SAP plans to step-up business integration a notch further with an extension to SAP Jam that aims to deliver personalized information to enhance organizational productivity. Join us in this interview with SAP’s Senior VP and GM, Sameer Patel, as he gives us a blow-by-blow account on this new addition to its arsenal and other latest developments in the ERP landscape.
Sramana Mitra: Sameer, let’s start with a bit of background. Tell us about yourself as well as the context of this interview vis-à-vis SAP. What are you doing? What part of SAP and what’s the mobile and social context?
Sameer Patel: First, thank you very much for having us. I’ve been a follower of the blog for a long time and it’s very nice to be speaking with you. In terms of what I do, I run SAP’s Enterprise Social Software business. I’m the SVP and GM for our products and go-to-market in that category. SAP officially re-entered this category in April,2013 and announced its intention to play in this category.
Between the products that SAP had been working on before and some of the products and teams from the SuccessFactors side, we launched SAP Jam about a year ago. The one social area that for me is SAP’s entire portfolio. That’s a little about me. Like I said, I run the products and go-to-market.
Sramana Mitra: Given where you sit, what is the mobile and social angle that we should be discussing here today?
Sameer Patel: If you look at the adoption rates of this notion of social collaboration, which has been in the market since 2006, the general acceptance of these applications inside organizations, as the definitive place where you work, has not really materialized in most companies. These new ways of working, collaborating, and connecting with people in the organization largely got their inspiration from some of the public social tools like Facebook and Twitter. This has been a very interesting watercooler type of place, but ultimately people have gone back to the applications and the systems where they work. You haven’t seen a large-scale workplace transformation that we were hoping for from the space.
Specifically, last year, when we were looking at this space, we had two choices. One is pack up and go home. There’s nothing to be done here. Second is that there’s an entirely different way of thinking about the value of collaboration, people, expertise, and how people actually work today. Obviously, we chose the second.
The way we look at it is that you cannot have a social collaboration platform that sits in a vacuum or in an island somewhere. It has to be infused into the core areas of how you work. Our approach to social collaboration has been that you will only see value and direct impact on business KPIs if you can understand the impact of social collaboration to each area of business inside an organization.
With 40 years of experience in various business domains such as CRM and HCM, acquisition of companies such as SuccessFactors and Ariba, we have the domain expertise to have a very honest discussion on how far a typical transaction system can take you and where and how do you need to infuse collaboration. That’s the premise behind how we’re thinking about it.
Sramana Mitra: Could you double-click down and maybe take three areas. You talked about SuccessFactors, Ariba. Take each of these areas and give me some color on what are you hearing? What is that honest conversation yielding?
Sameer Patel: Let’s not look at it from a systems standpoint, rather let’s look at it from an end-customer standpoint. Every customer in an organization has people who run Sales, Marketing or Finance. When you look at a day in the life of a Sales Rep, the reality you start to see is that at best 10-15% of their time is spent in transactional CRM. The rest of it is spent in engaging and working with customers, working on documents, proposals, finding experts to bring into a deal that they’re working on, and getting advice from others in the company on which products to position. That is the reality of the day in the life of someone in Sales.
About 70-80% of their day is not really looked after by that system that was designed for them. What we decided to do was understand the white spaces and understand what those core processes are such as the abilities to collaborate on a deal, build a strong relationship with a prospect, and build out the capabilities infused inside CRM so they don’t have to go to the disconnected system.
Another example would be what we’re doing in the area of learning. We brought learning management systems for the last decade or two, but the reality of this is that a lot of learning actually happens on the job. When I’m on the factory floor, I’m learning something from somebody else on the factory floor.
It’s not about the Power Point training course that I took. It is in terms of finding and learning information, but there’s a lot of knowledge in others that could be valuable to me. So looked at how to incorporate the informal ad hoc learning opportunities in Jam. How do you use video to capture one or two-minute tips from colleagues and publish them so that they become part of the learning infrastructure. So, when I go to search how do I get better at designing cars, I’m going to get traditional Power Point courses and also videos of tips from nine other colleagues who have been doing this.
The beauty of Jam is that it’s the same social layer that brings in all these applications. That same Sales Rep might have used Jam inside CRM but when that Sales Rep needed to get a detail about a new product that the company is selling and they went in to the learning system, it’s the same Jam that they’re going to use. The system is designed to not be followed but actually work around how you work.
This is not just about social enterprise. This is about rethinking how people would need to work in a way that makes them more effective. The vehicle here happens to be collaboration, especially in a typical customer who is not sitting at a desk very often. One of our customers is one of the largest telecommunications companies with 4,500 field service engineers. For them, the ability to do everything on a mobile device becomes not only important, but a must-have. It forces us to think about the mobile-first interaction requirements of a massive user base that’s not sitting at a desk and therefore has to be enabled via mobile.