Thursday, December 9, 2010

StreamWork, Chatter, Yammer... What's the deal?

This week a bunch of us have been hunkered down in Santa Clara at the SAP Influencer Summit talking about SAP's strategy and execution. There were many questions about the relationship between SAP StreamWork and other tools like Chatter and Yammer. Perhaps it had something to do with that rave in SF featuring former presidents that happened on the same days.

Here are some specific questions I was asked:
  • How are you going to compete with Chatter's adoption?
  • Why is SAP doing this at all?
  • Chatter is free; how do you compete with that?
Here is an outtake of some of the questions that flowed...

StreamWork wants to connect the places you work to make you faster and better, while making your life simpler. It is targeted towards making short-term, powerful decisions and with all of the data and people at your fingertips. It is extremely well suited to "finishing off" the business process letting people handle all of the swirling chaos around it, involving the people and information that make sense.

But the questions, to me, are more fundamental. StreamWork doesn't want you to stop using the tools you love. It wants to flow them into the broader conversation and give you the world's best tools on top. StreamWork has a feed, but is not equivalent to a feed; it has the tools on top to get the work done.

Yet since the micro-blogging pattern has gained semi-ubiquity people think things that have activity streams should be compared. OK. But the fact is they enhance each-other. A portion of my tweets show up in Facebook; I don't choose which system to use, but I use them for different purposes, symbiotically. And my friends, we talk over this fabric, often from entirely different systems.

The world is federated, and it will remain so. If you want to pull together a federated conversation to drive it to action, you need to do a few things right:

  • Complete openness -- This means people, data, human languages, programming languages, etc. Let's start with people. Let everyone in the world in for Free. No corporate email required. In fact, if you use gmail, you don't even have to sign in.
  • Standards based -- Standards like allow micro-blogging systems to inter-operate. And it frees your data to use it how you want. You can use our cloud server as your feed server today using this standard, for free. Oh -- and it goes without saying that you should support OpenID, OAuth, SAML, and OpenSocial.
  • Connected to the real stuff -- SAP customers touch your lives in many ways. They produce the food on your table, the drink in your glass, the power to your home. Odds are they touch your business. Don't you think your extended conversation needs access to those systems? With the new Enterprise Edition, your on-premise world is connected to your cloud-world. Let the data (and the real activities) flow.
  • Rapid releases to improve, driven by user feedback -- If you like what we did this month, just wait until next month. If you don't like it, tell us, and we'll fix it. Openly and Transparently feedback driven.
  • Be humble: People know how they want to work. Let them lead the way.
So, in summary: use what works. And hold your vendors responsible. And have fun.

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