Serious bugs force SAP to put brakes on community site upgrade

The launch has been put off until next year

SAP has abruptly put the brakes on a planned upgrade to its massive community network portal, which was set to be rolled out this month, due to a number of lingering, "critical" bugs.

SAP Community Network Senior Vice President Mark Yolton first announced the decision in a blog post late Friday. Yolton followed up on Saturday with additional details about SAP's rationale, as well as an apology and an acceptance of responsibility for the problems.

"Who can we point a finger at for this delay? Easy answer: the buck stops here, with me," he wrote.

The site will now go live sometime early next year, according to Yolton.

"There are a number of technical platform issues that still exist, that are either critical or very important. At the tail-end of a project as it approaches the launch date, I would expect to see the severity of issues declining from 'show-stopper' to 'critical must-have' to 'important' to 'nit-picky like-to-have'... but with just days to go until launch, we were still seeing too many critical issues or bugs, and sometimes the fix to one problem caused another."

Search indexing is not working correctly, making it impossible to map all of the SCN content, Yolton said. "This matters because about half of our community members currently use search rather than browsing and navigating to content, and that use of search will be even more prevalent on a newly organized site where everything is in a new place."

SAP also can't conduct any load testing of the new system until all of its elements are ready to go, he added.

Another issue lies in the new site's more sophisticated blogging functionality. "We are seeing problems with even the blog authors' ability to move their blogs into the correct topic categories, to edit their blogs, to format them easily, and sometimes even to access their own blogs."

In addition, SAP also still needs to work out some kinks with single sign-on and security, Yolton wrote.

Taken one by one, the problems are no more than "minor annoyances" that SAP could remedy after launch, but in aggregate "they are a collective issue we don't want to expose to our members and create the misperception of sloppiness," he added.

The SCN upgrade involves a move to Jive Software's Social Business platform.

But customizations are to blame for the system's remaining quirks, not Jive's underlying technology, and the project's globally distributed development team has slowed down the process of fixing errors as well, he wrote. "By the time issues are found and communicated, fixes are developed, handed back for implementation and testing, and then personally tested by team members, we've seen 24 or 48 hours pass by."

Some project team members have volunteered to work through the holidays to get the new site up more quickly, but "I am not willing to put this project above or ahead of important needs of our people," Yolton added. The workers will perform better if they get a needed break, he wrote.

The episode has drawn a mostly measured reaction from some SAP community members.

"As a frequent user of SDN I have learned to live with its quirks and wanted to get on the new platform as much as everyone else," said one comment on Yolton blog. "If something's not ready for prime time, why push out a half finished product only to meet a deadline?

"The new SCN looks very exciting, but we'd all rather you got it right and released when ready than put out a system which causes problem/pain to its users or isn't ready," another commenter said.

SAP is not the only major software vendor to experience pains when upgrading major customer and user-facing sites.

Oracle's upgrade of its technical forms, which coincidentally also involved software from Jive, ran into a series of performance issues, as did the vendor's next-generation My Oracle Support site.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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