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SAP goes after Salesforce.com with new social software products, strategy

SAP has a new platform called SAP Jam

SAP on Wednesday made a series of announcements meant to define itself as a major player in the enterprise social software market with a superior approach to rivals such as Salesforce.com.

A new platform called SAP Jam, now generally available, combines features from the Jam enterprise social network acquired through the purchase of SuccessFactors, along with ones from SAP's StreamWork software for structured collaboration.

StreamWork was released a couple of years ago with much fanfare but never seemed to gain much market traction. While existing StreamWork customers will continue to be supported for the foreseeable future, SAP isn't going to conduct new development on a standalone version, said Sameer Patel, global vice president and general manager, social software solutions.

"SAP Jam is the go-forward platform," he said. "We're basically building everything on the Jam foundation." SAP has "re-created StreamWork elements" on Jam, Patel added.

SuccessFactors Jam customers will get all the same capabilities as they do now when they upgrade to SAP Jam, as well as new features including "a slew" of user experience enhancements, Patel said. But certain features, such as the StreamWork functionality, may require additional fees. Pricing and packaging for Jam hasn't been finalized, according to a spokeswoman.

While Salesforce.com has oriented its entire business model around "social enterprises" and rolled out a phalanx of social capabilities, SAP shouldn't be viewed as late to the party, according to Patel. Instead, the company has had an opportunity to view the first five or six years of social software's rise to prominence and come up with a more sensible approach, he said.

The first wave of social software seemed to repeatedly riff on the same core idea of an enterprise version of Facebook, Patel said. But it's been "extremely difficult to gain any meaningful adoption" of these applications inside companies, he added.

Instead of rolling out a social network to an entire company in the hopes that productivity will generally improve, SAP's social tools are aimed at solving discrete problems that customers currently have, according to Patel. "There are a whole slew of customers for whom social does not make any sense right now," he said. SAP's strategy is about determining "where social can move the needle and where it can't," he added.

To this end, SAP plans to sell "value-oriented packages" around specific business processes, according to Patel.

Other new products slated to be announced Wednesday include Social OnDemand, which helps marketers monitor social media channels and respond to customer complaints, as well as SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase, for deriving broader insights from large amounts of social data. Both of these products will directly compete with similar technologies from Salesforce.com, along with many other third-party applications.

SAP Jam is integrated with other applications in the company's portfolio, including SAP CRM (customer relationship management), Sales OnDemand and Financials OnDemand. But SAP wants to sell its social products to non-SAP accounts as well, according to Patel.

What's not clear is how SAP's long-standing relationships with the likes of social software vendor Jive will change, given the new product rollouts. Patel didn't answer the question directly, saying that SAP will continue to offer APIs (application programming interfaces) allowing customers to tie into third-party applications if they choose.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com


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