Months after the beta launch of its on-demand collaborative application StreamWork, SAP is now poised to begin attaching the module to several of its Business Suite applications.
In this age of interactive, social-media-driven communication, it’s easy to understand why SAP would want to extend such capabilities to its own product, allowing users to collaborate in the same environment, as well as invite individuals from outside the organization to work on those projects.
But will companies pay for that capability? And what about the security risks inherent in large groups of people sharing proprietary information?
SAP StreamWork allows individuals to do things like share documents, instant message, create SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threat) matrixes, and prioritize items, all in a cloud-based environment. It is also closely linked to SAP’s BI capabilities.
In a matter of weeks, and continuing through the first half of next year, SAP will begin attaching a StreamWork module to specific applications in the Business Suite, according to David Meyer, a senior vice president in charge of overseeing the application. Although he would not provide specific release dates, Meyer said the list of applications would include customer relationship management (CRM) and product life cycle management (PLM). Plans were to also have a module for governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC), which he said was a natural fit for StreamWork given the amount of collaboration needed in the area of risk assessment and management. However, it is not clear if the modules will be able to communicate with each other.
StreamWork will also be added to on-demand applications like Carbon Impact in the near future, Meyer said, as well as to Sales OnDemand, due out next year.
Although the company is focused on building support for SAP StreamWork, Meyer wouldn’t say how many subscribers there are at this point.
Whether the project is a success will depend in part on people like Mike Rezinas.
“I think it’s pretty interesting,” said Rezinas, a senior application engineer with Nike Inc. “It addresses a lot of the things I’m working on.”
Given that Nike is a global corporation with close to 30,000 employees, it’s only inevitable that different groups of people are unknowingly working on the same program, he said. StreamWork could help cut down on repetitive work, thereby saving time and money.
“If they were able to find each other,” he said, “we’d save a ton of money. It could be massively time saving.”
What he wasn’t so sure about, he said, was the pricing structure. Individuals can use StreamWork now for free, although that free version limits the number of projects a person can initiate to five. The professional version allows users to have 100 projects open at any one time.
The professional version costs $9, per user per month. Giving all of its retail and corporate employees a StreamWork account adds up to more than $3 million per year, a significant amount of money even for a large corporation.
Other potential StreamWork users who saw the collaboration tool at the recent TechEd conference in Las Vegas were initially interested, but ended up deciding it wasn’t for them.
Tammy Gardner, a global IT manager for Hills Pet Nutrition Inc., a subsidiary of Colgate Palmolive, attended a recent session on StreamWork at TechEd, but left before it ended.
“I was just interested to see what the technology is,” she said as she headed out the door. “I don’t think it’s something we’d use.”
Gardner explained that she had security concerns over users’ ability to invite anyone they want into the system.
Meyer understands the security concerns and said SAP has gone to great lengths to include security features and controls.
“It’s something we take seriously,” he said.
The application includes a secure single-sign-on capability and the ability for administrators to audit what’s going on within the application.
The enterprise edition of StreamWork also includes what’s called an “enterprise agent” that’s installed on-premise, which the company can use to set up policies controlling how much access employees can have, including whether they can invite others from outside the company.
“You can set those policies,” he said. “It’s not all baked in.”
Besides, Meyer said, employees will typically involve anyone, or share any piece of information they need if it will help them succeed. That may mean embedding information in a PowerPoint presentation, something Meyer called “shadow IT.” So, if that’s the case, why not have them share that information in a secure environment where there’s a record of what took place?
“It will not be shadow IT,” Meyer said, “it will be blessed IT.”