SAP is taking a run at Salesforce with a new analytics platform that mines social networks and internal company data for sentiment and contact insights. If a number of customers on Facebook are complaining about a product or service, for example, SAP Social Contact Intelligence will surface those complaints for employees tasked with handling them. When applied to an internal source (i.e., an organization or corporation), the platform can help ferret out influencers and relevant contacts for a particular issue. As with a growing number of SAP products, SAP Social Contact Intelligence is powered by SAP HANA, the company’s speedy in-memory technology. While SAP has made an enormous bet on HANA as a competitive differentiator, other tech firms (IBM, SAP, and Oracle chief among them) are making their own inroads into the in-memory arena. But that doesn’t mean SAP can’t return the favor. By entering the social-data arena, SAP is treading on territory currently occupied by large firms such as Oracle, IBM and Salesforce, along with smaller ones like Spotter (which recently issued an analytics platform capable of identifying sarcastic comments). Sophisticated sentiment analysis is obviously valuable, as it allows companies to better respond to customer complaints and judge how strategies are working in the real world, but it also comes with a full set of underlying complications. Although Big Data is primarily a business of hard math, human emotion is stuffed with ambiguities that are difficult for an algorithm to read with any accuracy. Without a lot of engineering work and an attention to the nuances of everyday communication, there’s the specter of devising a social-analysis platform that gets pretty much everything wrong. As part of the SAP Customer Engagement Intelligence platform, SAP Social Contact Intelligence leverages sophisticated predictive analytics, natural language processing (NLP), and other features. Customer Engagement Intelligence also includes an application for discovering and targeting new audience segments, as well as tools for managing accounts and gaining additional insight into customers. SAP better hope that software can help it make an impression in what’s becoming a very packed field of competitors.   Image: ra2studio/