SAP Research is a hidden group almost with hundreds of researchers around the world working on a variety of projects like semantic interoperability, data management and analytics and more. For instance they have been using Google Wave (Gravity) for instance for collaborative BPM, some iphone applications and some cool technology using text analytics.
We discussed the Google Wave project (though getting onto Wave turned out to be really difficult) and the folks at SAP Research think Google Wave has lots of potential for bringing less technical folks into process design. Using the Google web toolkit they have built a BPMN based process modeling tool that uses Google Wave so that collaborators can see changes in real time and work together on a process model. They will also be allowing these models to be exported for use in other design tools. The playback feature of Google wave is particularly interesting as every interaction in the model – comments, new nodes etc – is recorded and a participant joining later can replay the development process as it unfolded. With annotation and various “bots” to do things like check model integrity, the environment should support both asynch work and allow people working on a project to do so simultaneously, while on the phone talking for instance.
We had an interesting discussion of the value of collaborative rules modeling – the development of rulesets or decision tables or perhaps rule flows in a similar fashion. Hopefully SAP, unlike the other companies producing in-cloud collaborative BPM modeling tools, will add some support for rules.
The SAP Research folks also discussed and showed their Yowie project which I saw at the demo jam last night. This is a very cool application that uses text analytics and context to analyze an email or document to find references to real SAP artifacts and allow you access to them. For instance, you get an email with information about delayed orders and the application picks up the order numbers, customer names, sender etc and uses the SAP application to give you access to the details of the orders, customers or sender. The text analytics do entity extraction/identification from the text and then use an appropriate a web service to drill into the details of those entities. Yowie can access SAP services or third party services like Google Maps. This is a great use of text analytics – obviously useful and straightforward to use. Any group that gets lots of emails or unstructured messages would find this useful – HR departments with emails about employment issues, customer service emails, order management.
Two very nice examples of how research adds value in a company like SAP.