Social Computing and ERP: Context Matters - InformationWeek
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Irwin Lazar
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Social Computing and ERP: Context Matters

I'm attending this week's annual SAP customer/partner conference: SAPPHIRENOW (Twitter hash-tag of the same name to follow numerous tweets). It's the first time I've been here, mainly because things like ERP and BI have seemed like foreign languages to me given my background in real-time communication and collaboration, but what I've seen so far has been eye-opening, and exciting: the continued integration of social computing into business process management systems.

SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe's keynote this morning highlighted a new "Chatter-like" activity stream within CRM On-Demand. Jim called this "Facebook for the Enterprise", which is one of the more beaten-to-death marketing slogans, but activity streams within the SalesOnDemand UI gives field sales personnel the ability to engage in chats and share information tied to specific accounts and opportunities. Like Chatter, this new capability is tied into the workspace that sales people already use, meaning that it doesn't require learning a whole new interface or deploying a new application. Rather, the activity stream simply adds additional value to an existing application.

Earlier I had a chance to sit down with David Meyer, SAP's SVP Business Insight and Emerging Technologies and see a demo of Streamwork, SAP's new collaboration tool for group decision making. Like On-Demand's activity stream, Streamwork can integrate with existing SAP applications to enable discussions around specific contexts, such as reports, projects, or business processes. As a cloud-based service, Streamwork is especially effective for supporting external collaboration, a key activity for SAP customers across a range of verticals or processes such as supply chain management.

The entry of companies like Salesforce and SAP into the Enterprise 2.0 space poses significant risks to stand-alone social computing vendors who don't have the same level of integration into the applications companies use to run their business. But there are also partnership opportunities as Jive's presence here at SAPPHIRENOW demonstrates. It will be interesting to watch the continued integration of social applications into enterprise BI and ERP systems.

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