Social Networking @ SAP: CubeTree


SAP has been a long-time user of Jive Software’s forum and workspace technology (formerly called ClearSpace, now SBS for “Social Business Software”), and there are close commercial ties between the two companies. Notably, Jive’s platform is used to power the SAP Collaboration Workspace area that is used for both external collaboration with customers as well as internal collaboration – including the main internal “SAP 2.0” forum for discussing SAP’s own adoption of Enterprise 2.0 technology.

But as discussed in a previous post, Social Networking @ SAP, and like most large organizations, a variety of other platforms are also used inside the organization including Atlassian’s Confluence and an internal development, Harmony.

In addition to these existing deployments, late last year, a small workgroup of SAP BusinessObjects employees based in Palo Alto, California, began beta-testing a new, on-demand enterprise collaboration suite called CubeTree.

The initial installation was focused mainly on twitter-like status feeds, functionality that wasn’t easily available from the other platforms. It rapidly went viral within the company, with employees able to invite other employees. I personally started using the site in November last year.

During the initial beta phase, CubeTree was used widely across different SAP departments, and I personally found it very useful to get insights into the activities of other teams working on related projects – especially SAP’s own web 2.0 technology plans.

image One of the key advantages of the CubeTree on-demand architecture is the ability to rapidly add new features as they are demanded by users. There’s a weekly software update, and new features are explained on the company’s blog. To help encourage a variety of opinions and focus feedback, CubeTree uses functionality from User Voice. Participants are given “votes” they can use when making requests and comments to developers.

CubeTree launched their production platform in May of this year, and it now provides the full suite of typical features offered on today’s consumer social networking sites: user profiles, follow/follower news feeds, micro-blogging, along with enterprise collaboration tools including wikis, file sharing, and polls.

Here’s a list of features, and the feature tour video from the CubeTree web site, below.

David Meyer, VP Product Management for Emerging Technologies for SAP BusinessObjects was the main sponsor of the CubeTree project, and participated in the CubeTree launch video below, talking about the promise of the social enterprise and how CubeTree helps him achieve his goals.

Transcript of the video:

Voice-over: SAP BusinessObjects has employees and offices around the world, designing and developing the world’s leading business intelligence solutions. Managing product lifecycles throughout multiple offices and time zones has its challenges, so they turned to CubeTree to facilitate collaboration and to open up channels of communication between stakeholders.

David Meyer: CubeTree helps ideas flow like water and I think that everybody in the enterprise is incredibly thirsty these days, because they’re captured in these silos and stuck in meetings and we need to bring back that human element. And people often don’t equate technology, the social technology, with the human element, and they think it’s de-humanizing. I think that people that are immersed in these systems see it as the exact opposite. They re-humanize within the confines and the constraints of how we’re forced to live our enterprise days.

Voice-over: Casual conversations and impromptu meetings are commonplace. But collaboration within the enterprise can be limited to one office or one team. By using CubeTree, development is more agile and collaboration is made easier.

David: CubeTree meets some of the needs — the very real needs — we have in the enterprise by making us simply move faster. Somebody says something in CubeTree. Somebody else says something from a different walk of life. A few minutes later, and by the end of the day, there’s a brand-new idea. It didn’t exist in the morning. It’s the composite idea, the best, the 1+1+1=8 within these dialogs with people from diverse viewpoints. And those are the things that are very exciting, that I think everybody is starting to feel the acceleration that these tools can provide.

Voice-over: CubeTree has already impacted the way people work at SAP BusinessObjects.

David: The other day I was remarking on a little company that TechCrunch covered. Within three hours, somebody from the ecosystem team saw that I had a point of view on it, looked at it themselves, realized where it fit in into our product strategy, and that same day had signed an NDA with that company, and was talking to them the next day. That’s remarkable!

David also explained his motivations for using CubeTree in the launch press release:

“The market looks to SAP as an innovator and thought leader in driving business transformation through technology. Social networks are transforming how people communicate in their personal lives. We adopted CubeTree’s enterp
rise social software to bring the same network effect into the enterprise, connecting people and ideas across the company to accelerate our business.”

The internal deployment has not been without its wrinkles, however. Legal and IT security objections to the use of a hosted environment (rather than the in-house deployment of the Jive platform) had to be overcome, and deployment had to be briefly interrupted for non-US employees while European data confidentiality concerns were addressed. In some countries such as Germany, the employee worker council had to be consulted, and has not yet given its go-ahead, barring that country from the deployment. And, of course, the functionality overlaps with existing platforms were examined, and a business case required for the costs and overhead of a new solution.

Unlike the Jive collaboration platform that is available to all SAP staff, CubeTree deployment is currently only available for employees of one of the product divisions of SAP Business Objects, but the deployment may be (re)extended in the future.