Monday, January 28, 2013

Social Innovations In SAP and SuccessFactors

On June 12th, 2013 at HRInsider Amsterdam, I will be talking about the current and planned social innovations in SAP and SuccessFactors products and how you can take advantage of such innovation to empower your employees and engage them every day. I will be talking about the following things. I will show you how...

1.You can appeal to the texting generation with mobile recruiting
2.You can use social onboarding to make your new hires productive fast
3.You can help your employees discover experts and content on the go
4.You can enable informal learning tools to enable peer to peer learning
5.Your can empower employees to take charge of their performance with mobile goals.
6.Your hiring team collaboration can lead to superior hiring decisions
7.You can integrate Social with SAP HR using Social ABAP Integration Library (SAIL)

Here is a taste of things to come, thanks to my colleague Keith Hamrick from the Jam product team.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SAP Jam Integration With Financials OnDemand

More than eighty percent of our work involves exceptions. Exceptions lead to conversations with someone about some thing. The thing we want to discuss is usually a digital artifact such as a document or picture.

SAP Jam provides a way to discuss any document with people inside and outside the company to resolve such exceptions efficiently. Here is a very good scenario.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prototyping From A Whiteboard Sketch

Today Alex Joseph, Enric Gili and I were brainstorming about an app enabled by HANA technology. During the session, we followed our design philosophy of thinking mobile first and sketched a mobile user experience on the white board. Enric suggested that we use an iPhone prototyping tool called POP, which our colleague Fazlul Hoque had recommended a few days back. Faz is a fellow design thinker and believes in the philosophy of Look and Flow.

The app is advertised as a tool to make iPhone prototyping easier for those who draw on paper. We realized that the same holds good for those who draw on the white board too.

So when you have a simple prototyping flow sketched on the white board during a prototyping session, you can take pictures of the screens using your iPhone and within minutes create a rough prototype, right there on your iPhone, to simulate the look and flow of your idea. You can also share the same with your colleagues via email within seconds.

Check out the app at   If you are interested in our product design philosophy and methodology where we discuss many such techniques, check our kindle book Look and Flow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Artists and Engineers

Most people think that engineers and artists think very differently. I am not so sure. There is a very systematic approach to creating art. There are some famous people who are great artists and engineers. Michelangelo is a good example. When I sketch, I normally take a very systematic approach. Let me explain using one of recent drawings.

First I study the structure of the object I am drawing and understand the common characteristics.

Step 1 : I draw the trunk of the tree with a 2B pencil.
Step 2 : I then draw the second level branches with a B pencil.
Step 3 : Then I use a F pencil to draw the fine twigs and some leaves.

Tree against the setting sun in SAP's Palo Alto, CA Campus

I have methods like this to draw a building, a person, a pine tree and so on. I am pretty sure every good artist takes a systematic approach to his or her art. My hope is that all product managers will start drawing and sketching their ideas. It is a great way to communicate ideas to colleagues, customers and partners.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Turning Search Into Questions and Storifying Feeds

The social software Bloomfire, has a couple of interesting features.

Blank Search Results are turned Into Questions
When someone searches for a term in a social software rather than display "no results" Bloomfire nudges the searcher to post a question about the search. The software then prompts appropriate people to answer that question. A bit like Quora.

Simple updates are combined into stories
It also has a feature to build stories out of the feeds in a social group. A bit like Storify. I see some innovative ideas emerging to tame the feed and make meaning out of it.

An update is not just a statement anymore
An update itself is starting to grow in importance and become a short story. A tweet or a Facebook post is not just an update anymore. It is starting to become a short story about something interesting you did at home or something meaningful you did at work. People always wrote stories. But the effort required to turn an interesting experience into an interesting story is becoming lesser and lesser. Facebook already refers to every update as stories. I will write about it more in a later post. 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Featured Members In A Social Group

In any social group there are people who naturally stand out with their contributions and participation. It is easy to identify these people because they actively contribute to content and conversations in the group. Software can highlight active participants in a group and amplify their presence to group members. SAP Jam does this via a feature called Most Active People.

People Suggestion by SAP Jam For HCM Exchange Group

But not every member might be actively participating in every group. Lack of active participation may not always mean that they are not experts in the area.

SAP Jam addresses this situation with a feature called Featured People. Administrators of a group can feature people and explain why they are being featured in the context of the particular group. For example, the administrator of a new hire on-boarding group can feature the on-boarding team to make it easy for new hires to know who the go-to people for various functions such as IT, Facilities and HR are. The administrator of a product group can identify the experts in various product areas.

This is what we have done with the SAP HCM Exchange Jam group, where product experts are identified so that our field colleagues know who the experts are.

Some of the featured experts in SAP HCM Exchange Jam group
I believe that this is a critical feature that improves organizational productivity.

How I Learned To Draw A Pine Tree From A Teacher In The UK

I spent a few days in Portland Oregon with family. I spent some time drawing the beautiful landscape and neighborhood. In the Pacific Northwest, there are always pine trees in the landscape. While I was comfortable drawing still objects, people and architecture, I was not very experienced in drawing pine trees. Dissatisfied with my work, I decided to learn how to do it and went to University of Google to search for teachers. In five minutes I found a teacher who showed me via video exactly what I wanted to know. I learned, I practiced and drew the pine trees to my satisfaction.

As I have mentioned before, video is a effective teaching and collaboration tool. It can replace hours of written instruction or PowerPoint presentations. Video sharing and screen capture ought to be a core part of any social software at work.

Here is the video showing how to draw a pine tree.

This is the picture where I drew the pine trees. I drew the one near the garage before watching this video and drew the one on the top left corner after I understood how to draw a pine tree. You will notice a marked improvement. By the way, SAP Jam has both video sharing and video creation capabilities it the core product. It is one of the most popular features of SAP Jam particularly with the learning and development teams.

If you would like to see more of my holiday drawings, you can do so here.

Pine trees

Village of Schaumburg Team Talks About SAP Jam

Village of Schaumburg is an SAP Jam customer. In this video they talk about how they use SAP Jam to serve their citizens. They talk about how SAP Jam replaced their intranet and how police officers are able to use the mobile app to connect with their home offices.

Friday, January 04, 2013

SAP Jam On The iPad - A Glimpse

I recently summarized my thoughts on social software at work where I mentioned that user adoption is key for the success of any software. Mobility is key to user adoption. The SAP Jam team is working on an iPad version. Here is a sneak peek.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Social Software At Work - My Hypothesis

In 2012, I spent a lot of time listening to the needs of CIOs, IT leadership teams and HR leadership teams about how social software can address their needs. I did not have to convince any of them about the value of social software. The questions were about how they can use social software. Some of them even brought up special use cases and asked me how social software can apply to their situation. They also asked about how multiple tools with social capabilities, serving different purposes within their organization, can exist together and even work together.

During the holidays I took a few days and thought about these things. I sketched a few diagrams to make sense of it. I called a few of my friends in the industry who are either product managers designing social software or account executives selling collaboration software. I read the Gartner Magic Quadrant Report authored by Nikos Drakos, Jeffrey Mann, Adam Sarner. I read the Constellation Research analysis by Alan Lepofsky. I researched most of the companies they have mentioned in their reports. I looked back at several articles from Information Week written by David F. Carr.

While all those reports and articles did a fine job of explaining the lay of the land to buyers, I needed a picture to explain to my fellow product managers and colleagues about the different products in the market and point out the areas where we need to invest. I think this might even benefit customers, partners and buyers.

The Hypothesis

All social business tools have to put the person in the middle and help get work done. 
This has become clear to every provider. It has also become clear to most providers that social software should cater to the need of end users.

1. All tools must have person's profile, the person's relationship to others in the organization, their social graph, their updates and their conversations. Most tools need to provide a private space for a group of people to collaborate. This is depicted in the inner most circle of the diagram below.

2. All tools will have to build most of the features depicted in the second circle from the center. Document sharing and mobile access are key for Enterprise Productivity. Collaboration with people outside the organization is a basic necessity today. User authorizations, reporting and analytics tools are key to convince CIOs and IT departments. Most tools will have at least a basic task list.

3, Beyond this, the specialization starts. Office productivity tool providers have an upper hand on document storage, document authoring and document-centered collaboration. Web Conferencing providers have an upper hand on live screen sharing and video sharing. Providers of CRM software will build tight integration with CRM tools. Providers of HR software will build tight integration with HR and talent management tools.

But no software provider can cater to all possible integration points and cater to all the needs of customers. So APIs and development tools to build custom apps on the platform will be key for any social business app to scale. Most providers realize this. Some are investing in this area and have an advantage over others here.

The design evolution of social software at work

User Adoption is Key
User adoption is key for the success of any social business software implementation. CIOs are piloting multiple tools to test adoption by employees. It is possible to do so easily today. For this reason, people centric design, mobile access and a consumer grade user interface is essential for any product to succeed. I believe that smart teams will start designing mobile first for at least all the features in the inner most circle.

Most Product Managers will focus on barriers to entry
Every social business product manager will think about the areas where competitors cannot enter or will find it extremely difficult to enter. There will be providers who will focus heavily in one or more lines-of-businesses because they have an advantage there. There will be providers who do not have any inherent advantage and try to become an interface to all business applications. In a way, the ones with no advantage have nothing to lose. They will go all out and take risks. But even they do not have unlimited resources. Time and money will run out at some point.

It will be hard for every product to excel in every area. Product managers will be forced to pick and choose the areas where they can excel. Customers may end up buying multiple solutions to cater to their needs. I would not be surprised if a company has two or more social software tools for the foreseeable future. SAP is a good example. We use SAP Jam, Jive, Atlassian Confluence and SharePoint. The needs served by these tools are different.

The software providers in each category.
I did map the providers in each category in my notes. I did not share that information here because I work for one of the providers. It won't be very difficult for you to see all the providers listed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and place them in this diagram.

I discussed my hypothesis with my colleague Enric Gili. Enric added to this hypothesis and shared some of his thoughts about what he thinks the product designers and product managers in the industry should focus on. This is a hypothesis based on one point of view. If you think otherwise or would like to add your thoughts, please let me know.

I did not discuss social software dedicated to customer relationship management here. I also did not discuss Enterprise Listening Platforms here on purpose.
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