Hold your thoughts, SAP and NetBase will soon analyse your sentiments in the Cloud

15 December 2011

Thierry Crifasi

Thierry Crifasi

Global Head of C/4HANA CoE

Ever since SAP released it's own packaged offering for Social Media Sentiment Analysis including the integration with SAP CRM, I have been slightly sceptical about its chance to be widely rolled out to customers.

Hence the reason why I find SAP's latest foray in the Cloud very astute. A joint packaged software and data Cloud offering from SAP and Netbase enabling organisations to gain insight from customer social media activity related to their brands and products. On a side note, this latest SAP announcement really feels like a well coordinated Cloud Strategy after the SuccessFactors Cloud acquisition last week!

I don't have official numbers about how many live projects SAP has implemented so far with their current (old?) Sentiment Analysis offering but I suspect they are low. For what it is worth here is my view why.

SAP BusinessObjects Text Analysis (and Sentiment Analysis in
general) is for geeks!

I read the product configuration guide a few months ago as I wanted to quickly build a prototype for our internal CRM demo system. The whole concept and terminology were totally foreign to me even though I have got quite a few SAP years behind me (and incidentally Ispeak multiple foreign languages!).

The theory behind textual and conceptual analysis is very complex and therefore configuring BusinessObjects Data Services Text Analysis can't be expected to be a smooth ride.

I remember chatting with a few Stanford University Ph.D students in Linguistics a few years back when I was a visiting scholar there in a different department. I had heard about Natural Language Programming for the first time then. So please don't chuckle when Netbase states their "language filtering mechanism was developed and is overseen by nine Ph.Ds in computational linguistics. Emoticons, intentional misspellings, abbreviations and other roadblocks to typical natural language processing enginesare handled very elegantly with this special-purpose-built NLP engine that runs in the cloud to handle social media".

SAP BusinessObjects Text Analysis is a challenge for many SAP

I don't think there are many consultants out there who can implement and tune BusinessObjects Text Analysis to the various customer requirements they come across. I'm sure they can more easily deal with the dashboarding and the integration side to SAP products .But I don't think the proportion of SAP Partners who can rollout and support the current SAP Sentiment Analysis offering is large enough compared to what the market will potentially demand in the next few years.

Customers can't handle it

If you are a Manufacturing or Service industry customer, the chances are (at least in Europe) that you don't have yet a team fully dedicated to engaging with customers through social media channels. Interacting with customers through Social media already requires a specific competency within the organisation. Now imagine this organisation trying to analyse social media sentiment on its own! How costly and effective would that be?

Now go and propose them a "cloud-based tool that includes the last 12 months of NetBase data, with sentiment analysis already having been processed. So any new trends that come in (.. up-to-the-minute) will be live supplements."

A step in the right direction

With the new SAP Social Media Analytics supported by NetBase, SAP now provides a better option for customers looking at analysing external data. All the benefits of a Cloud solution combined with the subscription to NetBase services for data collection, as well as textual and conceptual analysis of unstructured data.

I'm still not clear though what SAP vision is for an organisation to be able to analyse information gathered via its own customer facing channels and stored on its own systems. The answer might lie with BusinessObjects Text Analysis. Or who knows, SAP might think of leveraging this new Cloud-based offering to lift and analyse all data both external and internal (with SAP HANA).

Let's see what the future will hold. In the meantime watch out, somebody is watching you…

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