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SAP SCN Podcast Transcripts

Starting in December of 2007, Jon began a multi-year series of podcasts with the SAP SCN Community team. Many of these have their own transcripts, which you can view here. If you want to check out all the SAP SCN podcasts and download them, go to the SAP SCN Podcast Page.
The Potential of SAP Idea Place - Crowd Sourcing SAP's Future Direction - Podcast Transcription Print E-mail
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Podcast Transcription: The Potential of SAP Idea Place - Crowd Sourcing SAP's Future Direction
An SCN Community Podcast with Kuhan Milroy and Anne Hardy of SAP
Hosted by Jon Reed of
Podcast Interview Date: July 5, 2010

Jon Reed: Welcome to this SCN Community Podcast. I'm your host, Jon Reed of Joining me today is Kuhan Milroy and Anne Hardy of SAP. We are here to talk about SAP's Idea Place launch, why they did it, and how the SAP community can engage with Idea Place. With so many companies grappling with how to best crowd source and prioritize ideas, not just for competitive advantage, but to improve responsiveness, SAP's release of Idea Place is timely.

Kuhan, let's start with you. Tell us about the origins of Idea Place and why SAP decided to create this new site and idea-sharing process.

Kuhan Milroy: First of all, it was a jointly-led effort between Anne and me. I am from SAP Community Network team within SAP, so I am managing SCN as well as BPX and Business Objects Communities. We had this idea in the background for a while, but it really needed a bit of motivation from inside the company because it is a collaborative piece from a community sense as well as having the product and solution managers on board.

Basically, we had a lot of feedback. The first was the forum: there were lots of customers, lots of the ecosystem and the community sharing ideas on the forum, but unfortunately, it's a really ad hoc method. It's hard for product managers to get in there, and even internally in SAP, product managers are not really supposed to harvest ideas out of there. There isn't any kind of legal framework around that, so there are some barriers for product managers to actually consume it.

In addition, a lot of companies have challenges with enhancement systems: they tend to grow and gain a lot of enhancement ideas, but there is really no way to act on them. The challenge there is mainly because it is such a large system that allows customers to submit ideas but no way for customers to collaborate and no way for customers to come together and prioritize things. There was an opportunity there that we saw as well.

Finally, a lot of enhancement systems are customer-only. And often it's only certain customers that can give feedback. We really wanted to see if we could expand beyond that, see if we could open it up to, say, the end user's inside customers as well as others in the ecosystem, such as industry experts or analysts or other people who actually wanted to share their feedback on products.

Anne Hardy: I work specifically in the strategy group of SAP. I've worked a long time with SAP's research innovation, and one of the big points was that we had no directional with customers or partners or members of the SCN Community to talk and exchange what we were working on. Last year I was preparing a presentation with our marketing organization for a customer that was visiting SAP Labs, and we wanted to offer a continuation to our presentation, a place where we could continue the discussion about innovation.

This was a little bit before I joined forces with Kuhan. We wanted to create a specific channel where we could have a continuous conversation with customers and partners about what research was doing, and get ideas of what we could be doing. While we were discussing ways to do that I met with Kuhan, and this is where we decided to join together and try to build a web site where we could not only get feedback and ideas about what research is doing, but also about what SAP is marginally doing. This is how it came about from the research and innovation side of it.

Reed: When did Idea Place go live?

Milroy: We started at Sapphire, and it's just the very beginning. We look at it as a pilot, so the initial part is really just getting the site up and starting to get customers and internal people on board. From a full SAP sense, we could have every product and solution and service available on the site, but the challenge we found was that it actually becomes more of a struggle to find - if an idea comes in - how to route it within the company.

We really wanted to start off from a "bottom up" approach, soliciting the teams that could participate on Idea Place and extending it out over time.

Reed: There already are some established ways of getting ideas and input from SAP, like user group forums or Influence Councils or even the SAP Community Network itself. What are some of the differences about Idea Place?

Milroy: There are lots of ways to share ideas with SAP, and some customers have even asked that question. For many, if they have the channel with SAP, the direct line, then it makes sense for them to use that. But, as Anne mentioned, not everyone has a communication channel to SAP.

Specifically, if we start to look at end users, there's quite a disconnect from end users to internal product managers. One of the big benefits of our social network is being able to leverage mass collaboration, get feedback from a much broader audience and give an opportunity to those users who live and breathe the product every day to share feedback. That's one different thing; you won't get that in Influence Councils or focus groups because those are much more concentrated and niche-focused. This is an opportunity to expand that audience.

There's another element that starts to fit in when you get this mass collaboration: the crowd component and allowing people to vote. Someone can submit an idea, allow other people to vote on it, and you create a prioritization built up through the ecosystem.

Although you can do this prioritization with Influence Councils or focus groups, you're still dealing with, say, 20 customers. Those may be 20 high-end customers, but how can you expand that out to find general feedback among all your customer segments? That's where you need a lot more. You need 100 or 1,000 people to produce accurate results.

Of course, one of the strongest pieces of it all is that it's a public channel, whereas a lot of the Influence Councils or focus groups are private. The customers have signed a feedback agreement that's on-site or in a private area or part of a group where the public channel is open to everyone. It's really taking an opposite approach to how we have traditionally taken ideas and processed feedback, and opened it up much more to a broader sense.

Reed: The site has straightforward navigation, but I suspect that a lot of thought and perhaps debate went into how to organize the different types of ideas that users will be posting. Can you tell us why you decided to set up the current structure with the three main categories?


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