StreamWork and Elements: Not Your Father's SAP


When I interviewed David Meyer, SAP''s SVP of Business Insight and Emerging Technologies, about the company's new StreamWork collaborative decision-making environment, he wanted to know if I'd tried it out yet. Embarrassingly, I had to say no. Meyer grilled me about it a bit, trying to find out if I'd been put off by the Web site introducing StreamWork or the StreamWork interface itself.


That wasn't it at all. The truth is, my work here at IT Business Edge doesn't lend itself that well to collaboration tools. I am largely self-directed, as are the other editors here. When we come across topics that relate well to another editor's coverage area, we send each other ideas, but we tend to shoot them to each other via quick instant messages or e-mails. Typically there's no reason to follow up. On the rare occasions we need to make decisions as an editorial team, we do so in face-to-face meetings, not a big deal as our small staff can generally assemble with little effort.


What would benefit me? I'd be interested in a set of tools that would help me organize and interact with my work better than my current system of way too many folders on my desktop and in my e-mail. So maybe Elements, software SAP showed off at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference, is a better fit for me. A SearchSAP.com article describes Elements as "a personal productivity workspace that allows employees to monitor, receive and manage work." Users can pull in content from various sources and jump from Elements into StreamWork when they need to interact with colleagues.


The Elements demo sounds intriguing. According to the article, SAP product designer Fred Samson searched for a customer in a Google-like box. When an icon of the customer appeared on screen, so did information such as who had worked with the customer, what they did and an option to collect feedback about the customer from Twitter and LinkedIn. Elements also offered a list of suggested applications that could help the user complete work associated with the customer. Samson then showed how the work flow could be moved into StreamWork by dragging and dropping icons of people and documents related to the project and opening a new activity that connected to StreamWork.


I think the most interesting part of this Elements demo is the list of suggested applications. SAP intends to do something similar with StreamWork, based on what Meyer told me. He offered a "for instance:"

Suppose there are some leading HIV specialists who are interested in using it. They all fly to places like Haiti where new vectors emerge and try to figure out how they can help abate disasters. You've got these super-smart people in different parts of the world trying to figure out modeling techniques to capture what they are seeing. The techniques they come up with will only be relevant to maybe 200 people on the world.
The nice thing is, when people create a method for themselves and put it into this tool and 200 people start using it, we'll know the industry alignment by the context of what they are doing. And the next time there's a similar context, we can recommend that tool. HIV transient vector analysis methods may be used by only a few hundred people. The key thing is, in the real-time SaaS world, you can microtarget productivity tools. You can create these markets for deep enterprise work. (Emphasis mine)

The SearchSAP.com article quotes Ray Wang, a partner at Altimeter Group, who said both StreamWork and Elements are part of SAP's effort to jettison its "stodgy" image. Wang believes components of Elements may be included in future iterations of SAP's products, especially some of its software-as-a-service solutions.