Intranets, weak in design and clumsy to use, tend to be necessary evils if they're thought about at all. SAP has set out to change that with Jam Collaboration, a product it launched in 2012 and that last month passed the 34 million subscriber mark.
(For context, SAP points out, 33 million people live in Tokyo, the world's largest city; 21 million use a Fitbit; and 8 million people watch Game of Thrones.)
Most intranet software was built as a communication medium—it wasn't at all specific, Steve Hamrick, vice president of product management at SAP, told eWEEK.
"We focused on specific areas where we could say 'let's bring things together'—things that HR or sales or marketing have to do on a daily basis," said Hamrick. "And that's been the key to success—creating not just a general framework but one pre-built for solving business problems."
Jam Collaboration is cloud-based and can be deployed by any company, whether it's an SAP customer or not. Hamrick said SAP identified about 19 work patterns, from training new employees to problem solving to extending learning experiences, on which Jam Collaboration focuses. It makes it simple to create a space—an online room—where the right people and materials can be securely brought together toward a goal.
In an SAP informational video, for example, a project manager solves a design flaw by gathering together first his vendors, to ask about their experiences, and then also a group of topical experts within the company, who can collaboratively trouble-shoot.
Another very popular use is training, or what's increasingly referred to as "employee development," Hamrick said.
"Companies are facing a lot of challenges right now," he said. "There are five generations in the work force right now … and continued movement with the economy changing. People need new skills."
While a company may pay to bring a group together for instruction, often those people may never see each other, or communicate, again. With an online class in Jam, Hamrick said, there's a lot more opportunity to stay engaged and keep learning, and all the classroom materials live in one spot.
"Some companies have students write blog posts about what they learned," he adds. "That kind of sharing helps them retain what they learned."
Another opportunity, rather than trading dozens of emails, is creating a space where a rep can field questions from a prospect, ideally getting ahead of a request for proposal so he or she can shape what the questions are.
"It becomes an engagement place even after the sale is made," Hamrick continued. "And sometimes, accounts change hands, or people leave. But this is one spot where everything exists, and you can see who downloaded what, what questions were asked, who was involved. All that becomes very valuable."
According to SAP, the solution's recent uptick in growth—while Jam Collaboration launched in 2012, it grew by 70 percent in less than 12 months—has to do with the fact that it integrates "directly into the tools, work processes and technologies that employees use every day to make them more effective," the company said in a statement.
It may also have to do with Jam's mobile-first approach. When most established enterprises launched their intranets, mobile wasn't an issue. Now, their in-house solutions aren't up to the task of supporting the moving pieces of their businesses.
"A good chunk of our customers selected Jam Collaboration before they had an SAP investment," said Hamrick. "Then they said, 'This is working out so well. Let's look at what else you have.'"