What's Next And What's Missing From SAP - InformationWeek

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12/8/2010
10:37 AM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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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 does have more than one answer on this front, which I'll get to in a moment, but the bottom line was that collaboration and social networking was not a front-and-center topic. Contrast this afterthought treatment to the full-court press Salesforce.com has put on the launch of Chatter throughout 2010.

Salesforce.com initially gave Chatter's collaborative capabilities away for free to most customers; but as announced at Dreamforce event, the company is now extending basic Chatter capabilities to the entire subscriber base at no charge. A Chatter Plus version with additional account, contact, dashboarding and security functionality is $15 per user, per month.

So what's SAP's answer to collaboration and social networking?

At the top of the list is SAP StreamWork, a free, cloud-based application that anybody can sign up to use at sapstreamwork.com. The app debuted as a beta service in March, but there hasn't been much fanfare from SAP, and executives have declined to detail the number of users registered to date.

The plans for StreamWork are actually quite extensive, with an Enterprise Edition launched just this week with pre-built integrations to SAP's CRM, PLM and BusinessObjects Strategy Management applications. The grander ambition is to integrate StreamWork with 16 major SAP applications whereby it can be separately launched or invoked as a service directly within the application experience.

The list of collaborative activities within the free edition of StreamWork is short, but capabilities grow as you upgrade to the Professional Edition ($9 per user, per month) and Enterprise Edition ($18 per user, per month).

With SAP StreamWork Enterprise Edition, which self installs behind the firewall as a virtual appliance, customers can integrate data streams from SAP or third-party applications. Administrators can also meter and monitor data access and control usage, so you can extend collaboration to partners and customers with assurance of security controls.

There's more to StreamWork, including compatibility with Google Apps and support for Google's Open ID standard, but its cost and complexity could well be stumbling blocks.

Since users can invite anybody -- inside or outside the enterprise -- to take part in a StreamWork activity, customers will likely going to feel compelled to add administrative controls. But at $18 per user, per month, they might be tempted to use popular, inside-the-firewall collaborative options such as SharePoint. It's not quite the same sort of collaboration experience, but budget-minded CIOs will be tempted to think it's enough.

StreamWork also isn't as simple and intuitive as it could be. Where Salesforce.com can honestly say, "if you can use Facebook, you can use Chatter," SAP can't point to a popular parallel in the consumer world.

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