What if … it is not the technology?

Published by Tobias Hofmann on

9 min read

The past

The SAP Community Network (SCN) [1] went through some changes in the last 20+ years. 2011 a major change was planned, went live in 2012 and did not work as expected. A new super header for navigation was once rolled out that basically broke the ability to navigate the site effectively. If you came across the header, the header expanded, easily blocking 50% of your screen. We had to accept marketing Ads that either broke the site, consumed too much space or were just making it complicated to consume needed information. The wiki was once a place where you could find useful information. It was once even used to host the SAP vocabulary for OData. I lost count how many times the end of the wiki was announced until it died in November 2023. Over the years, while the servers were still running, content was removed, and the wiki lost its value. Now its transformed into support content. Content now maintained by SAP support experts and found its new home under SAP Help – without being official documentation. With SCN platform changes, blog content adjustments were needed to follow the changes. The option to write documents and publish them as PDF died silently. Authors that did not invest additional time saw their content derogate. Focus changed from content centric to topic centric. Making SCN look nicer by making content discovery harder.

The effects

For the people that contributed content, the migrations came with work: migrate your own content manually or have it look shabby. Update meta information, profile, connections. Or simply hear nothing about your contributions as SAP treats it like a donation. Side effect of choosing SCN as your content platform: have your content deleted because it did not meet the requirements defined by SAP to be migrated. Once it was even a challenge to find content via Google. Dead links everywhere. On top of that the usual problems that always come back, like login. It is hard to find a community site that makes it so hard for their users to contribute. Either it is that the logon simply did not work, that the session was lost after a few minutes, or, like it is currently, that you must authenticate again and again. Plus, the part that even when you manage to contribute, SCN takes no responsibilities to ensure your content is treated nicely by their platform. An example of the lost focus on users could be seen when SCN rolled out the groups feature. It came with a new user management and – of course – a new logon. If you were active there, you had two users and take care of logon for yourself. No wonder the groups area had a rather low interaction content creation rate. Albeit forcing it to at least look a success is always possible: e.g. Octoberfest. Besides the pushed groups, it is a rather silent area on the internet.

The audience left the building

A side effect of all these changes is that the overall quality suffers. SAP employees stepped to fill the gap. First with marketing content. Later also with quality content. While for these SCN is now the go-to platform, less and less people from the main target group [2] see SCN as their primary publishing platform: customers and partners. Those moved e.g. over to LinkedIn. The SAP related content you can find on LinkedIn increased drastically the same time SCN rolled out one change after another. I only can assume that the effort behind SCN is to ensure that content is published and reaches SAP users. Every problem that is solved with an interaction on SCN is one ticket less for SAP to solve. Each hint shared is one more problem solved at customers before it turns into a problem. So, having a high number of users and a high number of interactions must be one of the main goals for SAP regarding SCN. Looking at the SCN published numbers, the impression is that users are moving away. 2007 SCN claimed to have 1 Million members, in 2010 it were 2 Million, 2012 it were 2.5 Million.

Numbers were going up. From 2 million unique visitors in 2012 to 2.73 million unique visitors in 2019. The presentation was once made available in the Wiki, but you guess it: good luck finding it.

Did the 2019 numbers showed the whole truth? Users had to give their agreement to share their profile information thanks to GDPR. Whoever did not do so is now known as an anonymous user. You can guess it: the number of anonymous users increased. People that use SCN actively decreased. I find it harder and harder to know people that actually know SCN – mostly the new joiners to the SAP universe – or people that still use it. It is more like: yeah, SCN exists, I once used it, today, cannot remember the last time I used it. When people come with SCN content, they found it via Google. The whole construct of SCN behind the page they found: they do not really care.

Currently the communicated numbers on the SCN homepage are:

(The online number changes throughout the day)

Even when the previous numbers were optimistic marketing numbers, going down from 2.5 million to 720K is not data cleaning, that’s an exodus. Wondering if people are leaving? The chance to find a post from a former member account is astonishingly high. Was 2012 the year of peak SCN? Is SAP since 2012 managing the decline?


Local user meetups gained traction. People left SCN as a source of information and went to visit SAP Meetups or Inside Tracks. With Covid these events came to an abrupt halt. Will be interesting to see if these formats are going to survive. At the same time other conferences and meeting formats – free or commercial – gained traction. YouTube is nowadays a platform people go to find SAP related information. LinkedIn, of course, and TikTok, Discord, private web sites. What they have in common: they happen outside SCN. This can be seen when looking at the numbers for the official SAP events. This is from the 2012 playbook.

TechEd Barcelona 2019 attracted around 4.500 attendees. Las Vegas in 2019 about 6.000. 2016: 5648, 2017: 5466, 2018: 5481. Compare it to what SAP is offering now: Sapphire in Orlando is still going strong (thanks to co-hosting it with ASUG). The other Sapphire events are invitation only. TechEds on-site in 2022 and 2023 failed to deliver even the lowest expectations. When you fail to build a community, that’s one of the side effects. For 2024: TechEd’s future is virtual, aiming to reach the audience globally. Let’s hope that at least there the number of attendees is 100k+. At the same time, other SAP related events don’t stop growing. Just recently, DSAG broke their own audience record for DSAG Technologietage: 3.000 people participated. Sold out. I think in 2022 it was also sold out. The DSAG annual conference attracts 5.000 people. It seems that the SCN audience loss has indirect impact on the overall SAP event landscape.

The changes

But why all the changes at SCN that lead to the current state? So far, the reason I am aware of for the SCN changes were: updating software, replacing outdated stacks, buy new stack, align with a corporate design, align with marketing wording, implement improvements for internal teams and adhere to internal demand. Internally driven changes with focus on the internal stake holders. They were decided internally at SAP and enforced upon the SCN users. SAP pays for SCN, so that’s OK. Yet, depending on a broad usage group, mainly external users, contradicts how decisions are made. When external users are treated as subordinates that must follow orders and not questioning them, then internal org structures define a product meant for external users. Internal organization and management style are put over interests of external users when deciding what to do with SCN. Again: that’s OK as SAP pays for SCN. Unlikely that this works when your goal is to build a community. Nevertheless, these changes were rolled out without taking the concerns of impacted users into account. Seems no one is asking: what do we have to do to offer value to our external users? No wonder why SCN is losing impact on the daily life of SAP professionals.

What if

SCN will go through another update. This was the answer to any problem in the past, why should this change? Prepare yourself to hear in the future: let’s do another revamp of SCN, bring in new tech, bring in a new design, new something. This is how it was done in the past. Because you guess it: this will bring users and interaction to SCN, add value, drive business impact, etc. But will a technology update solve the problems users have with SCN? Will it make SCN once again an important source for SAP professionals?

What if technology is not solving the problem, as the problem is not caused by technology?

What if instead it is time to change the people? The people behind the last changes are responsible for the new changes? Why not change them instead? Why not bring in new people, new ideas? How about a mindset where the SCN users are not treated as subordinate employees that must follow order and must accept the decisions made? And must be happy and celebrate them? How about putting internal demand and organization back to where they belong: not visible at all in any action that even slightly effects users? How about users first?

[1] I know the name changed from SCN to SAP Community. But the DNS scn.sap.com does still work, so it’s SCN.

[2] Well, let’s just assume that customers and partners are the main target group of SCN.

DSA Number (link):

February 2024: 483,095

April 2024: 478,537

May 2024: 472,061

Let the world know
Categories: SAP

Tobias Hofmann

Doing stuff with SAP since 1998. Open, web, UX, cloud. I am not a Basis guy, but very knowledgeable about Basis stuff, as it's the foundation of everything I do (DevOps). Performance is king, and unit tests is something I actually do. Developing HTML5 apps when HTML5 wasn't around. HCP/SCP user since 2012, NetWeaver since 2002, ABAP since 1998.


Zdenek Zeman · February 29, 2024 at 16:45

Out of curiosity I logged on, probably last time I visited the site was 6 months ago or more. I used sdn.sap.com that still works, so I can still call it SDN (although it’s not).
Don’t have a clue how to find the forums that I used to check, tried a couple of menus but they’re not the right ones.
There is a table with the top contributors, where the top one has 51 points: that’s rookie numbers compared to the previous system, and not even in a sub-forum, in the home page!
Doesn’t look good at all.

Suresh Datti · March 1, 2024 at 19:56

loved reading it.. reminded me the of good old days at SDN.. and even sapfans.com
>>>How about users first? 100%

Peter Baumann · April 13, 2024 at 12:16

Thank you for putting this all togehter. This fits very well to this discussion here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/from-open-exchange-corporate-monologue-transformation-marian-zeis-zu6xf/
I also miss a strategy for SCN/SDN/SAP Community. Topics became much broader these days and the look & feel was better before.

I don’t see it as a trend. Things are changing. But I also have sometimes the feeling that SAP is not seeing much value in the SAP Community. Let’s hope the find back and understand the value of the community.

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