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SCN Hub for the Tech Savvy
Vimali Swamy
Sunday, December 7, 2008
India is gradually shattering its image of being a mere service provider, to emerge as a land of technology innovations, thanks to the new breed of technology enthusiasts. SAP, with its SAP Community Network (SCN) is one of the few companies that is cashing in on this tech savvy populace. Launched just four years ago, SCN today has about a million and a half members globally, with a sizeable proportion from India. About 300,000 of the 450,000 members in the APAC region are from India, making the country many folds ahead of the other large countries like China, Japan, and Korea, which have about 40,000 members each.

India has played an essential role in the growth of SCN. SAP Labs India, Bangalore is the company’s biggest R&D center outside its headquarters in Germany, with about 4,000 SAP professionals. Apart from these SAP professionals, SCN sees an active participation from the company’s customers, partners, business experts, and independent users.

The vibrancy in this Web-based forum is palpable with more than 6,000 online posts per day. Enthusiastic members are always eager to contribute to the knowledge pool through various channels like discussion posts, wikis, and blogs. About 2,000 bloggers worldwide blog everyday, most of whom are not even SAP employees

Techies are coming to the website in droves and registering themselves to take advantage of the vast pool of information available within the network. But how does SAP keep them hooked on? Every time there is a query posted in the forum, the solution seeker awards points to his peers for answering his queries. The quantum of points depends on the complexity of the problems, time to response, and quality and completeness of the solution. There are enough incentives to garner these points. There is also the added motivation of being recognized for technical contribution. Once an individual consultant starts contributing regularly, he gets recognition, and his efforts become part of his business card and personal profile. Depending on the points, SAP keeps track of the top contributors. Of the 6,144 top contributors who reached 250 points or above, a large number are Indians.

The SCN grew from one million members in 2007 to 1.5 million this year, registering a 50 percent growth, but the number of Indians is growing much faster than the global rate. The areas of attraction for techies in India are Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Java, and Business Process Management. There is a lot of curiosity for the bleeding edge technology and competency amongst techies in India, says Mark Yolton, SVP, SAP Community Network. This is quite different from other geographies where techies show more interest in the business aspect of the industry vertical. In the U.S.A. and China the areas of interest are consumer goods and products and manufacturing respectively. But slowly the curiosity for business is increasing amongst the Indians too. The business process expert community (BPX), which was introduced a year ago, has registered over 170,000 members from here. Through this new community, SAP is targeting business analysts and consultants by providing a common platform to mend the chasm between the techies and the business-modeling experts. The ideal profile of an expert is a combination of deep knowledge of business and flair for technology.

In order to take the network beyond virtual activity, SAP conducts several annual events. The biggest is the SAP TechEd that is conducted in four major regions. Since this September, SAP has held TechEds at Las Vegas, Berlin, Shanghai, and Bangalore. Apart from this, there are also about 60 Tech Tours that the company conducts worldwide. In India itself, SAP had conducted 2 Tech Tours this year.

BT Narasimha, who heads SCN in India, has been playing a key role in keeping up the activity levels in this region. His responsibilities include engagement with system integrators (SI), involvement with Lab's India employees to share knowledge and help move in global fashion. Over the years, SCN has made a mark as a training forum as well. Many companies that work with SAP ask their employees to be active in this forum in order to hone their skills. The reach of the community has also gone beyond the corporate realm to the training institutes and colleges.

But how has all this helped SAP in return? Value of new technology and innovation are flowing back into SAP. The company wants to use this platform to help people grasp its technology, co-innovate to improve it, and create value for its customers with differentiation. The company sees a shortage of about 10,000 SAP professionals in the market by 2010. With initiatives like SCN, it hopes to close this margin and bail out from this issue.

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