SAP has launched an online marketplace for SAP partner products. The online marketplace, called EcoHub, includes tools like user-generated reviews to help customers choose third-party products.
On the free EcoHub website, customers can search by industry, application, platform or region from hundreds of partner products, according to Salim Ali, vice president of SAP Ecosystem and Partner Marketing. In their search, customers can view demos and success stories from the vendor, as well as user-generated reviews that tell them "the good, the bad and the ugly," as Ali put it, of buying and implementing those products.
"SAP has a huge ecosystem," Ali said. "The challenge is, there is a lot of stuff. "Customers were saying, 'Help me get to the solution I need on my own time. How do I get the short list very quickly'?"
SAP's new EcoHub site is an example of social networking reaching further into business, according to Henry Morris, senior vice president of worldwide software and services research at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC Research. "There are other sites that are starting to appear that contain reviews – an example of social networking concepts moving to the business world from the consumer world," he said.
With EcoHub, SAP joins Microsoft's Visual Studio Gallery on the Microsoft Developer Network and Salesforce.com's AppExchange bringing social networking to selecting enterprise software. AppExchange includes reviews, white papers and customer case studies of applications recommended by other Salesforce.com users. Microsoft's site allows customers to search for user-reviewed products by categories like build, coding, reporting and security. In turn, ASUG Edge , launched in July by SAP's largest user group to help companies find consultants for SAP projects, allows companies to review consultants.
Most of EcoHub's reviewers are members of the SAP Developer Network (SDN) and Business Process Expert (BPX) social networking communities, but anyone can rate a product on EcoHub, Ali said, as long as they register on SDN, BPX or EcoHub.
According to Ali, SAP will run EcoHub the way it ran the SDN and BPX communities, taking the same open-ended, democratic approach. Together, the sites boast more than a million members who use tools like blogs and wikis to provide tips on SAP development, implementation and go-live. On EcoHub, as on SDN and BPX, no one is allowed to post comments anonymously, and SAP will monitor the site closely. But it won't block negative comments, Ali said.
"Negativity is absolutely welcome," he said. "This is about sharing. The feedback has to be completely open."
Partner participants, such as Revelation Software Concepts Pty Ltd., an Australian firm that develops the SAP change management product Rev-Trac, have already received positive comments from customers about the product, according to Rick Porter, the company's vice president of business development.
Porter says that EcoHub will be a good way to connect to customers, but has some concern that the EcoHub site can't ensure that the negative comments are accurate and actually come from customers. "There doesn't appear to be a process by way of the comment being moderated, checked for accuracy or indeed being placed by a competitor," Porter said by email when asked whether negative feedback was a concern. "In the main, however, assuming only legitimate comments will be received and posted, then I would expect our customers/users to provide positive feedback."
The EcoHub is also another way the vendor is addressing the SAP skills shortage.
"The EcoHub lets SAP customers know about potential aids in putting together a solution and lets customers tap into feedback from their peers on the value of specific partners and their solutions," Morris said.
SAP can see the value in broadening the site's reach and may open it up to other SAP partners, such as systems integrators, Ali said. Right now, there are "in the low hundreds" of partner products up there, not all of which have been reviewed yet, he said. The site is restricted to SAP PartnerEdge members with SAP certified products. There is no fee for partners to post their products on the site.
"The challenge right now," Ali said, "is how fast can we get them all on?"