Consider this a rant !!! Be warned. Words will not be minced. No punches will be pulled. Feelings might get hurt. Cover the ears of the sensitive. Hide your women and children. Lock your doors if necessary. I’ve only just begun! (haha) You might ask “Chris!…you’re always such a laid back guy…so easy-going…why are you all worked up?!?!?!” You will find that this blog is a bit of a departure from my usual. Well, let me explain….
It’s no secret that I enjoy HCM P&F. I think my many blogs covering it and my forum posts trying to help others get into this area as easily as possible so they can see what I see have proven that. Now, I might throw a few jabs here and there at it, but at the end of the day, that is all just for some fun and laughs. Honestly, I do enjoy HCM P&F and working with it. Surprisingly enough, what’s most frustrating to me of all, however, is not that the technology does not work (it does!) or that it’s got some framework breaking bugs (it doesn’t !) or any such of other common gripe someone might have when a new product is rolled out. HCM P&F works! I’ve done it. I’ve seen it first hand. Nope, it’s none of the usual stuff.
My biggest gripe quite simply comes down to just one thing…..dollars. Yep, it’s the cost. No matter how wonderful and awesome I think HCM P&F is, or even how great clients see it’s possibilities, it all comes down to cost….or as one of my favored sayings goes “if we ain’t talkin’ dollars, it don’t make no cents (sic)!” (haha)
I can not tell you how many of my own clients and prospective clients as well as others I hear about have gone down the path to seriously consider implementing HCM P&F (some even well into their projects!) when everything grinds to a sudden halt and stops completely or gets “postponed until a later date” when they finally get word of how much HCM P&F (namely Adobe licensing) will cost……Can I get an “amen” from my HCM P&F friends? (haha)
So what does it cost? Glad you asked!….because it will depend on who you ask, when you ask and what you ask as well. I think they almost go out of their way to try to make it as the most painful and confusing process you will go through. Hang on for a fun ride! (haha)
The overall main “cost” with HCM P&F will come down to the licensing for Adobe Interactive Forms. As much as SAP seems to sings the praises of Adobe Interactive Forms and has been pushing it like crazy in all their own marketing material, you would think they would make this extremely affordable in order to increase the adoption of their strategy to move to Adobe forms. But that seems quite the opposite when you see it put on paper. In a nutshell, here is pretty much what SAP states and can be found in any one of many presentations (if any of this is incorrect, please correct me in the comments below!)…
Even though it is an Adobe license, you have to go through SAP to get the license. Furthermore, it can not be “bundled” with an existing Adobe license you might have. (OK, so reading between the lines, I see this as “SAP is selling for Adobe so SAP wants their “cut” of the sales….no biggy there.)
For print forms, no additional cost. (ok, so this is like replacing our good ol’ SmartForms/SAPScripts with Adobe forms…no biggy)
For SAP supplied interactive forms, no additional cost. (ok, so they give them to us, so no cost to use….I can see that)
For SAP supplied interactive forms which have been only aestheticly customized, such as changing a SAP logo to your logo or changing a color or changing font style/family/size, no additional cost. (makes sense….we aren’t really changing anything other than the “look”).
For SAP supplied forms that have been changed more than aestheticly such as moving or hiding form fields, there is an additional cost. (what? same form with just some things moved around or hidden? That’s not really a change is it?)
For custom interactive forms, there is an additional cost. (hmmmm…..make note of this….here comes the BIG one!)
Sooooo……that last bullet point seems to be the one where we might incur an additional cost past just the Adobe license then eh? “So what is that cost?”……brace yourself….please make sure you are sitting down and/or holding a guard rail firmly…..the cost is…..*drum roll*….
…PER FORM PER USER!!!!
From the outside, someone is probably thinking “what’s the big deal?”. In most cases, how bad could it be? CRM? SRM? Those that know HCM P&F however will see the immediate issue. Our processes….the flow of them….are all handled by the collection and exchange of data in the forms! Here’s an example for you…..a typical HCM P&F might have say 3 steps in it….this might use 2 different forms….so that’s 2 forms to license then right? With me? But there’s more…..OK…..the first form might be used by all managers (X number of users)….the second might be used by HR admins (Y number of users). Sooooo just in that simple…VERY simple…3 step process, we have:
form1 x (#X users) + form2 x (#Y users) = $$$
…..now consider a process that uses a form for ALL employees……or a process that includes maybe 14 steps and 10 different forms…….or possibly rolling out 8-10 processes. Can you see now how this cost becomes absolutely insane?!?!?!?! Just to get one process going could be a HUGE cost….let alone 5-10 processes!
Until we get some resolution, here is the immediate argument I often hear (typically, again, from those not working with HCM P&F and that don’t know better)…..”But you get all those delivered processes from SAP, why would you build a bunch of your own?”….Forgive me….I had to stop laughing first. That suggestion is just….yeh. The processes SAP delivers are SAMPLES and noted as such. In fact, directly from SAP “help” documentation, it reads “You may not use the sample processes for productive implementation. Rather, you must copy them as customer-specific processes.” These samples are also very basic. They are no where near what you would see in a real business process. They are more to illustrate particular configuration settings, form development, scripting and services, and other things to serve more as teaching tools or reference than anything else. If I saw or heard of anyone trying to implement one of those processes “as is”, I think I would fall out of my chair laughing.
So even if this all doesn’t sound crazy enough to you, there is yet another bit of confusion I have seen/heard…another wrench to throw in the gears. Even when you think you might have some idea of how this licensing works, it all seems to change….it’s a moving target at best.
As I have all too often seen over the years with SAP, all that we discussed before is what you might hear/read publically, but it will still all boil down to “what is negotiated in the contract with SAP”. I am often not privy to this type of information, so I will only hear bits and pieces relayed to me. However, as it relates to this licensing issue/thorn and HCM P&F, there does seem to be some acknowledgement from SAP and “some” felxibility in working this out to an agreeable term. However, again, I think there is some confusion both within SAP and with customers as to what exactly is included in the license and what’s an additional/on-going cost. Case in point was a recent VERY funny story I heard. A customer had implemented HCM P&F. Month’s later SAP audits them. They get a big, surprise bill from SAP. It wasn’t for each and every form they used for each user. It was for every process that was in records/case management!!! (HCM P&F has to store data in there as XML for all it’s processes, but past that, it really isn’t true case management) Now, this was a big mistake on SAP’s end and was corrected, but it just supports the idea that even within SAP, there is confusion around HCM P&F and how to handle it.
At last year’s TechEd and the HR Conference prior to it, I attended each and every Adobe forms related session that I could. It wasn’t that I expected to learn or hear anything new. I went simply to make a point to bring up this licensing issue as much as I possibly could! (haha) Was I trying to be a smarta$$? No. Was I trying to be “cute” or funny? No. Was I trying to put someone on point? No. I simply wanted to make them very aware of how ridiculous this is from a customer perspective. For most sessions, it was an Adobe guy presenting (great guy by the way). He was more the forthcoming with the information and seemed equally as frustrated. In fact, he got so use to me asking the same question in every session that he would just laugh and smile as I raised my hand and then start his answer to me with “Great question…..I get asked this in EVERY session it seems like….” (haha). But the funniest was when both he and the SAP product manager were in the same presentation. Yet again I asked “So the biggest point of frustration and confusion to my customers seems to be the issue of licensing….in fact, many have halted projects over it….is anything being done there?” Without skipping a beat, the Adobe guy replied with something to the effect of “Well, SAP has to handle the Adobe licensing through them, so I will defer to my friend here to discuss that….”.(haha) The SAP Product Manager handled it just as well too though. He acknowledged also that this was a known issue and they were “working on it”. Even past that, after the conferences and such, talking with SAP folks internally and in touch with HCM P&F, they too always reply with “I know, I know…we’re still working that out.”. So when is this going to get worked out?!?!?!
In the meantime, as this “lull” is ongoing until these issues are worked out and customers move to adopt HCM P&F, there are people out there developing replacements. I know of folks developing replacement front-ends for HCM P&F (ie. doing it without using Adobe interactive forms at all!) that tie right into the same configuration and do everything just the same. Furthermore, these are accessible via the web/portal, iPhones, Blackberry devices, etc. , so they are that much more enticing to the “ooooo ahhhh” decision makers. I have even heard rumors of a Webdynpro ABAP replacement using the “soon-to-be-release” better, native version of WDA. It seems then that HCM P&F might not be killed off, but that we will only be accessing it in new and different ways. I can see it now….someone will say “So you guys are doing HCM P&F with that old Adobe stuff?” haha To that end then, this whole discussion and hurdle of licensing might become a moot point. Time will tell.
Now, the critics among you (if there are any) might say “But Chris, this is just some self-serving rant….you’re just a consultant who’s mad that no one is buying up HCM P&F as fast as you would like, and you’re not getting steady work from it.” Well, sorry to rain on your parade, critics, but that could not be further from the truth. (1) My past several projects now have all been HCM P&F….so no trouble finding them…just not a lot out there (2) I don’t look at HCM P&F as any kind of financial/career boon to myself….I see it from my clients and SAP customers’ perspective for all the benefits it offers…sorry if I must apologize for this, I kinda take that whole “trusted advisor” part of consulting very seriously. (3) My areas of specialization are outside but also include HCM P&F….prior to HCM P&F, I did a LOT of ESS/MSS and portal work….so I can always find other work easily outside HCM P&F.
My one and only agenda here is to move this discussion forward. I can not say often enough…I see huge potential in HCM P&F…but I would hate to see that potential unrealized simply because both sides can not work out the issue of money such that it’s beneficial and acceptable to both. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I am naive or at worst, too much of a dreamer, but based on all the buzz I continue to hear about HCM P&F, I seriously think that if SAP could work out this pricing foolishness, it would unleash the floodgates on HCM P&F sales, adoption and implementations…..and then I could sit back with a big smile and say “See….I told ya so!” haha