SAP making StreamWork its collaboration hub

SAP is integrating StreamWork with its core ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications

SAP is attempting to give its StreamWork problem-solving software a more central role within customers' IT environments by linking the applications to its core ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, the vendor announced Wednesday.

Some of the integration work is already completed, including links to SAP PLM (product lifecycle management) and CRM (customer relationship management). Planning is under way to connect StreamWork to SAP's BI (business intelligence) software as well, with more down the road.

StreamWork customers would buy the application links "as either pre-packaged solutions from SAP (or consultants) or as small consulting engagements from SAP or consultants," according to a spokesman.

First released last year, StreamWork has been called a "virtual war room" where users can log in and hash out answers to problems, regarding one-off business issues or ongoing projects.

The SaaS (software as a service) application provides a number of widgets called "methods," such as a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) matrix or a pro-versus-con table, which can be used to figure out answers. It also features document and data sharing as well as tie-ins to a number of other applications, including Google Docs and Scribd.

While Streamwork is not meant to replace well-established products like Microsoft SharePoint, the company is "committing to StreamWork being the collaboration environment for all of our applications," said Jack Miller, global vice president, global collaboration and cloud analytics.

A basic edition of StreamWork is available at no cost. Paid versions are available starting at US$9 per user per month. The Enterprise Edition includes a behind-the-firewall component that provides features like Active Directory connectivity and single-sign on.

StreamWork, which was first released last year, so far "has been a huge success from our standpoint," with thousands of companies using it today, Miller said.

As for the percentage of paying customers, "I can't really say right now, but it's a good blend," he said. StreamWork has averaged more than 100 percent quarter-over-quarter growth since the product's launch, according to a spokesman.

It seems the software isn't generating massive amounts of revenue for SAP just yet, though, according to one observer.

"What we see is StreamWork generating a lot of interest among the client base, and it's a good showcase of the innovations SAP is capable of," said analyst Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research. "What we're not seeing is a lot of paid adoption."

However, SAP's decision to integrate StreamWork with its business software is the right move, since the ability to pull in data from back-end systems will give the tool much more enterprise context, said Jon Reed, an independent analyst who closely tracks SAP.

Reed is a StreamWork user himself, for projects he conducts with other SAP "Mentors," the name given by the vendor to especially involved and prominent community members.

"I see value in it. It's kind of a useful way for a team of people to attack a project and figure out what the next steps are," Reed said. "You're able to push stuff along."

But SAP still has "all kinds of usability stuff they need to address" in StreamWork, Reed added. Some of the improvements he and others have suggested may be coming in a later version, he added.

SAP should be careful not to place too much focus on integration versus improving StreamWork's look and feel, since end-users will have to be dazzled enough to pick it over habitual, more ad-hoc methods of collaboration, according to Reed.

"You want it to be so easy to use that someone would choose it over a conference call or an e-mail thread," he said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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