Idea Communities for Enterprise Software


“Crowd sourcing” is currently one of the most discussed key words among IS and innovation researchers. The major question for both research and business is how to find and leverage the enormous potential of the “collective brain” to broaden the scope of “open R&D”. The integration of customers and stakeholders into a company’s innovation management has received a boost from the open innovation paradigm. Crowds are said to be able to produce more and better results compared to experts dealing with the same subject.

In terms of improving this wisdom of crowds, internet based idea communities represent a suitable approach for integrating stakeholders into a company’s innovation process. Although these communities sound like a familiar way of gaining access to the customer’s innovative strength, there is only limited research dealing with this integration practice in detail. Especially the limited literature on idea communities lacks studies focusing on how to implement an idea community from a technical and organizational point of view.


The main objective is to identify, how an idea community has to be implemented in order to access the innovative strength of SAP stakeholders in a systematic way and to connect to the innovation management process at SAP. SAP can approach innovative community members for recruiting purposes. The employed software represents a methodically and technically engineered tool which improves the implementation of future idea communities in line with the action research paradigm.

The idea community is implemented as an internet-based platform, offering various, theory and best practice based functionalities in order to support participants in elaborating and contributing ideas in a collaborative manner. The platform and organizational parameters are evaluated in regular intervals.


The results of the idea community and its evaluation are returned to the participating software company and to the scientific community, respectively. For practitioners, the research results provides the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of idea communities, suggestions for the organizational link to and opening of innovation management, and a target group specific communication.

In 2009, 152 people participated in the community, contributing 143 ideas. The ideas were evaluated by a jury of SAP experts and academic professionals. Together with the user profiles of the community members, the ideas were provided to SAP. Besides a significant number of scientific publications out of the SAPiens project, a first dissertation has been finished in the course of the project in 2007 (Ebner, W.).

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