plumbing.”

The pressure to deliver social is on SuccessFactors CEO Lars Dalgaard who is the Board executive advocate for social. Dalgaard is breathing new life and new ideas into the software behemoth.  He appears to have much support from co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Snabe, as most cloud and social questions asked at the scheduled media/analyst interview were turned over to Dalgaard.   There is evidence in the market that SAP has finally embraced the principles of a more collaborative, social business world (see Jim Snabe’s opinion piece in the Financial Times, “Social Networking and the Future of Business“).

I want to believe SAP will pull this off, but there is a small part of me that wants to scream, “You’re doing it wrong!”  It’s as if SAP is looking for a software solution to a human opportunity.  Focusing on the unstructured data and time spent between workflows is anathema to SAP’s heritage and corporate culture.  And even if the executive and management ranks see the opportunity, the rank and file are going to be puzzled.  We were sitting at dinner with a number of SAP mentors and I asked if any of them were using StreamWork.  All heads shook no.  One mentor said he wouldn’t even bother logging on.  My enterprise blogger friends roll their eyes when I talk about how social is about reinventing the way we work.  But they’re not seeing the changes I’m seeing in large organizations that are successful with social reinvention.  Luckily, I’m not the only one talking about this.  The enterprise is ready for a different way to work.

But, like Kermit, it’s the lovers, the dreamers, and me.  Those of us who are under Social Business’ spell are true believers.  I hope Lars Dalgaard and the SAP executive team can execute on the human potential of social, but I’m still a bit skeptical.

See Dalgaard’s “dream” app.  Here’s to hoping they pull it off.

#OccupyEnterprise and Start your own Revolution

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around / No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain’t got time for that now…

Life in Wartime – Talking Heads

The world changed in 2011.  Did you feel it?  No doubt you saw it changing on TV, on Twitter, on YouTube, on your mobile phone.  Did your heart swell with pride?  Did the emotion of a history-changing moment grip you and render you teary-eyed?   There were so many events this year that captured our attention.  Regimes crumbled, cities burned, young revolutionaries rejoiced.  And in the rush of those events, we felt we were part of it.  That finally, within our lifetimes, people could use their mass and will to effect dramatic changes in the lives of ordinary people.  It’s important to remember that every revolutionary event began with a belief and a person who believed passionately enough to make it happen.

Enterprise as we know it changed this year as well.  Serving as a wonderful backdrop to this #occupyenterprise story, I was happy to see that the #ows movement in NYC was meeting in the lobby of Deutsche Bank.  Although I support the #ows movement in spirit, I’ve chosen to change these large organizations from within.  In a nutshell, that’s what we’ve been doing in the Council.  In fact, our guy at Deutsche Bank is making a lot of progress.  Last June, John Stepper presented his case study at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.  In closing, he left the audience with this lesson: “Don’t just retweet other people’s revolutions.  Start your own.  Apply the big ideas to real problems at your company and change the work.”  Change at these powerful institutions is not going to happen over night, but it is happening today.  And our members are driving that change every day.

In the Social Business Council, we have a popular tag: #clang usually followed by several exclamation points.  If you search #clang on our Socialcast site, you’ll retrieve 146 posts.  That’s 146 times our members have either posted or commented on an enterprise-changing event made by one of our members.  The cases run from the minor, but very significant, to the blow-your-mind-this-is-really-happening variety.  Watching the progress our members are making is history in the making.  Sometimes I feel like I’m an embedded reporter.  It’s not a violent war, but an ideological one.  The Council members are fighting for a new way of working where freedom of ideas will produce increased employee motivation and loyalty which in turn will spur innovation and problem-solving.  Yes, business objectives are driving this change, but the natural by-product is the humanization of the workforce.   Transparency will go a long way to revealing the unsavory underbelly of the corporate beast.  One of our members, Andrew Carasone of Lowe’s Home Improvement,  has done a fantastic job of explaining how social business drives business performance.  It’s predicated on using social business change as an organizing force, embracing a culture of sharing vs. a culture of fear of “not knowing.”  He also has some insightful views on how the formulas for human capital incentives and achievement need to be rewritten.  In short, reward competition less and collaboration more.

If you see yourself as a change agent, or someone who believes in the power of the “Think Different,”  you have a home in the Council.  Our members are deployed in the largest organizations in the world.  We are changing the world from the inside out.  Join us.

 

More Serendipitous Social Upside Vignettes

Continuing with my series on unexpected windfalls and other business benefits realized from socialworking, here are two more examples.  I need to anonymize these to protect the member companies.  One is a large retailer, the other is a large life sciences multi-national.

Social Delivers the Goods (and more)

We’ve all had that experience when we waited for that shiny, new appliance to be delivered.  In this case, it was a washing machine.  Our member, a large retailer, prides itself on its service to customers in its appliance department.  When the delivery driver arrives at the home, they pick up the old appliance, install the new, test it for 15 minutes, and teach the homeowner how to operate it.

This leading retailer delivers thousands of appliances every day.  Delivery drivers (independently) were starting to see problems with a particular model of washer.  As it turns out, a fitting on the back of the washer had been changed by the manufacturer, and they were leaking after installation. The vendor didn’t know about it, the merchant didn’t know, and the drivers definitely were not informed the manufacturer had made the change.  But, the same problem was presenting itself around the country from different stores delivering the appliance.

A few of the delivery drivers turned to the company’s community space and asked, “Is anyone getting leaking problems on this model of washer?”  Once they realized what happened, they were able to stop a problem that would have been a major issue in returns, liability, flooding basements and utility rooms, simply because the manufacturer had decided to change the fittings and didn’t inform the merchants. (Do I hear social supply chain anyone?)

The activity stream of collaboration and sharing got the message to the merchants and back to the vendor and the problem was fixed in a matter of weeks vs. months.  Without a social platform for this mass-scale type sharing, it could have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to customers’ homes, diminished customer experience, aggravation, etc., before it bubbled to the surface in a meaningful way.  “The platform gave them the opportunity to share.  Now, the enterprise has to listen,” said our member.

The rewards of over-sharing

Many of our members (some say, like Sisyphus) are trying hard to change the culture at their large organization to encourage new social behaviors.  One of the killer tools in the social toolkit is the “work out loud” axiom.   Work out loud dictates that rather than burying your work in email threads or unsharable telephone calls, you publish what you’re doing and thinking online in a collaborative space (all day long) so others can learn what you know, and likewise, you can mine the intelligence of others’ expertise and experience.   This sort of thinking often falls into criticism from those who are not enmeshed in social business transformation.  The particular vignette  I’m about to discuss cropped up in a thread in the Council where I was grousing about grief I was getting in our Enterprise Irregulars back channel on social business.  My EI compadre, Esteban Kolsky, had expressed his opinion on all things social with this comment directed to me:

…that has nothing to do with being social, and they are not mutually exclusive. you can collaborate without being transparent or authentic – and the whole Kumbaya aspect of being social has been overplayed and shown to have not correlations with real business results. The whole “social” revolution is not about producing more data (as most people expect) but about purposeful engagement in new channels – which if you did not know how to do before, you cannot do now. Know who you engage and how, not just throw you stuff out there for everyone to pick it up. Twitter is no more than an awesome and free PR tool, not an engagement network. Facebook is no more than a way to stay in touch with friends and family. If you can prove otherwise, I am listening- but the people with the best results in the “social” world will tell you it is not simply about “being out there” or being transparent or authentic or collaborative.

Of course, I politely disagreed with Esteban, but in the subsequent discussion with the Council members, a number of great gems emerged to reinforce my opinion.  One of which is the following shared by one of our Life Sciences members:

“Serendipity happens. If you just wait to share until someone ‘needs to know’…you miss potential opportunities. We had this happen a few weeks ago. A marketing person shared information openly to create awareness about their approach to a new project…and someone from research saw it, and commented about some existing data from her department along the same lines. The two teams got together offline as a result and saved us tons of money thanks to knowledge re-use and reduced duplicate effort. Without just ‘being out there’ for the sake of ‘being out there’…that wouldn’t have happened because we are too large to identify all those opportunities on purpose.”

I asked him if he could quantify the savings.  He investigated it and related this to us:

Savings from serendipity: $250K – a planned research project was cancelled thanks to the shared learning across departments.  The existing data was determined to be more informative toward the cause than what the new project would have generated anyway.

Increased Sales: Sales projections estimate a potential sales increase of $30M over 5 years, thanks to the improvements applied to the marketing approach.

Intangibles:  Better insight into customer experiences, leading to improved resources that aid in providing better outcomes for the consumer.

So, by being transparent, authentic, and collaborative in this new way, the member company decreased operational expense by $250K and potentially added $30M in future sales from this single event.

Another member, Joachim Stroh, summed up the conversation neatly with this illustration.

Enjoy!

Attributes of a Socially Optimized Business

Once again, I had the great pleasure to work with my colleagues on an XPLANATiON with our Social Business Council members.  We interviewed a core group of our members to identify the attributes that comprise the whole of the socially optimized business.  I think you will agree, the results are fabulous.

Where are you on the course from Start to Social?

Special thanks go out to members @briantullis, @jimworth, @kendomen, @kimberlymahan, @kristenritter, @seanwinter, @dpontefract, @bricejewell, @robcaldera, and Joachim Stroh.

The Sabermetrics of Social: A Weapon of Mass Disruption

Jonah Hill is not a sexy guy.  He was perfectly cast, however, juxtaposed against Brad Pitt in this year’s academy award contender, Moneyball.  If you’ve not read the book or seen the film, the plot premise centers on the true story of how an under-financed ball team, The Oakland As, leveraged the black art of sabermetric principles to divine a record-breaking season in professional baseball.  The true star of the film was Hill’s character, Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta in real life), who brought a dweebish Ivy League blandness to the romance of American baseball by introducing, well, math. DePodesta was one of, “a new breed of front-office executives whose personnel decisions rely heavily on analysis of performance data, often at the perceived expense of more traditional methods of scouting and observation.” (source Wikipedia).

Stripping out the emotion and the soft factors that tally up player value in baseball is analogous to what’s going on today on the social web.  Everyone’s got their eye on the superstar plays (say, the Old Spice guy, @comcastcares), but they’re missing the raw analysis of true performance metrics.  Making sense of the nuanced patterns is the key to securing competitive advantage.

I saw the film this weekend and couldn’t help making the connection between the film’s premise and the Social Business platform we’re building at Dachis Group.  We launched the Index publicly about three weeks ago.  The SBI is just a lightweight view on a monster social vacuum pulling social data from literally millions of sources about the leading brands in the world.  In order to unleash the power of the tool, you need to get in there, ensure your brand is pulling from all your social sources and start looking for significant patterns.  The social business data platform exists to help brand managers and interested brand marketers discover how social is impacting their brand performance.

We invite you to use this data to hone your social strategy.  As Forbes pointed out recently in its cover story, “Newly armed customer and employee activists can become the source of creativity, innovation and new ideas to take your company forward.”  Harvesting those data sources is our job, but it’s going to take a Peter Brand (Manager) to unlock what the data is telling you.  Relying on consistent, verifiable data analysis, you’ll be able to make sensible predictions that can start delivering wins in the same way the A’s racked up its record-breaking season.  Big data may not be sexy, but gaming the win potential is an irresistible seduction.

There are a host of extremely interesting services coming from the SBI development team.  Very soon, you’ll be able to measure business outcomes framed by a distinct set of measures and metrics that are driving those outcomes.  With user-assigned metadata, you’ll be able to view a variety of dimensions on those outcomes.   This is just a taste of what’s in store.  Social data has the potential to become the long tail that wags the brand dog.  Make sure you’re taking advantage of an early mover advantage, before your competitor does, that is.

Serendipity Happens… to Deliver Million$

As the world turns… social, expect to be surprised by the fruits of serendipity.  When large workforces embrace working socially, or as I love to call it – in “socialworking” mode, they discover new ways of solving problems and creating opportunities.  Insights are revealed in the fluid web of connections and sharing. We’ve seen a dramatic mood swing toward all things social this year.  Even the naysayers have been touting the benefits of working socially recently.

I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one example of how working in a truly social organization delivers benefits that could never have been predicted in an executive conference room undergoing the scrutiny of a hard-core ROI analysis.

 

The Million Dollar Cry for Help

This vignette comes from our member Andrew Carusone at Lowe’s Companies, Inc. who told the story at our workshop this summer.  Lowe’s on-boarded 100% of its employee base to its collaborative platform, IBM Connections last year.  That’s every executive, store manager, retail clerk, and stock boy on the payroll.  The entire Lowe’s workforce of 289,000 employees have access to Connections.  What’s interesting is that less than 17,000 of these employees are salaried employees, and even less are members of the management team.  The challenge for the Lowe’s social business team is to inspire the employee base to turn to the platform in the course of their normal day’s work.  For some employees, it comes naturally.

During beta tests, an enterprising Paint Department employee decided to try something new to demonstrate the ease of cleaning a Teflon paint tray.  She poured latex paint into it, let it dry, and then peeled the paint out whole.  She left both the paint “mold” and the paint tray on the paint counter.  Customers were amazed and delighted. Suddenly, she was sold out of the paint trays and shoppers were clamoring for more.

The employee turned to all of her traditional channels to get additional inventory.  She accessed the company’s enterprise inventory system, however, like most major retailers, the business process tightly controls the amount of additional inventory employees can request.  After exhausting other traditional sources, the employee then turned to the Connections platform and asked “out loud”* if anyone knew how she could get more inventory.  Funny thing happened.  Although everyone felt her pain on the inventory shortage, they started replicating her paint mold/tray demo in their stores.  And guess what?   Suddenly other stores were selling out of the paint trays too.  As interest in the thread and the display idea grew in popularity, sales skyrocketed.

When applied on an enterprise level, the unique display idea represented more than a million dollars in additional revenue of the SHUR-LINE Teflon 9″ Metal Tray.  With that single serendipitous public share –employee-to-employee – at the kind of scale that Lowe’s enabled with its full workforce deployment, ideas like this can easily pay in full for the technology platforms that enabled it.  And this is just a single example.  Our Lowe’s members say these examples happen all the time.  I have a few more along these lines from other members I’ll post in the future.

What’s interesting to me in this example is that when the sanctioned business process that the Lowe’s employee was “workflowed” to use failed to deliver, it prompted her to seek out alternatives. (The company regulates how much inventory a store can order and when.)  She also reached out via other channels: email, phone calls, etc., with little success.   It was only after she circumvented the traditional sources and leveraged the power of pull within her employee base, did the company realize this unexpected windfall in revenue.   Not because she was able to order more inventory (her original ask), but because she shared her clever merchandising technique with the employee base creating demand for her idea far beyond her single store.  As Andy says, “What felt like a pebble – landed like a stone!”

It was the innovative idea that went viral in the company, resulting in the huge inventory demand (and subsequent sales) corporate-wide.   Smart employees throughout the ages have always found better ways to accomplish their goals, but these massive collaborative platforms are yielding leapfrogs in productivity and serendipitous wins on a large scale.  Be sure not to overlook this important upside of working socially.  In other words, “Be careful what you don’t ask for, you just might get it.”

*We talk a lot about “working out loud” in the Council.  Try it.  It just may delight you.