The enterprise social network segment of the collaboration market is now a mature one. There is a generally accepted basket of functions that define the products in this space such as activity feeds, content sharing, profiles, and various communications capabilities such as microblogs, commenting, and instant messaging. While some enterprise social networks focus on being the next generation company intranet and others the social communication glue between systems of record, on a feature level these products are pretty much the same.
SAP Jam, though, has always been a bit different. Instead of trying to be a general collaboration tool, SAP has tried to be much more intentional about SAP Jam. At the heart of what makes SAP Jam special is the work pattern. Work patterns encapsulate data, social communications, processes, people, and best practices for specific work functions. More than a template but less than a complete application, work patterns provide a complete environment for collaborative work that complements instead of replaces systems of record such as CRM systems.
At the recent SAP Jam Analyst Strategy Day, work patterns were front and center for SAP. They don’t have a huge number of work patters, perhaps 20 or so, in discrete areas such as sales, service, and human resources. SAP choose to focus on specific corporate areas where they had expertise and that affect a wide range of their customers. Other work patterns have been developed by SAP partners that have domain knowledge in areas such as oil and gas exploration.
SAP is taking SAP Jam to the next level by extending and collecting work patterns into modules that are, for all intents and purposes, new socially driven applications. The first of these modules, SAP Jam for Learning, pulls together a set of work patterns used in corporate training and learning. This is not a Learning Management System; SAP already have an LMS within SAP SuccessFactors. Instead, SAP Jam for Learning is an adjunct to an LMS that helps with planning and creation of content, dissemination of training modules, feedback, and coaching and mentoring.
The last work pattern, coaching and mentoring, is a great example of how social systems can enhance important but hard to perform corporate functions. Coaching and mentoring is notoriously hard to scale up and, hence, reserved only for a few knowledge workers. Mentors, especially executive mentors, don’t have enough time to work with more than a handful of employees, leaving most knowledge workers without adequate coaching. By taking a collaborative community approach, one mentor or coach can reach many more workers without a linear demand on the mentor’s time. Scaling the capabilities of people is what social is all about and SAP Jam for Learning is an example of that principle in action.
As would be expected from a whole day event, there was a lot more that will be new about SAP Jam coming up soon. New work patterns and, hopefully, new modules such as SAP Jam for Learning are on the horizon too. What is not coming are just more features for the sake of features. Everything about SAP Jam is work oriented and intentional. It is this intentional approach to collaborative work, instead of a “social for social’s sake” attitude, that sets SAP Jam apart from others in the collaborative space.