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2/16/2012
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SAP StreamWork Furnishes Company With Efficient Collaboration

Swiss furniture company Vitra taps SAP StreamWork for easy collaboration and smooth integration with existing systems.

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Furniture company Vitra, based in Switzerland, looked to business social networking for increased efficiency and collaboration. The most important criteria for choosing an internal social networking platform at Vitra were tight integration into other systems; the ability to easily collaborate and exchange data with external parties; a small footprint; and low maintenance.

Tim Hanack, director of business technology at Vitra, said the company began to look at internal social networking solutions because it needs to collaborate quickly, efficiently, and asynchronously over multiple time zones as part of its Digital Workplace initiative. Vitra designs and manufactures furniture for the office, home, and public spaces, working with partners from across the globe.

Like many other companies, Vitra began its social business evaluation process by piloting different options. "It was a very quick evaluation, as we were looking for a pilot at first," said Hanack. "We wanted to use a cloud service to make sure that we have the smallest possible effort in getting up and running."

[ There's a lot to love--and not to love--about social networking in business. Here are a just a few examples: Our Love-Hate Relationship With Enterprise Social Networking. ]

While several criteria were used to evaluate possible solutions, integration with existing systems was the most important, said Hanack. "Integration into our existing infrastructure is by far the most important, along with a reasonable TCO," he said.

Vitra, an SAP customer since 1995, decided to implement the cloud-based SAP StreamWork for its existing and promised integration packages, but also for its ability to enable Vitra employees to collaborate with external partners--something its SAP Portal implementation would not allow. Hanack said the team at Vitra was impressed not only with SAP StreamWork's integration possibilities through its open API, but also with SAP's "high willingness" to work with Vitra and learn in the process.

SAP StreamWork is available in enterprise, professional, or basic editions. The enterprise edition enables integration with several additional SAP applications to enable collaboration within programs already being run by SAP customers.

Employees have responded favorably to the system, said Hanack, in part because the interface picks up elements and features commonly found in popular social networks such as Facebook. Users are therefore typically comfortable with the system from the start.

However, Hanack cautioned, it's important not to assume that all employees are firmly on board with the social business communication model or that they will have some kind of innate understanding or experience with social networking tools. Identifying social business influencers within the company and providing ongoing education are key, he said.

"Our employees are for the most part excited about the possibilities offered by social collaboration, but you have to pick up at the stage where the people currently are," he said. "Some are already using social platforms and technologies at home, some know about it but haven’t used it, some do not have any knowledge or experience at all. We are trying to increase awareness and promote our initiative by partnering with internal multipliers recruited from the more advanced user groups and influencers. Aside from this, we’ll also have some basic training sessions scheduled, both face-to-face and e-training.

Hanack expects SAP StreamWork to be fully integrated into the company's Digital Workplace initiative by the middle of this year.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 26-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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