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Meeting the extended family for the first time can be intimidating: what to wear, what to say, how friendly or excited to be…. or not to be. And ultimately…will they like you?

So Lars met the extended SAP family this week at SAPPHIRENOW 2012 and maybe it didn’t quite go as planned.

After spending a few months on a whirlwind romance with the SAP HCM users and SIs, our SAP Financials, Logistics and Techie brothers were meeting our new hunky SuccessFactors boyfriend (actually, that would be spouse now wouldn’t it?) for the first time. The little HCM red-headed sister is all grown up and were excited about showing off our new partnership; a relationship that we just know will be great for the whole family as well as for us. SAP acquired SuccessFactors as part of a larger cloud strategy, an arranged marriage for SAP HCM with much broader implications for the whole family even though not everyone in the SAP application family knew who this guy really was.

But rather than immediate camaraderie and welcoming this great guy into the family….. the FI/LO and techie boys have….shall we say, sized him up and down, puffed up their chests, folded their arms and given a suspicious stare. The chatter, Twitterati and folks on the conference floor after the keynote on SAPPHIRENOW 2012 Day 2 have talked about a confusing message with a not so great first impression. (A great blog at:  http://www.zdnet.com/blog/howlett/sapphire-now-day-2-wrap-a-cloudy-and-confusing-day/4131). Worse than that, by heading up the whole cloud strategy, this new guy is picking up an emerging and key part of the family business and this is a big deal to be giving that up to a new-comer. So what went wrong?

Was he too excited to meet them all? (Yes…. maybe a little too sales-y, remember this is an experienced bunch!). Was his banter too light (yup, definitely lacking in detail) and did his roadmap for the family business wow us? No. It did not. It was not a road-map to us. Some great graphics. But no road-map. Some mixed, contradictory and confusing messages to what we had already heard. But no roadmap. And that of course leads to questions about whether he is the right guy for this family.

But to be fair……do our we even know enough about him to trust that he will be good for us? ….. you know, I don’t think so. Not yet. We need to know more.

HCM has long lived in a space where we have been an add-on, been outsourced, or have been the free steak-knives thrown in at the end of the deal. But we have been growing with real value to the organization and blossoming from the red-headed step-child into a nascent beauty. Finally the Corner Office talks about Talent Management as key to driving the business forward. Yes, we were pretty excited about the romance with Lars and SuccessFactors as we had all been mixing in the same circles for a while. They have products, customers and vision where we believe we want to be, a front-end ‘bod’ to die for and that cloud ***-appeal that would be People magazine cover-worthy.  So how come it wasn’t love at first sight for the rest of the family too?

When you meet the family, any dating site or Dr Phil would give you the same advice; to make a great impression on the family – keep it simple, be sincere and show that you really care about their daughter, how you will fit seamlessly into the family dynamics, how you will be great addition for her (and them) and that never ever break her heart. You do not ‘diss’ the family, even in jest. If that first impression is a ‘miss’.. then you need to try again. And soon.

So can we have a do-over ?? Can we introduce Lars and the cloud roadmap again? Can we let him meet the rest of the SAP family in a more relaxed and less marketing driven way? Let him talk in more detail and less sales about how he will join the family and grow the family business. And what that family will mean to him. Let him show the business case of what he has learned in getting this far, how that will fit into what we have already achieved after 40 years and how that will ultimately benefit the SAP family. But also how he will listen to the opinions and experience of the older brothers too, and get to know them. Understand why they will have a protective attitude about the SAP products and approach and lessons learned from our own legacy. He will need to talk with calm, accurate detail about what this roadmap is, with dates, with a clear value proposition and with conviction.

No family dynamic is right the first time. There is always a little ‘getting-to-know-you’ period. But with a little time, plenty of talk and less sales we will ease into it, all relax a little and become a family.

Warts and all.

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