My husband works as a program analyst dealing primarily with SAP. He also spent the last year or two helping his company set up Sharepoint. This is probably nothing unusual. In fact, I suspect a lot of companies have done the very same thing, which is why they may be a tad annoyed to learn SAP will soon offer a very Sharepoint-ish new offering.
The tool is code-named 12Sprints, aka "Constellation," and it entered public beta this week.
Oh, mind you, SAP is not positioning it as a Sharepoint alternative. The official word is that it can be used to publish content to Sharepoint and wikis. But it's being labeled a rival to Google's Wave, which is widely regarded as a potential Sharepoint competitor.
And I don't think they're fooling many people, either. IDG, reporting on 12Sprints' collaborative potential, observed, "That means pulling in data from SAP's own applications, rival offerings such as Wave or Microsoft SharePoint, or even a spreadsheet on the user's own desktop."
Of course, now that it's public, you can register for the free beta and try it yourself, but, here's a summary of what's being said about this new tool:
- It's a cloud-based tool, but it includes an on-premises component, IDG reported in December, during private beta.
- SAP also is working on an on-premises component to 12Sprints that will let users tap securely into their company's various data stores.
- SAP isn't calling it a collaborative tool, but rather says it's a "new product category called collaborative decision-making." One such example: 12Sprints allows you to resolve purchase order issues in real time, via collaboration, rather than sending the purchase order back and forth. That's likely to prove popular with SAP users. Another possible use? Improving customer service, writes SAP consultant Nathan Jones.
- The "sweet spot" for using 12Sprints? Six to 30 people, according to David Meyer, vice president of emerging technologies in SAP's BusinessObjects division.
- It incorporates IM and document sharing. More impressively, it also includes tools for using SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis or just outlining the pros and cons of an issue.
- 12Sprints conversations aren't available to everyone; you have to be invited. You'll recall Waves were originally public.
- SAP has developed two APIs for it, including a REST-based Invocation API, so you can call 12Sprints functions from other apps. For more on this, check out Robert Horne's SAP Community blog on the topic. During a competition, developers leveraged these to create "deep integrations" between Android and iPhone to ERP systems, according to IDG.
- SAP will offer sample codes for connecting 12Sprints to Business Objects, SAP's business intelligence tool. (There's actually a video of a proof of concept showing BusinessObject InfoView integrated with 12Sprints.) This, plus integration with Business Suite, gives SAP a "natural advantage" over similar offerings, says enterprise software veteran Dennis Moore.
Obviously, support for this sort of collaboration and integration is gaining ground. IBM recently unveiled its own offering in this space, code-named Project Vulcan, although it's not expected to be available for production deployment until next year, whereas SAP plans to release 12Sprints on the heels of the public beta.
This is definitely something SAP companies will want to explore. Obviously, it'd be useful to have a product that integrates well with other SAP offerings, but there's still the unanswered question about how much it will cost and just how much value it will deliver over similar solutions.