Think about how you spend your workday. Does most of the work you do follow a linear, defined process? Probably not. Today, work is much more ad hoc in nature than it used to be, with 93% of activities involving solving problems, making decisions, or creating new analyses or data.1
And how about the software and tools that you use to do your job? Does your IT organization provide them all? The reality is that many business users are now inclined toward “self-service IT,” using a mix of user-friendly tools that require little or no reliance on the IT department — and that sometimes aren’t even sanctioned by IT (Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, and YouTube, for example).
Accordingly, a good chunk of work is being performed outside of existing business solutions, which simply do not support the way business people want to work today. In this article, I discuss two critical needs of today’s workforce and highlight two personal productivity tools from SAP — both of which are on-demand solutions — that support this new way of working while also addressing IT’s concerns.
“We are creating solutions to solve customer problems to ensure individual companies and business networks can truly become best run.”
—Marge Breya, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Solutions, SAP
Need #1: A Way to Collaborate, Solve Problems, and Make Decisions — Effortlessly and Effectively
To get work done today, most business people work in teams. In fact, a survey shows that 97% of business people collaborate with colleagues in other functional areas of their company, and 73% collaborate with customers at least once a month.2 Plus, with globalization, business people constantly need to interact across time zones, geographies, and cultures.
Work has become highly interactive, yet most existing business applications still do not support this interactivity. Plus, since most work does not follow a predefined process, every new business activity or project requires individuals or teams to define how they will address any new, unstructured work.
Creating strategies, planning, exception processing, and decision making are types of work that are discussed and defined outside of typical business systems. And workers are using a variety of tools to complete this work — from email, conference calls, and social media tools to collaboration software and mobile solutions — many of which are being acquired without IT’s involvement.
However, these tools do not always ensure participation, informed outcomes, and commitment to following up after a plan has been defined, and they can add to worker chaos and be counterproductive. Consider a marketing manager at a growing startup company with offices worldwide who is trying to select a new product name. The manager needs to ensure the participation of several internal stakeholders and an external branding agency, propose names, collect feedback on each name, and quickly drive the team to a decision. Today, that work is addressed mostly via email, phone conferences, and face-to-face meetings, making it difficult to track specific input from each user, share feedback quickly, and provide visibility to the entire team, thus adding days to the overall time needed to make a decision.
So how do you bring order to the chaos? How do you drive teams toward results?
Bringing Method to the Madness with SAP StreamWork
SAP StreamWork, an on-demand, collaborative problem-solving application, helps bring together people, information, and proven business approaches to make working in teams easier and more effective (see "10 Ways to Enhance Productivity with SAP StreamWork" sidebar). To enable planning, analysis, and decision making, users can apply structure to a discussion by choosing from a built-in catalog of business tools to rank items, establish pros and cons, take polls, create SWOT and priority matrices, and map costs and benefits, for example (see Figure 1).
||SAP StreamWork’s built-in catalog of business tools, such as a pro/con table and a priority matrix, enables users to better support planning, analysis, and decision making among teams
Additionally, users can ensure that their decision making is based on fact by analyzing and discussing data with a team using SAP StreamWork’s integration with SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand. (I’ll discuss this solution in more detail later.) All discussions, documents, data, feedback, and action items are saved for later reference or reuse. Teams not only have transparency throughout the work process, but can learn which decisions yielded the best results for the organization.
SAP StreamWork works with your existing applications, such as your email client, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel. Any company — of any size or industry — can sign up and use the product online for free in a matter of minutes; you only need a web browser. Visit www.sapstreamwork.com to get started.
“With SAP StreamWork, I can add any number of tools or documents to an activity for us to discuss as a team. So when we’re launching a product, I get everyone together on a conference call and [we] brainstorm all that needs to happen to make the product live. Literally, as we’re talking, I will create new items within the launch time frame and assign them to users.”
—Geoff Bartakovics, CEO, Tasting Table, tastingtable.com
Need #2: Instant Insight — for Everyone
Since a large percentage of work performed today focuses on information sharing, data analysis, and decision making, all business people need to access, report, analyze, and share data.
Yet, unfortunately, only 24% of the employees in an organization are using business intelligence (BI) tools today.3 Plus, 77% of business people are aware of bad decisions that are made due to insufficient information, and 60% use “gut feel” to make decisions at least half of the time.4
Why this disparity? While numerous companies have business intelligence tools in their systems, many end users simply do not use them for various reasons. Users may be discouraged by the complexity, inaccessibility, cost, timeliness, and lack of IT support to get the information they need.
So the key question here is, how can you get business data, reports, or dashboards at your fingertips easily, to make decisions on the fly — without needing prior BI experience or a complex technology project?
“Democratizing” Data with SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand
SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand is a self-service BI solution that puts the power of BI in the hands of all business users — not just analysts and developers. It’s true “democratization” of the data; even business people with no previous experience using BI tools can ramp up quickly, bring in data from any source, and begin visualizing information immediately (see “10 Ways to Boost Business Effectiveness with SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand” sidebar).
SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand uses the simple yet powerful SAP BusinessObjects Explorer technology for data exploration and visualization. In a single flow, a business person can upload spreadsheets or data; combine multiple spreadsheets; search and browse data to find answers to key questions; and create charts, graphs, and reports to share with others inside or outside of the company (see Figure 2). Users can also share reports and dashboards created in SAP Crystal Reports, SAP Crystal Dashboard Design, or SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence (see Figure 3).
||With SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand, business people can bring in data from any source and begin visualizing information immediately
||Dashboards in SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand
As with SAP StreamWork, any company — of any size or industry — can sign up and use SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand for free by visiting www.ondemand.com/businessintelligence; no training is needed. For customer success stories, visit www.ondemand.com/customers.
“I was the only one in the company who could design and develop reports. Now, anyone can build these reports. They don’t have to be writers or developers, but can be your average end user.”
—Angie Reese, CRM Business Applications Manager, GENBAND, genband.com
Making IT Happy, Too
SAP StreamWork and SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand are designed to be easy enough for a business person to be up and running in minutes, but these applications also deliver instant value to IT. Both are built with enterprise-level security to address data privacy and security concerns, and the applications are hosted and maintained as part of a company’s subscription, alleviating the need for IT to install software or hardware upgrades and minimizing support costs.
Ultimately, there’s no denying that the nature of work is changing — so SAP StreamWork and SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand are available to help IT embrace and control this new way of working (see “What Does the New Work Style Mean for IT?” sidebar).
More in Store
SAP has taken the lead in delivering solutions that not only improve personal productivity, but enhance the productivity of teams and the organization as a whole — not just today, but for the future as well. Customers can expect a handful of forthcoming SAP integrations for both solutions:
- In the fourth quarter of 2010, for example, look for the SAP StreamWork enterprise edition, which will provide advanced security and provisioning features, as well as the ability to integrate with enterprise systems.
- As for SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand, it now provides advanced reporting and analysis for the Salesforce CRM application and integrates with SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) and the SAP CRM rapid deployment edition. With the SAP CRM rapid deployment edition, companies can take advantage of subscription-based pricing with a limited up-front investment and a rapid implementation timeline.
Get Started Now
SAP StreamWork and SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand are designed to bring productivity to business people quickly and affordably, and in the way that they want to work — naturally, and as part of their daily routine. To begin enhancing your productivity, simply go online and try out the applications now. Sign up for free access at http://www.sapstreamwork.com/ and www.ondemand.com/businessintelligence.
Holly Simmons (firstname.lastname@example.org) manages global marketing for SAP BusinessObjects BI OnDemand and SAP StreamWork. Previously, Holly held roles in product marketing and market development at SAP, and senior-level positions at established companies such as Knight Ridder Digital and Apple, as well as at a number of startups. Holly holds a BS in Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.
1 “Enterprise Knowledge Workers: Understanding Risks and Opportunities,” The Economist Intelligence Unit (2007; http://graphics.eiu.com/upload/SAP_InfoWork.pdf). [back]
2 See previous footnote. [back]
3 BI Scorecard 2009 Successful BI Survey by Cindi Howson. [back]
4 BusinessWeek Research Services (with 675 business executives and managers surveyed). [back]