What's Next And What's Missing From SAP

Influencer Summit offers window on what's coming in mobility, analytics and in-memory functionality. But is the social networking strategy missing in action?
SAP executive David Meyer tells me a simplified interface and compelling features including social network intelligence are on the way, but he also admits "the race is on" among apps vendors to get customers using built-in collaborative functionality.

In the CRM realm, SAP's other options for social networking tie in with the Facebook and Twitter communities. CRM customers can launch loyalty programs and viral marketing campaigns through Facebook. Twitter tweets can be analyzed using BusinessObjects sentiment analysis capabilities, and you can also launch outbound campaigns (like e-mail, only shorter) to Twitter followers.

In short, SAP is making efforts in the area of social networking and collaboration, but they're not getting much high-profile attention. Few analysts at this week's event were up to speed on StreamWork and the only presentation on the topic was relegated to the afternoon of the last day of the event.

Perhaps SteamWork's Enterprise Edition will sell itself once it's a service that can be embedded within 16 different applications.

For now, SAP's emphasis is on in-memory computing and mobility, and that's probably where it should be. Real-time insight is a differentiator for SAP and its customers, and mobile devices are more personal, engaging, business-driving and popular as a point of interaction than any social network (though you can also tap all these collaboration tools via mobile devices).

The difference in emphasis at and at SAP is partly due to the difference in expectations. As a young, cloud-focused company, the goal at is growth at all cost, so a high-profile campaign that drives far more publicity than profit is just part of doing business. For SAP, a mature company measured primarily by its profitability, in-memory and mobility are difference makers that have far greater promise to spur upgrades and add-ons from the installed base.

The danger for SAP -- as we saw with what Hagemann Snabe himself described as "a long and painful birth" for SAP Business ByDesign -- is that its cautious embrace of cloud computing and social networking will leave it perceived, as Benioff tags it, as a "status quo" player when the company wants to be known as an innovator.

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