My Fear for SAP StreamWork: Too Special Purpose

SAP recently shifted 12sprints (which I reviewed in February), its collaborative decision-making service, out of beta and into production. It has a new name: SAP StreamWork.

From the features page:

Give structure to discussions and create a collective view with business methods: When maneuvering in unexplored territories, use proven pre-configured, interactive business tools to brainstorm, strategize, build consensus, and drive fast decision-making. Choose from the built-in catalog to select business tools:

– Agenda – build meeting agendas and revise in real-time as the plan changes.
– Ranking – create and prioritize a list with the team.
– Pro/con table – add pros and cons with comments from each contributor.
– Consensus – make a proposal, collect feedback, and get the team on the same page.
– Quick poll – collect input quickly on key questions for the team.
– SWOT matrix – analyze the competition.
– Cost/benefit analysis – map options to help highlight the best opportunities.
– Responsibility matrices – identify team responsibilities using proven approaches (RACI, DACI, ARCI, RASIC).

Make the best decisions by working from the same information: Upload and share documents to ensure the entire team is making the best decisions based on the current facts. Develop hypotheses and analyze with the team using intuitive data exploration and visualization technology.

The service looks great … so … what’s the problem?

My fear for SAP is that they will be unable to find a sufficient number of people who will need to use StreamWork on a regular basis — daily ideally, weekly at a minimum. If SAP is unable to do this, and people use StreamWork less frequently, it will become used less and less … because of (a) the hassle of setting up a decision room, (b) the infrequency with which it happens which means that people have to think hard each time to do it (too much thinking!), and (c) the overhead of inducting new users to it on a continual basis. Note that this has got nothing to do with the power of the individual tools or the overall service as such. Rather, it’s because SAP has created a special purpose product (service) with a particular use case in mind … which is well and good … except that if they don’t find a quorum of frequent users, the effort will splutter and fail.

What’s the other part of the equation? People also have general purpose collaborative working tools available … online and within the enterprise. While these general purpose tools aren’t as feature/function pure as StreamWork, if people are using general purpose tools on a regular basis, they will have a greater likelihood of making do with those for collaborative decision making purposes too. In situations where decision making tasks are regular, and greater functionality to support decision making is needed, my sense is that people will ask their IT support people to develop decision making specific extensions to what they already have, rather than run after a new tool such as StreamWork.

Net-net: while StreamWork is a “good purposeful addition to the online collaboration world” (my net-net from February), I think SAP will struggle to find adoption against general purpose “good enough” substitutes.

What would you do if you had a general purpose tool — SharePoint, Lotus, Confluence — and needed to do collaborative decision making. Use StreamWork or “make do” with what you have?