I had a great meeting with Mark Yolton, yesterday, one of my two co-authors on The Living Enterprise, a book about SAP's ecosystem. We talked mostly about people in SAP communities who might have cool stories to share for the book.
But Mark also gave me a new example of lethal generosity, a term I've written about previously here and in Twitterville. The concept is based on the observation that the people and companies who are most generous in social media companies are also the most influential. And those who just promote their self-serving agenda very often fail. By being more generous to customers than your competitor, you essentially eclipse them in the eyes of people who would buy or recommend your products or services.
Yesterday, Mark mentioned the SAP Community Network (SCN) Job Board. At first this seemed pretty uninteresting, but as he explained, it got a lot better. Mark, who heads up SAP communities said the company spends a lot of time just observing its community conversations.
Not that long ago, his team noticed a lot of people saying they needed jobs. Simultaneously, others were saying they needed to hire. In fact some of those companies couldn't buy more SAP software because they were short tech staff to install and deploy it.
So SCN created a community job board where friction is reduced and employment holes are filled, thus letting customers buy and use more software. A sweet touch is that SAP doesn't post for jobs on its own job board. It refuses to compete for talent against its own customers and partners.
"If we make customers more prosperous," Mark told me, "we prosper."
But here's the part that makes it lethal generosity, in my view. As far as SAP knows none of its competitors have job boards. If an Oracle customer wants a fast, free way to find quality developers to hire, it would have to switch to SAP. If one of SAP's customer's competitors wanted to access talent, it would have to become an SAP customer for the access.
It was interesting to learn about other plans SAP has to gain competitive advantage by monitoring its own communities to spot early trends. For example, it might notice that there's suddenly a lot of conversation is taking place in and about Turkey or perhaps Brazil indicating that software sales in that country is heating up and it can inform its sales organization to adjust course accordingly.
I've heard very few cases of enterprises using communities to directly impact sales in such a way. It is part of the ecosystem approach that seems to me to integrate social media tools with the entire company's needs.
I like that.
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