Listening to customers and then developing tools that perfectly solve their business problems may seem like common sense for BI software makers, but it hasn’t always been the case. In the not-so-distant past, new releases were based purely on mysterious in-house choices made by product development teams. The new features added were mostly what they perceived to be the needs of users or were requested by a single deep-pocketed customer. New releases always came with some new functionality, but they also left customers craving more. The product development team just didn’t know it. There has always been a major disconnect between users and the vendor’s software development team. Thankfully, that model is changing.
The crowdsourcing of functional improvements has taken off and is providing user communities with the perfect avenue for getting their voices heard. This method of taking popular ideas from the general public to the product developers especially rings true for the SAP ecosystem with the creation of SAP Idea Place. This collaborative community-driven site gives users the opportunity to submit ideas to be voted on by other members of the community for future evaluation. If enough “thumbs ups” are received, the idea is evaluated by the product development team. Finally – now we have an opportunity to formally pitch our ideas to the “mother ship.” And we all have the power to help shape future releases of our favorite SAP tools.
How exciting is it to know that you can submit an idea for a new feature and then actually see it become part of a future release? Users are seeing their fingerprints now in over 80 different SAP products as a result of SAP Idea Place. Needless to say, customer satisfaction is up.
Online Forums and BI Communities
Every major BI vendor has an online community forum with its own devout following. These types of forums are extremely helpful when technical issues arise and answers to real-world issues are needed ASAP. Perhaps the “granddaddy of them all” is the legendary BusinessObjects Board, known affectionately in the SAP BI community as simply BOB. This forum has been an incredible source of knowledge for the last 12+ years and is still going strong. SAP also offers its own site that does a great job with managing tons of quality content helpful to its community members. This form of knowledge share is a valuable resource to users of all levels and is appropriately named – SAP Community Network (SCN).
Stuck in a jam with a sticky SAP BusinessObjects issue? Check out BOB or SCN. Mostly likely someone else has experienced the same issue, and one of the worldwide community experts has already posted a helpful solution.
Tips for Using SAP’s Idea Place
Over 80 products are available for idea contribution. They can be found in one of the following seven categories.
- Business Applications
- Database & Technology
You can help steer the direction of future products in a few different ways on Idea Place. Here are the three ways that you can participate:
- Submit a new idea
- Vote on previously submitted ideas
- Comment on existing ideas to create a dialogue within the community
Below are the different status levels of ideas:
- Under Review
- Not Planned by SAP
- Needs More Info
- Already Offered
- For Future Consideration
Probably the most exciting status is when one of your ideas gets upgraded to “Accepted.” That’s because it’s basically SAP’s way of saying, “Great idea. Our developers will be adding your idea to a release or service pack in the near future.” Once it’s added the “accepted” status is further upgraded to “delivered.” To date, there have been a whopping 74 ideas delivered by SAP in the Web Intelligence category alone.
Below are just a few of the ideas submitted through Idea Place that were delivered in an official release:
- Hyperlinks on images in Web Intelligence
- Hide/disable design mode from report consumers
- Edit existing merged dimensions
- Custom color palettes
- Remove 65k row limit for exporting to Excel
- Freeze headers on data tables
- “All values” optional in Input Controls
The collective wisdom of crowds is proving that it can indeed be a successful driver for improving the quality and effectiveness of BI software. SAP Idea Place has verified that and continues to do so.