Five Minutes With: For Business, Social Must be Useful says Steve Hamrick

What is social collaboration, and what are your biggest opportunities & challenges it presents for next 12-24 months?

Let’s start by obliterating the single most commonly held misconception about social collaboration in the context of the enterprise: It’s absolutely not the same as going online to share photos or video with your family and friends on social media. Many companies and customers make this mistake based on their personal experiences—social media is pervasive, highly intuitive, entertaining, and an extremely efficient way to share updates and information with your friends. People are excited about social media because it helps them connect better with the people they care about. 

But work is different. People aren’t naturally motivated to use a social collaboration product just because it’s easy to use, and people aren’t at work just to be entertained. Social collaboration within the context of the enterprise has to be useful, and it has to help employees achieve significantly better results. There will always be multiple competing collaboration applications that an employee could potentially choose to use. The best collaboration solution will always be the one that was specifically designed to help them achieve what they’re trying to do.

Social collaboration within the enterprise must deliver business value to be relevant and worthy of any company or employee spending time and effort to use it. And delivering business value has been the biggest challenge – not just for SAP Jam, but for any collaboration application. Unlike other solutions, which primarily focus on an unstructured stream of conversations among multiple parties wi­­­th no clear goal, Jam can bring together the right people, best practices, business data, and content. 

This is an exciting time in the enterprise collaboration market. Now more than ever, customers expect more from their business applications. Our clients want their employees to respond to their customers’ needs quickly and accurately. This has led to a strong expectation that business applications will be smarter, easier to use, and far more flexible and customizable than ever before—from customer relationship management, to human capital management, to supply chain management, and beyond. 

What keeps your clients up at night?

Our clients are concerned that the pace of innovation in the consumer software and device market is creating increased customer engagement challenges for their employees. The evolution of constantly connected, always available smartphone devices has completely changed what used to be considered excellent customer service. In the not-so-distant past, the only way to get product support for a particular product was to call a phone support hotline, or walk into a physical store location and talk to someone in person. Today, consumers want to control their own destiny, decide how to engage with brands on their terms, and get results instantly. This means employees must be just as connected, with access to real-time information, and empowered to make smart, flexible decisions to best support customers’ needs.

Our clients have also faced issues in the past with efforts to deploy other kinds of internal collaboration tools. The most cited reasons social collaboration fails are: lack of adoption, no tangible ROI, and an inability to connect to relevant business data. To ease our customers’ concerns, we aim to demonstrate the viability of our solution up-front. We recently partnered with Forrester to demonstrate the Total Economic Impact of our collaboration solution. The study found that collaboration technologies improve ROI by helping companies reduce training time, close deals faster, and improve access to information.

What’s the hardest thing about social collaboration to educate clients about?

It’s hard to educate clients about what a successful implementation of collaboration technology is because there isn’t an “improved collaboration” metric or key performance indicator (KPI). Before implementing social collaboration technology, executives should take a moment to identify target KPIs that can include anything from increasing revenue to enhancing employee engagement to boosting customer satisfaction. The individual metrics supporting these KPIs can include reduced licensing costs for obsolete technology, decreased time for customers to connect with sales representatives, increased sales, and faster time to ramp up new employees with onboarding and training. By breaking down the ROI of collaboration technologies into metrics that are more tangibly tracked, companies can start understanding how their collaboration technology has improved their bottom line.

 What are the most exciting ways that the enterprise and social worlds can interconnect?

The most exciting way any company can leverage enterprise collaboration is to respond to their customers’ needs faster. This could be achieved in a variety of ways:

  • Use public and private collaboration communities with customers to listen to feedback, solicit input on products and services, and use that information to drive the product lifecycle. Customers can share their thoughts on social media to encourage others to participate in the discussion, thereby raising brand awareness.
  • Develop internal company knowledge bases maintained by employees to quickly provide customers with the best answer to their needs.
  • Connect social media monitoring tools to internal enterprise collaboration systems. This integration gives employees new insight on what their customers are saying and thinking. It will allow customer service agents to address issues before they become “viral” and widespread.
  • Access external communities to direct customers to the purchase that is right for them, leading to fewer returns and improved overall customer satisfaction.
  • Engage one-on-one with customers privately on social media to provide rapid, custom-tailored solutions and services.

The above are just a few examples—the common goal is to help drive overall business performance.

How do you anticipate SAP Jam Communities changing/growing in the next year?

In 2016, we have been proud of our success, which included reaching 34 million subscribers and launching two industry-specific products for learning and customer service. Next year, we will continue to evolve Jam by looking at how we can enable our customers to use cutting-edge collaboration technologies to enhance their business processes. This means we will keep doing what we’ve done so far that has led to success—listening and learning from our customers to develop business process and creating industry-specific solutions designed to support business objectives. We have a solution that can be easily specialized and tailored for various industries—expect additional customization, rooted in the value we can create for our customers.

–Steve Hamrick is VP of Product Management for SAP Jam

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