Google may have been the first to launch a widely publicized real-time collaboration platform in Google Wave, but rivals with a more laserlike focus on the enterprise are coming to the fore.
SAP plans to launch 12Sprints, a platform that includes instant messaging and document sharing, into public beta Feb. 2. The business application maker intends 12Sprints, internally known as Constellation, as a Web-based meeting room where corporate employees can virtually congregate for strategy sessions on projects.
David Meyer, vice president of emerging technologies at SAP, provided eWEEK with a demo of the tool. 12Sprints streamlines workflow by letting anywhere from five to 30 users analyze data from enterprise applications, such as a pipeline analysis in a business intelligence tool or purchase order approvals in an ERP system, and discuss the app using chat tools.
Typically, users would view these apps on their computer screen, then hop on instant messaging or the phone to discuss them with coworkers or partners. 12Sprints keeps the sharing, communication and analysis of information within the same environment, letting users message each other to discuss purchase orders and share content in sessions SAP calls activities.
"What we want to do is seamlessly take content from anywhere, bring it into a place where users can connect with anyone in any other system and give them tools on top of that to lead them to be more informed executives, better product managers and a better salesperson," said Meyer, who came to SAP by way of BEA Systems, where he led the company's social computing effort.
In the demo, Meyer showed how a team collaborated on a product package name using 12Sprints, which leverages the iPaper technology from document sharing specialist Scribd.
Meyer showed how team members could simultaneously view a Scribd presentation directly within 12Sprints without leaving the platform. Coworkers could then comment on their work in real time in a messaging window, supported by the XMPP protocol, which Google Wave uses.
12Sprints also has an extension for the Web annotation service Evernote, letting users bring clips created in that app into activities, and an extension for customer feedback app UserVoice.
Unlike Google Wave, whose "waves" were originally available for all to see, activities created within 12Sprints are not public. Participants upload content, but colleagues only see it if they are invited to the activity via e-mail.
Similar to Google Wave, 12Sprints is intended as an open cloud computing environment; Meyer said third-party developers can write or port apps to the environment through REST APIs.
Later this year, SAP will add publishing features to let users export content as PDFs and other formats for use in Microsoft SharePoint or the Google Sites wiki.
Participants who get invited into a 12Sprints session may do so for free. Meyer declined to comment on general availability or pricing for 12Sprints, which comes after Google has tested Google Wave for months, rolling it out first to thousands and then to more than 1 million users.
SAP's platform also comes as IBM is plotting Project Vulcan, its own effort to marry enterprise application data and business intelligence with collaboration and social computing software.
IBM plans to launch Vulcan, for which a demo may be viewed here, to developers from IBM Lotus Labs later this year.