How social is SAP CRM?

10 May 2011

Tony Rosenthal

Tony Rosenthal


For the last few years the web has been buzzing as more and more people have been using social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Inevitably organisations have been wondering how they can leverage these applications in the way they do business. Out of this the term Social CRM has been born to try and describe new ways organisations can engage with their customers via these channels. In this blog I will take a look at what this all means in terms of the SAP product portfolio, in particular around CRM.

There are many theories and discussions floating around the internet about what Social CRM is and what it means to organisations and consumers alike. I am not going to go into detail about Social CRM itself, but rather will point you in the direction of some very well thought out definitions that are already out there. However to borrow Paul Greenberg's one-liner, Social CRM is "The company's response to the customer's control of the conversation".

So what's already out there?

So far the lead has been taken by smaller software vendors such as Jive and Lithium. They have been  positioned as leaders in Social CRM by Gartner for their offerings which encompass social marketing, sales, customer support and social media monitoring. Within this quadrant SAP isn't yet featured at all.

Some of SAPs competitors however are catching up. Recently has bought Radian6 - one of the leading Social Media monitoring tools - to integrate across its sales and service offerings. However it remains to be seen exactly how this is going to be integrated. In addition Oracle (see Accept360 for Oracle CRM Keeps Track of Good Ideas) and IBM (see IBM Moves Social Media Analytics to the Cloud) have also announced Social media aspects to their CRM offerings this year

There are also many other options out there, especially in the SME space, as can be seen in the CRM Idol competition running for the smaller vendors. All the more reason for SAP to make a move you would think.

What is SAP doing?

Well in a recent blog, Mark Yolton, Senior Vice President SAP Community Network, described the great work that SAP has and is doing in the Social Media space via their SCN channel and the power of utilising social networks for real business benefit. However this is more about how they integrate with their own customers rather than what tools they are providing within their product suite to help their customers realise the same benefits. This does however demonstrate that SAP has been leading a lot of the thinking in this area.

Despite this, there is currently nothing offered out of the box in the SAP CRM platform, even in the CRM 7.0 Enhancement Pack 1 (EhP1) release which is due imminently. However there are some add-ons developed by SAP available via the SAP EcoHub for their customers to purchase on top of the standard solutions. These include the integration of Twitter with Marketing and Customer Service, and Facebook with Marketing.

These have in fact been around for the past 2 years and it appears that SAP has been biding its time a little bit to try and determine where the real business need is going to be and indeed where the IT dollar will be spent. So with spending in this area now predicted to increase rapidly and momentum growing what else has SAP got up it's sleeve?

Well the traditional CRM channels are covered via the Marketing and Service add-ons and this is a good place to start when organisations are considering their social strategies. However Social CRM also offers organisations the ability to gather insight about their customers and products based on the on-line conversations permeating these Social Media channels. And this is where there is real potential: the ability to find out what a customer is thinking.

The analysis of this data is termed Sentiment Analysis and can be split into Organisational Sentiment Analysis (OSA) based on internal polls, forums and the like; and Public Sentiment Analysis (PSA) based on external sources including Twitter and Facebook. SAP has developed BusinessObjects Text Analysis to provide the analysis capability and SAP StreamWork to provide the collaboration tools. In fact SAP has recently announced the possibility to integrate StreamWork across all SAP business software, including CRM, thus indicating that this is the future of Social Media integration with the CRM application.

However there are many questions remaining about how best to properly harness Social Media not least how to integrate all this new found knowledge into your processes and strategy, and prevent your teams from drowning in a sea of data. In addition the news that twitter traffic may have peaked just goes to show that the technologies are far from guaranteed as well. So maybe it's right that none of this is yet featured as standard within SAP CRM.

So whilst there are a number of options and avenues through which SAP CRM can be social, there is still plenty of scope for it to become a fully fledged social animal.


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