Enterprise Social Software

Stefan Schulz works for Shai Agassi in what is loosely described as a special projects group. I’ve know Stefan for a long time and on one of his recent trips to Palo Alto he took the time to show me a system that his group had built for managing our employee alumni networks. Now what is interesting about this system is that it not intended to manage company alumni networks but rather our employee’s university alumni networks.

At first I  thought that it was  interesting but I couldn’t quite figure out what the value of it to SAP was, however then I had the ah-ah  moment when I started looking at the profiles of the people in the system. There is a lot of detail about not only where you went to school and what you studied, but the areas of research that they worked on or have interest in.

I can’t link to the system because it’s internal only, but I will give you this screenshot of it to give you a sense of what they are doing. Amazingly, they already have 5,087 profiles accumulated, about 16% of our total employee population.

In another corner of our SAP Labs group is a team called “Design Services” and they are working on a bunch of really interesting projects, but one in particular caught my attention. It’s called Harmony and it loosely described as a “Friendster or LinkedIn for enterprises”. I don’t know if this will ever be a product we offer but they are certainly intending to build it into our internal systems because one of the most significant challenges anyone in a large company faces is finding people who have worked on similar things as you, or have a background that is particularly relevant to a project or team.

On a related note, be sure to read this article about the work that SAP is doing in search technology.

I have said many times before that blogs, wikis, search, and social software are the new base platform for enterprise knowledge management. This isn’t an earth shaking prediction, it is rather obvious given the failures of traditional KM solutions, and also reflect a continuation of the trend of consumer technology crossing over into the enterprise.

All of this is exciting for me because it signals attention being devoted to improving the way that people work together – collaborate – as opposed to simply improving the way a business process functions. The easy group forming attributes of blogs and wikis, along with the information retrieval capabilities of good search are force multiplied when you can rapidly bring together people in your company based on project requirements, experience, academic backgrounds, and peer recomendations.

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