Superstah! SAP - Customer Relationship Management

In this particular one, about the best represented collaborative value chain, I could just as easily have chosen a practitioner like Procter & Gamble for their innovative approach, but I chose SAP.

Two reasons for that. First, they are a technology company and that maintains consistency. But that’s the trivial reason, since I’m not wedded to technology companies. SAP is genuinely among the best practitioners of a highly evolved collaborative value chain that I’ve seen. Period. That is reason enough. Technology company aside, they give the Procter & Gambles a run for their money.

But I’m not going to follow the book’s protocol here where I have the Mission 21st Century, etc. Instead, I’m going to let it hang out there and just talk.

Practice What You Preach (but Didn’t Not That Long Ago)
If this were 2007, SAP is not the company I would have pegged to win the Superstah! designation in the collaborative value chain category. If this were five years ago, I would have laughed if it was suggested. That wouldn’t have been because I had anything against SAP. On the contrary, I’ve been a very friendly critic—a “tough love” guy when it comes to this megalopolis-unto-itself.

But as you will see in the aforementioned online chapter, SAP has made the difficult but necessary culture changes that actually give them the basis for a true collaboration with their customers. Because of the processes and technologies (both internal and social) they have available to them, they are actually one of the companies that is defining the collaborative value chain, not just toying with the notion.

The reasons for their success are myriad, but ultimately simple. They are targeted to the needs of the individual. This could be the individual customer, the individual partner, the individual supplier, or the key expert. Any of these could be their customer at any given instance. As one SAP SVP told me, “The customer is our true north.” (See the online chapter “You Can’t Handle the Truth—So You Have to Change” to end the suspense on who that is.) SAP’s interest is in how they contribute to the success of the individual in his or her day-to-day life.

They create their communities for their collaborative value chain accordingly. Once the individual needs are being served, they can group them into communities of interest or practice that will provide each individual with the forums for communication, the tools for increasing effectiveness, and the access to get collaboration done that will benefit all parties involved. For example, unbeknownst to you, I’m sure, they have multiple social networks. Each of them is targeted to a specific group. For thought leaders or insightful influencers who are not necessarily SAP employees, they have MyVenturePad.com, a social network built on the Social Media Today enterprise social network platform. For process analysts and other internal nondevelopment people, they have the BPX (Business Process Expert) community, a social network numbering 350, 000 members. For developers, they have the somewhat boringly named SAP Developers Network (SDN), which has a far from boring 1.7 million members. They also have vertically focused communities called Industry Value Networks that are focused on multiple industries, among them aerospace and defense, automotive, banks, consumer products, oil and gas, and public sector.

But the numbers don’t stop there. According to a July 2008 article on the SAP ecosystem on Businessweek.com:

Roughly 25, 000 new participants sign up for the latter each month, and from 2006 to 2007, its number of page views doubled, to more than 150 million. Participants contribute some 6, 000 online posts per day and create better than 60, 000 wikis to handle ongoing discussions, while at least 1, 200 bloggers comment regularly on community topics. More than 3.5 million posts have accumulated in these forums, and the pace of activity is accelerating. It took three years to reach the first million forum posts, nine months to reach the second million, and only six months to reach the third million. In total, 100, 000 members have contributed posts to the online forums.

The numbers get even more interesting when you realize that SAP’s commitment to the individual is real. That same article identified the average response time for the SDN from the time a developer posted a question to the time he got his first response. Hold on to something so you don’t fall over—it was 17 minutes.

I’m not going to catalog all the different communities SAP has, because that really isn’t a collaborative value chain, but it is how the members of a CVC communicate and work together. But there is another facet of the collaborative value chain that SAP excels at—and that would be the most important one: creating value for all parties involved. SAP can point to successful efforts in this regard in multiple areas. For example, SAP and one of its strategic partners and several of its customers collaborated on creating an asset that the customers were asking for. The idea was that the joint creation of this asset would be of benefit to each of the parties involved in a specific noncompetitive way, and the joint collaboration was the most effective way to accomplish that.

Also recently, twelve hospitals in Germany and Austria joined an SAP-created Enterprise Services Community Definition Group and defined a universal key services interface for several vital usiness processes. This took less than six months. Well done, SAP.

Next, we’re going to look at the internal business requirements of Social CRM. It’s very similar to “classic CRM” with a couple of twists in how to think about it, plan it, and execute it.


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