Arriving in Vienna yesterday and joining some of my fellow bloggers (David Terrar, Thomas Otter, Dennis Howlett, Bruno Haid, Prashanth Rai, Sig Rinde and Charlie Wood) for dinner last night, this was the question that immediately popped up. I’m surrounded by software/IT bloggers. What am I doing here? Aside from enjoying a few days in one of the most beautiful cities in the world? For free?
After today’s keynote address by SAP CEO Henning Kagerman, it (thankfully) became clear. SAP has identified that the pace of innovation has far exceeded the pace a single firm can successfully maintain. They’ve also recognized that helping companies network inside as well as leveraging their own ecosystems is an incredible business opportunity. In other words, using SAP software to flexibly connect (and, one would assume, sometimes disconnect) business functions in order to realize massive efficiencies, combined with the deployment of SAP tools and platforms that allow firms to bring the interconnectedness of social networks into their employee and supplier networks and leverage all that trapped intellectual capital = great big competitive advantage, something a lot of people will want to buy.
How SAP is currently exploring these concepts within their own communities (there are at least six external SAP social networks) is clearly giving them incredible insight into how this paradigm can be deployed as part of their offerings (more on this later). This is something Robin Fray Carey also alluded to in her recent whitepaper, SAP: A Company Transforms Itself Through Social Media.
Kagerman said straight out that SAP sees the transformative power of bringing web 2.0 into the enterprise, across three main areas of benefit:
1. Increasing employee self sufficiency
2. Enhancing work patterms
3. Harnessing brain power
There was a demo of an unnamed software prototype that showed the keynote audience how these concepts could be practically applied. A project was created, individuals from across the organization were added and invited to participate, and timelines and/or benchmarks were established. Basically, all of the components of a successful project were put in place, including full auditability – there will be a complete trail of who did what and when.
Software like this will allow individuals within organizations to create specialized teams on the fly, project-by-project. Which raises two interesting issues: with individuals empowered and required to both initiate and follow up on projects, who needs bosses anymore? Could this level of social networking with an organization further flatten hierarchies, creating short-term micro hierarchies around events or projects? Will everyone and no one become a manager?
Aside from the obvious benefits of unlocking and harnessing more of the expertise that exists, latently, within organizations, it’s clear that social networking within the enterprise will have profound cultural implications as well. It will be so interesting to see what kind of offerings SAP will develop and how swift and/or not swift the uptake will be out there in the real world.