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SAP Tries To Leapfrog Salesforce.com On Social Analysis

SAP says NetBase partnership will help companies tap Facebook and Twitter and drive better enterprise apps decisions.

SAP announced Monday a partnership with cloud app vendor NetBase through which it will add social media analytics capabilities. It's a catch-up move in the social sphere that comes little more than a week after SAP announced its plan to acquire SuccessFactors to jumpstart its cloud strategy.

Just as the SuccessFactors deal is meant to help SAP go after Salesforce.com in the cloud, the NetBase partnership will help SAP respond to--and, it hopes, outflank--the Salesforce social enterprise strategy, which was advanced this year through that company's acquisition of Radian6.

The partnership will see SAP resell NetBase's service as SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase. The cloud app will be aimed primarily at monitoring and measuring consumer brand and product perceptions, reactions to product launches, perceived strengths and weaknesses of competing products, and related trend analysis.

But by blending social insight with SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence and knowledge of internal operations gained through enterprise apps, SAP hopes to leapfrog the level of insight delivered by competitors.

[ Want more on SAP cloud moves? Read The Key To A Successful SuccessFactors Acquisition For SAP. ]

"What's really exciting for SAP is bringing this into areas such as production and supply-and-demand-planning and a broader manufacturing context," said Jason Rose, SAP's head of business intelligence solution marketing, in an interview with InformationWeek.

As an example, a yogurt manufacturer customer knew that vanilla was consistently its number-one seller, but NetBase helped it uncover that consumers were raving about its pineapple flavor in social forums, according to Rose. By plugging that insight with SAP-app and BI-based knowledge of production, supply chain, pricing, and promotions, the manufacturer could do much more to take advantage of that insight, Rose said.

NetBase is the 10-year-old company behind ConsumerBase, a social intelligence warehouse in the cloud containing 12 months' worth of conversations from more than 90 million sources, starting with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but also including blogs, forums, and industry-specific sources. To this all-purpose warehouse, NetBase can add specific new sources requested by customers, and it claims to go beyond positive and negative sentiment with natural language processing (NLP) technology to uncover passions, intent, and motivations tied to brands, products, issues, and trends.

NetBase lists Coca-Cola and Kraft among its customers, and it says five of the top 10 consumer packaged goods companies helped design the service. The NLP technology is a differentiator for NetBase; Radian6 sources it through partners such as Lexalytics and OpenAmplify.

SAP itself has NLP capabilities by way of its Inxight acquisition of several years ago. That technology was reintroduced this year as a generalized, toolkit-like sentiment-analysis capability within the SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 release.

But rather than invest in NLP and wait to build a track record with sought-after applications, SAP is moving ahead quickly through partnerships. "Social is a very fast-moving world, and it would be hard for SAP to support the kind of research and development necessary to keep up in natural language processing and analysis," analytics expert Seth Grimes told InformationWeek.

As for the promised integration of social insight with transactional analysis, that has been "very much missed" by social media analytics vendors (including NetBase) that have "treated the social sphere as a silo," Grimes said.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

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