SAP's enterprise collaboration tool entering public beta

An upcoming enterprise collaboration tool from SAP that has echoes of Google Wave will enter public beta Tuesday.

Code-named 12Sprints, the application serves as a sort of virtual war room, allowing users to solve business problems collaboratively, in real time. It is organized around activities that use a variety of "method" tools, such as a pro vs. con chart or SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) matrix.

12Sprints, which will be renamed once it becomes generally available, takes a "radically open" approach to integration and access, said David Meyer, senior vice president of emerging technologies.

"When you’re in the enterprise, in the workforce, you’re often frustrated. A lot of that has to do with systems you’re forced to use," he said. "We want to empower people to do their best work whatever way they want."

That means pulling in data from SAP's own applications, rival offerings such as Wave or Microsoft SharePoint, or even a spreadsheet on the user's own desktop. SAP is also betting that customers will want to integrate 12Sprints with its on-demand BI (business intelligence) software, allowing them to perform advanced analyses.

A general launch of 12Sprints will come "not too long" after the start of the public beta, Meyer said, but in one sense, the beta period will never end. That's because SAP plans to release monthly updates and some features will always be in beta, according to Meyer. SAP is getting tips on new features from testers, and the tool makes it easy for users to add suggestions and rate ones others have made.

"Our whole idea is to learn from usage," he said.

Early interest has been strong, according to Meyer. SAP conducted a "developer challenge" recently that resulted in a passel of "amazing submissions," from Android and iPhone clients to deep integrations with ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, he said.

To the latter end, SAP is also working on an on-premises component to 12Sprints, which will let users tap securely into their company's various data stores. Meyer declined to say when it will be available.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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