Everybody's trying to come up with a way to make Web 2.0 technologies useful for business. Some of the results have been, well, let's face it, unimpressive. For instance, take IBM's virtual meeting world in Second Life. Interesting, but not really of great value.
SAP took a different approach. It established what's called the Imagineering unit -- a Web 2.0 startup that happens to have SAP as an incubator. The name, by the way, is borrowed from a similar Walt Disney team, according to ZDNet.
Their task: Find new ways to marry Web 2.0 technologies with CRM and ERP software. The offspring of this union needed to be easy to use, engaging and, well, cool.
Now, SAP is starting to reap the benefits of the Imagineering unit's work. This week, about 20 North American SAP sales representatives began using three widgets created by Imagineering, internetnews.com reports. I must say these Web 2.0 widgets make business sense, and that in itself is something of a success when it comes to 2.0 technologies.
Here's what SAP debuted in its small trial:
My Pipeline: Sales managers can use this tool to check the progress of sales representatives by showing existing or potential deals in the sales pipeline.
My Open License Opportunities: This widget quickly debriefs sales reps on what they've already sold to a client company, plus provides suggestions for what they should be trying to sell and a heads-up on licenses up for renewal.
Contacts: In minutes, sales representatives can see a quick run-down of business clients and contacts without launching the whole CRM system.
To be honest, I was a bit confused by the term widget. One of the more confusing aspects of Web 2.0 - and perhaps why so many are so skeptical about the technologies -is the terminology. There are lots of definitions for widgets - many of which boil down to a Windows gadget - but essentially, it's a GUI. This CNET article calls these tools SAP and third-party mashups. So, my best guess is when SAP says widgets, it means a mashup with an easy-to-use interface.
Whatever you call them, the widgets are just a sample of Imagineering's work.
There's also Harmony, SAP's first social-networking site. According to Cnet, 1,000 of SAP's 1,700 North American Labs division employees log onto Harmony to interact through classified ads or hobby communities or to discuss business issues.
The article also includes a discussion of the unit's proposal for using the virtual game Second Life to save a client money in the real world.