On New Year’s Eve, 2012, the organization where I ply my trade during the day made a decision to move forward with a deployment of SuccessFactors (an SAP company) and alongside the cloud-based talent applications such as learning, succession planning, compensation, performance amongst others, we decided to also implement Jam – their online collaboration tool.
SAP describes Jam as follows:
SAP Jam delivers social collaboration where you work, connecting customers, partners, and colleagues with information, applications, and processes to solve business-critical problems and to drive results – all in your business applications, on your mobile device, or in SAP Jam.
The description is a bit clumsy and could use some work but if you haven’t used Jam before or seen it in action, I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide a review.
Data Points to Date
We went live with Jam in late summer of 2013, and thus far I’d say we are relatively satisfied with what it can do, and where we’re at as an organization in terms of adoption and usage. Of those who are part of the first deployment — namely Canadian-based full-time team members — roughly 55% of the organization has visited Jam. From there, we’ve seen the following interactions and contributions occur:
- Comments – 1861
- Groups created – 361
- Wiki pages created – 2455
- Videos created – 248
- Photos added – 1196
We already were a somewhat social savvy organization, so the participation rate thus far isn’t surprising … although I still believe it could be much better.
For those concerned about the USA Patriot Act — and perhaps recent NSA discoveries — our instance of Jam is hosted in the Netherlands, not in the USA. This was an important issue for us, and was accommodated by SAP and their European data center.
As Jam is cloud-based — and thus customers can benefit from quarterly enhancements and outsourced hosting responsibilities — the level of customization is minimal. A logo, background colour scheme, and a few other UI changes can be made. To be clear, this isn’t a criticism … it’s simply pointing out the degree of customization should not be an expectation.
Jam can be deployed separate or stand-alone to the SuccessFactors suite, so there are some deployment considerations to be careful about. Jam can be populated with users directly — if used standalone — or users can be sourced from the BizX user tables that feed the rest of the SuccessFactors suite. This caused an issue during the alpha and beta testing stages for us as we had Jam deployed first and then the rest of the BizX / SuccessFactors pieces we were launching in stage one. The hurdle was overcome well before we went live to the organization, but the lesson for others is to ensure you sort through the relationship of Jam to BizX if you are launching other SuccessFactors modules at the same time.
Overall, Jam deployed to the organization easier than some of the other SuccessFactors modules. (I can report back on that another day)
Jam User Experience
One of the reasons we did decide to deploy (and purchase) Jam was to begin the process of consolidating some of our existing social tools – and of course to fully embrace the cloud/mobile experience that Jam does provide. Thus far, the user experience within Jam is allowing us to achieve this stated goal.
The product itself does accomplish what it purports to do … through the use of micro-blogging, blogging, groups, polls, tasks, photos, videos, wiki’s, bookmarks, tagging, links and the directory … it unifies a collaboration experience and creates an environment of mutual interactions.
I can’t possibly go into all the user experience features that are hitting the mark, but I can show a few screen shots to demonstrate my thoughts:
- The Stream
- Easily comment, like, add a photo or video, discussion, task, whatever … it’s Twitter on steroids or perhaps more like Google+ but in a more accessible way (see pic)
- You can easily scan all blog posts at the company, their level of engagement, etc. (see pic)
- Dead simple to create, and even easier to scan/browse all of them across your org (see pic)
- They can be as colourful and engaging as you like while plugging in to the other collaboration tools within Jam seamlessly (see pic)
- Whether through the red bell at the top of the screen or — dependent on how you personally want to set it up — through email notifications, you really can feel synchronously plugged in (see pic)
- User Empowered
- Jam truly is user focused; it removes the need for administrators and librarians to carry on the conversation. (eg. someone even created a Flat Army group – see pic – cool!)
Improvements I’d Like To See
In full transparency, I’ve already relayed these improvements to Sameer Patel — a collaboration colleague of mine if ever there was one — so let’s hope the development and product management teams continue to improve upon its most excellent base.
- Bi-lateral communication/connectivity between SharePoint and Jam
- There is a connector available today, but it is one-way only
- Skills & Projects
- There is great opportunity for Jam — as it plugs into the Career, Learning and Performance modules of SF — to create the coolest and most useful skills & projects tracking piece possible
- There must be a way to delineate between photos in the master view that are profile, wiki-based and knowledge/learning related
- Similarly, videos are an important part of learning, sharing and communicating but there needs to be a better way to categorize and display the videos
- Learning Module Integration
- A greater degree of integration with the Learning module is still necessary
- SAP Stack Integration
- Imagine having Jam inside the SAP Financials stack when employees are doing their expense reports? This could be a huge win for the traditional SAP ERP stack and its UI unfriendly modules
- Profile RSS
- I’d like to be able to add my personal blog’s RSS feed to my personal JAM profile … and more can be brought over from the master record kept within the Employee Profile module of SuccessFactors
- Full mobile experience
- The Android and iOS apps are fantastic, and our team members who use these devices are in heaven. BlackBerry 10 and Windows apps are also a need though … and I suspect other large sized organizations will want apps for all device types particularly with BYOD gaining steam
As someone who crossed the chasm of high-tech gadgetry when Atari first came out, SAP Jam is a keeper. It creates a sticky, collaboration layer of communication and knowledge sharing for employees … while not being overly obnoxious with unnecessary features.
Its mobile experience is superb — aside from the points of improvement above — and the desktop web-version is intuitive and lush with ways in which to collaborate and gets things done. (the real bottom line of a business)
We’re just beginning our journey with SAP Jam, but thus far it’s doing what we wanted it to and we hear of users beginning to push it more and more. That’s ultimately what you want to see; a user base taking it in directions you never even expected.
Alan Lepofsky did a great job writing about the potential of SuccessFactors two years ago – I wonder what he thinks now? You may also be interested in this article from SAP Insider entitled, “How TELUS Communications Benefits from SAP Jam“