I’ve spent the last two days at SAP’s TechEd 2008 conference in Las Vegas. At this gathering of 6,000 enterprise software developers, business process experts, analysts and other IT stakeholders, we launched a strategic partnership aimed at changing the way companies innovate in Computer Science and IT. I’ll be writing more extensively about this relationship over the coming days, but I wanted to share some initial thoughts right away while they’re fresh.
Participation and engagement in SAP’s online communities has exploded over the last few years. There are now 1.3 million members in the SAP Developer Network (SDN). Several other related communities span an additional 500,000+ members. Taken together as the “SAP Community Network”, this ecosystem is actively helping to shape SAP’s agenda and success. Many members are employees at major SAP customers and partners. The leaders in these communities have a strong voice – on SAP’s site and through their own independent blogs and networks. It’s been great to have a chance to share our model and vision with them and listen to their input and questions.
Here are some quick takeaways from the event so far:
- Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, opened the festivities with some bold thoughts on collaboration. He rightly claimed that Wikipedia and other examples have proven that “collaboration at scale can work”. He further asserts that essential to unlocking the power of communities is an “assumption of benevolence” in the contributors. When we eat in a restaurant, everyone has a knife. But we don’t assume therefore that the other diners are going to use their knives to stab us. This ideas validate our experience at InnoCentive, where Seekers and Solvers engage with good faith every day. Accountability for evil-doers is also necessary, but a healthy community manages problems by exception, and allows the community itself to help identify and solve conflicts.
- SAP has taken a leadership position in identifying a new profession – the Business Process Expert. SAP’s “BPX” community now numbers 450,000 members. These professionals are often at the center of business transformations, and are key to the successful implementation of IT solutions within enterprises. They’re also in a great position to see where IT systems have gaps – missing or misaligned capabilities where improvement is needed. We’re excited to offer this group a new way to find solutions that address these gaps by posting them as Challenges to the combined force of Solvers from both InnoCentive and the SAP Community Network.
- In communities such as SDN and BPX, participants are very often willing to help each other solve simple problems with no incentive other than pure good will or “reward points”. But more complex problems may require real time and resources to resolve. From the early response to our announcement, many SAP ecosystem members find InnoCentive Challenges to be a very natural extension of the community model, where significant solutions to bigger problems can be rewarded with a more concrete currency. As I noted in my previous post, combining the incentives of peer recognition, a sense of personal accomplishment, and good old-fashioned cash creates a dynamic in which problems get solved and value gets created for all participants.
We look forward to our interactions with all aspects of the SAP ecosystem. Please let us know your thoughts.