Online Communities Mean Business

When it comes to social media strategies for business, aggregating customer conversations  on Facebook, orchestrating tweets and building interactive, online newsrooms are commonplace. While these techniques are critical to build brand awareness and engage with customers on a more personal level, recent research from Forrester suggests that online forums and discussion groups have become even more important social media tools for business, especially when it comes to purchasing decisions. Here’s more, taken from the independent December 30, 2010 Forrester Research, Inc. report, “When To Socialize Online With B2B Buyers”: 

 “As a source for answers to business problems they need to solve and for the ability to tap into a broader network of peers, business decision-makers are making greater use of social media for business purposes. Business buyers told us that they plan to make more use of emerging information sources to inform and validate their purchase decisions…Half [of 1,011 business decision-makers surveyed at firms with 100 or more employees]  say that they will add online forums and discussion groups to their real-world professional networking groups.”

From its inception, SAP Community Network has enabled customers to solve problems using social tools via forums and discussions. Current SAP Community stats speak volumes: Over two million members across 200 countries and territories and 20,000 new members joining every month. Why are so many people in different roles active in SAP Community Network?

For some, it’s the chance to quickly get answers to questions without having to open a support ticket. For others, SAP Communities provide rich content and insight (i.e. blogs, podcasts, and eLearning) that simply cannot be found anywhere else. Oftentimes, this information is used to build business cases for future IT investments and provide guidance on implementation upgrades.

So, social media, broadly defined, is wired into the DNA of SAP Community Network. Yes, it has extended its reach through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts that are active and vibrant, but more importantly, does it deliver the information most valued by business decision makers? The following examples provide a clear-cut answer.

Walt Disney Builds Business Case Momentum

“The people who are writing blogs about In-Memory, HANA and mobility are the actual people that are leading these efforts at SAP,” said David Hull, a solution architect at Walt Disney. “So you’re getting the story directly from the source – the folks who are actually responsible for developing these cutting edge technologies. I can’t think of a better tool to keep me informed on how things are going to work and how they affect me and the applications I have installed at the company.”

In short, Hull’s responsibility is to add value to the company. So when he finds something beneficial he must make a business case for it. A lot of the business case information he needs resides within SAP Community Network blogs. Contacting the authors of the blogs and people who have commented on them is also part of Hull’s business case equation. “We have to make a very solid business case for these projects before they get approved and allowed to proceed to the proof of concept stage,” said David. “That’s why events like SAP TechEd and the blogs on the community network are valuable. Someone is offering instruction on what they are doing, how they are doing it and where they are taking it.”

Fairfax Water Taps Additional IT Resources

Like most businesses these days, Fairfax Water, the largest public water utility in Virginia, has to do more with fewer resources. With only 400 employees, the company runs lean, yet manages to serve about 1.7 million customers. How do they do it? Tammy Powlas, senior business analyst of Fairfax Water said it has something to do with the power of SAP for Utilities solutions. But that’s not all. It seems Fairfax is thirsty for more insight about how to get the most out of their current and future SAP investments. Enter, SAP Community Network.

“We have 1.7 million customers using the SAP utility solution so that makes us slightly unique compared to others,” she said. “And that’s why we rely on SAP Community Network. We’re a small shop that’s called upon to handle a variety of different tasks.”

Powlas said she is currently knee-deep in a handful of projects related to SAP Solution Manager and SAP IT Service Desk Operation. Both will help Fairfax better manage its IT processes, especially within SAP. “There are  a lot of good SAP Solution Manager blogs on the community network that we’ve used quite a bit for guidance.”

Baylor College of Medicine Cures IT Ailments

Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, the only private medical school in the U.S. Greater Southwest, is recognized as a premier academic health science center and is known for excellence in education, research, and patient care. Tens of millions of dollars of BCM equipment are spread throughout Houston in more than 50 different locations, most of it not owned or managed by the college. With doctors constantly re-locating and departments lending, sharing, and moving some of these (approximately 10,000) devices around, the need for a robust tracking system is critical. That’s why BCM relies on the SAP NetWeaver Mobile application to keep things straight. Under the prior process, inventory specialists sometimes had to return three or four times to a location to verify results for a single piece of equipment. 

Paul Sammons, Senior SAP Business Analyst and Wireless Goods Movements Project Lead for Baylor refers to SAP communities first before opening a support ticket. “If you have a problem the SAP community Newtwork is a great place to visit to see what other people are doing about it,” he said. “I have found a lot of great insight from some of the communities within the community that rally around a certain module or topic like mobile applications. It’s also great for day-to-day tips setting up configurations. If you take the time to explore the SAP communities you can generally find answers to your problems and it’s very easy to understand.”