Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More thoughts on 12Sprints.com

This post is a follow up to my initial review of 12Sprints.com, the innovative new collaboration tool from SAP. That review was based on about a half day of using 12Sprints.com with a colleague or two, but without any real business need driving my use. For that review, I had the chance to exercise a large fraction of the end-user features of 12Sprints.com, but in an artificial, reviewer context.

Since that review, I've had the chance to work with the tool for a few more weeks, with a handful of additional colleagues, working on a more realistic scenario. I've also exchanged thoughts and analysis about 12Sprints.com with others ranging from social media experts to business process and SAP experts.

In my initial review, I suggested that SAP really needed to connect 12Sprints.com to SAP's business applications and business intelligence products, if SAP wanted to deliver the maximum value with the tool. In addition, I wrapped up with:
In the end, 12Sprints.com seems like a good tool for planning and capturing meetings, and supporting collaborative planning and decisions. To really get the value out of this tool would seem to require a good deal of discipline. Just as a reminder, I only played with the tool a little, I didn't really get a chance to use the tool "in anger." Using the tool in a real corporate setting would almost certainly have resulted in more insight about the tool, and it is quite possible that I would be its biggest fan if I used it in that setting. But after playing with 12Sprints.com for a couple of hours, I have to wonder whether - if you had enough discipline for the tool to be of use to you, would you still need the tool?
Now, having had a bit more time with the tool, and worked with it on a realistic business problem, I believe that my initial impressions largely have been confirmed. In short:
  • This is an interesting tool, and it is encouraging that SAP is thinking along these lines, pursuing those thoughts, and using this kind of public beta approach to bring this type of innovation to market.
  • 12Sprints.com is interesting, but not terribly distinguished from other online collaboration tools for business.
  • SAP can distinguish 12Sprints.com by integrating it with business processes and enterprise data, including the Business Suite and Business Objects. This is an area few other collaboration tool providers are venturing into, and one where SAP has a natural advantage. If SAP does take this path, it is likely that 12Sprints.com can deliver real value to enterprises. This likely would result in new customers for SAP, new users within SAP's installed base, and greater customer satisfaction for SAP's existing customers.
As users question the annual maintenance fees they currently pay, let alone the increases SAP has planned, a few topics come up again and again. What value do I get for my maintenance cost? What is SAP doing to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) of SAP? What is SAP doing to engage with users other than a few people in finance, HR, and manufacturing? With the right integration into business processes and enterprise data, tools like 12Sprints.com could help SAP offer better answers to some of these questions. I look forward to following this tool, and SAP's other innovation efforts, as they evolve.

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