Software like Constellation brings Web 2.0 functionality into an everyday enterprise environment. With collaboration software, several people can work on a project at the same time – or at different times and in different time zones. Dates, facts, and opinions can be exchanged like in a Web forum and all the information can be retained for later viewing.
Dubbed by the IT press as a “Google Wave killer,” Constellation comprises two components: a cloud-based decision-making tool, which runs on the user’s Web browser, and an on-premises installation, which is located on the company’s server. The cloud part is code-named 12sprints and is currently in a closed beta phase. It is slated to be released by mid-2010. The company (on-site) installation is set to follow in the second half of the year.
The sweet spot is five to 30 people
In the online tool, users can set up a project – called an “activity” here by SAP – and then invite as many colleagues to join as they wish by e-mail. According to David Meyer, vice president of emerging technologies for the SAP BusinessObjects solution portfolio at SAP, Constellation is ideal for between five and 30 people who have joined forces to collaborate on an activity at the same time. In the future, SAP plans to incorporate export functions, so that the project data can be made available to a large user group through a wiki or a SharePoint site.
When creating a new project, users can opt for one of seven predefined scenarios – for example, a decision activity or a research activity – or can choose an empty work area instead. In the course of a project, each participant can add new elements to an activity. Currently, users can choose from 17 business tools, which are divided into four categories – basic, coordinating, deciding, and analyzing – and which include management tools such as SWOT analysis, RACI matrix, and cost-benefit analysis.
The catalog also includes basic elements such as a timeline, a device for gathering pros and cons, and a discussion tool. Step by step, SAP envisages adding more business tools to those that are available now. Furthermore, SAP is currently working on integrating data from numerous SAP applications. To enable employees to use the data located in their companies’ SAP systems in Constellation, the on-premises solution must be installed.
Thanks to open Web architecture, smartphones, other devices, and Web services can communicate with Constellation and even integrate contents. Similarly, there are plans to enable Constellation to merge with other products, such as Google Wave. What’s more, SAP intends to set up a marketplace at a later date, where developers can offer their own integration solutions.
As far as the price is concerned, SAP is playing its cards close to its chest. According to David Meyer, three price levels are planned at the moment. One will be a free version, which will have limited functionality.